COVID-19 precautions limiting group activities have quieted playgrounds at the Bledsoe-Miller Community Center and the Dewey Community Center, but when the sun is out and the weather warm, one can hear music above the chatter of kids at play.
The music — actually, musical tones more than connected melody — comes from large installed outdoor instruments: metal xylophones and bells, suspended chimes, grounded drums. They are the latest addition to the community centers’ playgrounds and join others at local schools that have similar equipment.
The city received a $29,000 grant in late 2019 to support the centers’ child care services provided through Texas Workforce Solutions and funded the equipment created by Freenotes Harmony Park, Waco Parks and Recreation Director Jonathan Cook said.
“We wanted to go above and beyond traditional playground equipment, beyond just swings and slides,” Cook said.
New playground equipment also is evaluated on its accessibility for people with physical disabilities, elements that stimulate players’ senses and for interpretative material. New equipment at Buena Vista Park is next up for city and community planners’ consideration, Cook said.
COVID-19 protocols delayed installation of the equipment from Freenotes Harmony Park to this summer, but once in place, the metal xylophones, pagoda bells, chimes and drums found plenty of young players.
During her 7th birthday celebration last week at Bledsoe-Miller, Charmani Monroe demonstrated several of the instruments, plinking a high glissando on the metal xylophone, thumping a drum nearly as tall as she was and ringing bright notes on a set of pagoda bells before scampering off to climb more traditional equipment in the middle of the playground.
Center director Juliett Jones wielded rubber mallets on sets of ground-mounted contrabass chimes, surrounding both player and listeners with resonating mellow tones.
With child care classes put on hold and afterschool activities limited because of COVID-19, playground traffic during the week is reduced, but families on weekends make it active again, Jones said.
“You see kids playing on these (musical instruments) all the time. I think it’s a great addition,” she said.
And when kids are drumming, banging and ringing as they play, it is music — well, musical tones — to the ear.