6/2014 UPDATE: The group working to rebuild this wonderful playground now has a website. http://www.jonathansdreamreimagined.org
5/2013 UPDATE: Jonathan’s Dream playground is currently closed and will be undergoing a complete refurbishment. A timeline has not yet been set for reopening. Please see this article from the Patch for more details.
Earlier this summer, some friends introduced me to a great playground in West Hartford. My kids were still too young to enjoy a playground adventure, but it ended up being a perfect place to meet up with friends who have kids a variety of ages. The kids got to enjoy the park and the moms got to catch up on juicy gossip (not that I gossip) . .
Anyways, I had such a nice time at this playground, that I thought a post definitely needed to be done.
So, a few weeks ago another group of friends met up at Jonathan’s Dream at the JCC in West Hartford.
Jonathan’s Dream is a boundless playground. It was built in memory of a little boy named Jonathan who left this world way too early at the age of 9 months. He died from a terminal form of spinal muscular atrophy and his parents and brother wanted to honor him by building a playground where all kids could play.
What is a boundless playground you may ask? Well, here is a definition from Can-Do Playground:
In a nutshell, a Boundless Playground is an integrated play area in which all children, those who are 100% enabled and those with disabilities, can play together, interactively. The objective is to design an area that is barrier free, socially inviting and contains play environment groupings.
Learn more at: www.boundlessplaygrounds.org
First of all, to find the playground on the JCC campus is fairly easy. Follow the directions to the JCC West Hartford, then, once you enter the main campus, follow the signs to Jonathan’s Dream. I believe it was the first left once you entered the campus, but I’m not 100% sure.
You can park your car in their large parking lot and unload your crew. If anyone needs to use the restroom, there are some fabulous port-a-potties near the entrance. Although, as gross as I think port-a-potties are, to have a bathroom at the park is actually a luxury. Many of the parks in West Hartford do not have bathroom facilities.
As usual, I packed Bruiser and Sparkles in our handy dandy stroller so that we could head into the park. Given that the whole park is handicap accessible, I knew I would be able to manuever my stroller around the grounds (which I could).
Here are Bruiser and Sparkles with their friends.
This playground is absolutely HUGE and contains many different areas and places for the older kids to play, be creative, and just have fun.
There were swings.
and something we used as a slide . . .
There were benches for tired mommies to sit on . . .
and there were tires, and tire swings, and more tires and more tires . . .
There were so many different playscapes, I would find it hard for a child to get bored.
So, in my opinion, the pros of this park are:
- It’s huge. One site says 25,000 square feet. I didn’t get out my tape measure, but I’ll assume they are close.
- There is lots to do.
- There is only one entrance and exit. So, if the moms want to park themselves near this entrance/exit, they can be sure to capture any
prisoners, I mean, kids before they escape.
- A mom with a stroller can easily get around the park.
- And most importantly, a child in a wheel chair can easily get around the park.
- The kids leave tired (Shawna reported that Boo slept for 4 hours after his visit to Jonathan’s Dream).
- It’s Free (thanks to generous donations this park is enjoyed by thousands of kids each year. If you would like to make a donation to support boundless playgrounds, go here.)
There are some things about this park, however, that may not make it perfect for everyone.
- It’s HUGE which means it can be hard to keep an eye on your kids (especially if you have more than one and they like to run in opposite directions)
- There is not a good place for crawlers to hang out.
- There is limited shading, so on a very hot day it can be hard to find a cool spot.
- Most importantly, the park is really for kids who are either little and happy to hang out in their stroller or are older and fairly steady on their own two feet.
Given that Bruiser and Sparkles are seven months, they are definitely not walking yet. I did bring a blanket thinking they could lay on it and practice their crawling skills, but this park really wasn’t set up for that type of function. There were no soft grassy areas for me to place the blanket on and before I knew it, the twins had gone in opposite directions and were stuffing mulch in their mouths (that’s sanitary, right?)
Poor little boo wanted so badly to crawl around. But the ground was all dirt and mulch, not the best material for a crawling baby. One friend did find a walker for him, which helped out a ton and really made Boo’s day.
Overall, Jonathan’s dream is a jewel of a playground. If you are a mom with crawling babies, though, it may not be your prime play spot.
at the Mandell JCC in West Hartford
335 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford
Get directions here:
There is no cost to park or use the playground.
There is a public restroom right outside the park entrance.
There is not much that you need to bring. If you have non-walking babies, either put them in a carrier or bring them in a stroller. If you have older kids, I would suggest they wear tennis shoes and you probably want to bring them some water. There is a water fountain there if drinks are needed.