Of the many, many things I never thought I’d have an opinion about before becoming a parent, a passion for the best toddler parks might top the list.
I’m not much of an outdoorsy girl—more of a couch-under-a-blanket kinda girl, actually. But then I had a wild, energetic toddler boy, and snuggling on the couch is (unfortunately) not in his repertoire. So now, I find myself something of a park connoisseur. Not only am I intimately acquainted with most of the parks across Collin County, but I actually have favorites. And what’s more, I have criteria for what makes for the best toddler parks in Collin County.
So, how do you spot a truly great park for your toddler? Lucky for you, I’m here to share!
1. Distance from Home
Luckily for us Collin County mamas, we have no shortage of parks around here. Whether we want to keep it simple and just zip over to the neighborhood park, or hop in the car and drive 15 minutes for something a little more exciting, there are plenty of options to choose from. So once I’ve narrowed it down for proximity, I move on to…
2. The Ground Situation
Before having kids, I’d never even considered that parks could have different types of “ground.” I would’ve probably told you they were all grass, if asked. But a true park connoisseur knows that there are many options. Some are grass, yes. But most are wood chips and mulch. It’s the worst—it gets all up in the kids’ shoes, it’s hard for toddlers to walk on, and when they do fall, it sticks to every inch of them. The presence of mulch at a park immediately downgrades its status in the points system of my mind for the best toddler parks.
But occasionally, you’ll find a glorious snowflake of a park with a spongey, rubbery ground—I don’t even know what it’s called. But it’s magical. Hope Park in Frisco tops my list, largely for this reason. A close second in this department is Al Ruschhaupt Park in McKinney, with turf—it’s cushier than real grass, won’t stain their their clothing, and doesn’t attract bugs.
3. Age-Appropriate Play Options
Going to the park with a toddler can be a harrowing experience, to say the least. They want to do all the things big kids can do, but with none of the coordination or motor skills. So it’s always nice when a park actually has designated areas for each age group. Hope Park, again, nails this one. There’s a big area for young toddlers, another big area for two-to-five year olds, and then a whole separate half for big kids. My two-year-old typically roams freely across both toddler areas, but since the big kids are sectioned off, he doesn’t really even try to get into their area, which is nice.
Green Park in Allen also has different play structures for different age groups: the Police area is for two-to-five year olds, and the Fire area is for five-to-12 year olds. While it’s not as big and sectioned off as Hope Park, this park scores extra points in the imagination department. My son loves pretending to drive the fire truck and hiding in the jail cell, so it’s worth it to keep a closer watch on him when he’s playing in the bigger kids area. And speaking of, next on the list is…
4. Injury Potential
Going to the park with my son is always an adventure. He’s energetic, wild, and most of all, fearless. As far as he’s concerned, his abilities know no bounds, and nothing can stop him. So upon arrival at any park, I immediately start scanning for injury points:
- Are there unenclosed high/tall areas?
- Is the structure itself made of scalding hot plastic?
- Is it made of splintery wood?
- Are there large objects he shouldn’t be climbing, but will inevitably attempt to climb?
- Are there steep staircases with open railings that give me heart palpitations just thinking about them?
The list goes on. If my blood pressure spikes in the first 30 seconds upon arrival, the park gets crossed off the list for future outings.
5. Variety of Activities
Anyone with a toddler knows their attention spans rival gnats. So, if this indoorsy gal is getting us all dressed and loaded up in the car, packing snacks and water bottles, and committing to a morning at the park, there needs to be enough there to entertain my two-year-old for at least an hour or two — and one lone play structure isn’t gonna cut it.
The best parks have multiple play structures — each with different slides, climbing walls, and swings—along with miscellaneous activities, like music and sensory stations, or a splash pad, or even just big open space for running around.
So, with all of that criteria in mind, I give you the definitive, yet constantly changing, list of my…
Best Parks for Toddlers in Collin County:
Hope Park, Frisco
Al Ruschhaupt Park, McKinney
Green Park, Allen
Celebration Park, Allen
What do you look for in a good park for toddlers? Share your tips in the comments!