The colorful new playground at Kent's West Fenwick Park. Credit: Devon Hammer
Jumping into a real-life giant board game sounds like a childhood daydream. So when I heard there was a new playground where you can play a life-sized game akin to Chutes and Ladders, I had to take my kids. They were so excited, they pulled out our game to play a couple of rounds, brushing up on their skills in anticipation.
We found the magical, colorful life-size game at Kent's recently renovated West Fenwick Park. The park's makeover centered on the installation of the awesome, ADA-accessible, board-game-themed playground.
Alongside the phenomenal playground, park features include a covered area with picnic tables and outdoor grills, a futsal court, a central lawn area (currently closed for grass seeding), a basketball court and a tennis court. (Futsal, it turns out, is a soccer-type game played on a court — yes, I had to look it up.)
When we arrived at the play area, we saw the fanciful layout and brilliant colors and I genuinely felt like we were walking onto a board game. We found a rainbow-colored path of game spaces winding through and around the whole playground. We found lots of chutes and ladders — slides and climbers — along the path. The playground is built on a hill so there is plenty of elevation change for the slides and ladders, plus fun artificial turf hills to run up and roll down.
At first my kids and their friends explored and climbed and slid down everything. Once they had checked it all out, we wanted to try to actually play the game. We found the instructions on a large sign at the front of the playground. The rules are pretty simple. To start, spin the spinner to see who goes first.
When I first saw pictures of the park, I saw that the board game spinner doubles as a marry-go-round. I wondered how you would possibly get a chance to spin with kids constantly climbing all over it. The designer thought of this too and I was glad to find small spinners placed strategically along the path. The instructions also mention that you can bring along some dice or use an app on your phone as other ways to “spin”.
Playing the game
As indicated, we used the merry-go-round spinner to determine who went first. Everyone chose a spot to sit on and after a spin, the number each person landed on was the order in which we played.
We then took turns spinning the spinner to see how many spaces to move. If you land on a space with a triangle on it, follow the dots to the coordinating slide or climber, and stop when you reach a circle space.
Note that slides take you back spaces on the game board, and the climbers will skip you ahead. Play in this manner until someone reaches the finish space, conveniently located at the bottom of a long slide!
Summing up the game
The playground was pretty busy with kids when we were there so it was a little tricky for me to facilitate the game and call out the numbers so the kids could hear me. Regardless, the kids had tons of fun pretending they were pawns in the game and making it all the way to the finish line — even if I did end up yelling out higher numbers mostly to speed things up.
After playing, my assessment is that the game is best for families when the park is less busy, and ideally for a slightly older crew of kids. The ages in our group ranged in age from 2 to 6.
Beyond the slides and climbers
In addition to the awesome game board, we found plenty of other features at this playground to warrant a visit. I am certainly one to appreciate natural settings, but there is just something about playgrounds with artificial turf that my kids find extra magical. It’s a bit like an outdoor carpet; it makes you feel more at home and keeps things a little cleaner and less dangerous.
My kids got so comfortable on this particular park trip, I found them running around with their shoes off, for better or for worse. Also, if you are toting around a baby, it sure feels like a better place to set them down compared to the bark- or wood chip-filled playgrounds we usually see.
In addition to the main play area, West Fenwick offers a bay of swings with baby swings, a saucer swing and a baby-and-me tandem swing.
There are also areas of real grass perfect for a family picnic, and some big trees providing some refreshing shade from the sun. I also appreciated the fence that shielded the play area from the busy road nearby. Of course, my son still found a way around it, but it does help contain most kids. Just be aware there is a way around for a more determined explorer.
We visited West Fenwick on a Tuesday, a few weeks after the grand opening, and the playground was pretty busy. If you are planning to go, be prepared for crowds until the newness wears off, especially on a sunny weekend.
My family and I had not previously explored this area of Kent, but this phenomenal new playground has put it on the map for us. I would consider this innovative and colorful play area a destination playground for many Puget Sound-area families. I know my kids would gladly make the 30-minute drive for another visit. We have added this park to our family’s favorite play stops list and we will be back!
If you go …
Open hours: Kent parks are open daily, dawn to dusk.
Parking: There is a decent-sized lot directly adjacent to the playground. On busier days, there is additional overflow parking available at the West Hill Skate Park, Trinty Community Church or along 38th Avenue South.
Facilities: Multi-stall restrooms are located right near the playground.
More play stops worth checking out: