Oak Harbor Lions construct 2 playgrounds for North Whidbey Head Start

Grass. Part of a parking lot. A few boulders. Those didn’t mean much to the children of North Whidbey Head Start until the Oak Harbor Lions Club and other community volunteers transformed the area into two playgrounds.

North Whidbey Head Start serves children from birth to 5 years old with developmental delays.

“We wanted an area to foster gross motor development because that has to happen before other development can happen. We don’t see that link often in children we serve because they have little access to playgrounds, sometimes due to their developmental delays,” said Center Manager Betty Judd.

Gross motor development is directly linked to cognitive development, which includes processes of planning, organizing, abstract thought, self-control and learning to read. The playgrounds are all about developing these.

“We wanted the playgrounds to be more like the backyard where we grew up so children can experience the outdoors more naturally to foster development skills,” said Judd.

It took three years of planning, fundraising, and work to build the two playgrounds.

Steve Peck with the NAS Whidbey Seabees volunteered hundreds of hours refining plans and guiding Navy volunteers to build the toddler playground.

Later, the Oak Harbor Lions Club entered the project and volunteered hundreds of hours to complete the preschool playground.

“Without their volunteer hours, the work wouldn’t have gotten done,” Judd said gratefully.

The playgrounds are wheelchair friendly and feature various fun surfaces that culture development. There’s blacktop, rubber matting, grass, sand, musical bells and a boardwalk.

“This is a space the children can be creative in,” Judd said.

There are hills and valleys, tunnels and a bridge, “so the children have a sense of being up high and down low,” Judd said. The slide is on the side of a hill so there is no danger of falling off.

The climbing wall is a big teaching opportunity.

“Some children have low muscle tone or no ability to realize where they are in space. This makes them work hard and realize where they are at and where they need to reach next,” Judd explained.

North Whidbey Head Start’s dream of bringing child development into the play area has come true, thanks to the Oak Harbor Lions Club, Steve Peck and other community volunteers.

“We appreciate what they did. This wouldn’t have happened without community support. We’re delighted that people care about the children in this community and gave hundreds of hours to help them,” Judd said.

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