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A Postcard From One of LA County's Newly Reopened Playgrounds

Francis Dacono, age 3, is in a dinosaur phase and does a pretty fearsome T-Rex roar. (Mariana Dale/LAist )
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Three-year-old Francis Dacono had one question as he walked across the springy teal rubber ground that surrounds one of El Cariso Park's playgrounds Saturday morning.

"What's this?"

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His hesitation is understandable.

It's been more than six months since Francis and his family have teeter-tottered, slid down the slides or climbed on the monkey bars at the sprawling Sylmar park.

In March, cities and counties across California closed playgrounds to try and slow the spread of the coronavirus. The California Department of Public Health said local jurisdiction could welcome families back to outdoor jungle gyms -- with some new precautions.

(We've been keeping track of what's open here.)

Francis's mom, Franilyn, documented her family's life in the early days of the pandemic for our project Parenting, Unfiltered.

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My kid is now washing hands by singing the ABCs ... he has these questions like, 'Why we cannot go out? Why do we have to cover? It's hard to run and play when you have a mask.'

Franilyn worked from home as a senior program assistant at the Los Angeles Unified School District and scheduled her son's day full of activities -- workbooks, inspecting flowers in the backyard with a magnifying glass and baking purple yam bread.

"I think that's like my anxiety, too. Like, what should I do? What should I accomplish today? And I feel like I'm not doing anything if I don't attend to him."

Despite her best efforts she still heard,"Mommy, I want to go out. I'm bored. I'm tired. I'm lonely."

Just a sampling of the activities Franilyn organized for her son. (Courtesy Franilyn Dacono)

Francis's first accomplishment of the day? Crossing the wavy sideways monkey bars! (Courtesy Franilyn Dacono )
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After his initial question, Francis set his sights on curving school-bus-yellow bars set up like a ladder turned horizontal and started climbing across.

His dad, Menard, stood nearby to spot him, but Francis never faltered.

"We still have to be careful, but it's really important that these kids get this kind of space and environment to play and learn because it's so hard to be at home," Franilyn said. "This is a good place to release all the energy."

That's exactly what Francis did -- running from one end of the jungle gym to the other, spinning, jumping, sliding, swinging and roaring like a dinosaur (a T-Rex, to be exact).

"This has been part of our daily life ... And we're really happy and grateful that it's open again," Franilyn said.