Being “schooled” by kids

In front of house

Here’s the set up.  I’m new in the neighborhood and notice the kids are mostly playing in the street.  There is enough traffic going fast that it is concerning. Looking around I see that the kids can’t leave this development as there is no safe route to town.  Even though there are 84 houses there is no play area set aside.  Bad planning!

So me being rather dominated by the Mr. Fixit side of my personality I try to find a way to open up the fence along the adjacent river.  You would think I called for scarifying household pets from the reaction from the neighbors.  Years ago they fought to close the river access off because of visitor trash and transients.   Even with my pledge to provide play supervision and secure access they didn’t want to entertain opening the gates.

Well, OK then, what can be done?  Taking another look at the issue I realized that my initial impression of a play desert was wrong.  Yes, the kids play a lot in the street but they are very traffic savvy.  They also use garages and backyards.  Some even sneak over the fence and get down along the river.  In general they have found places to play that don’t set off parental alarms but also allow them to be themselves.

Yes, I can ask the City for some traffic calming signs and a better route into town.  I can also share with parents that the kids are doing OK and that they can lighten up a bit on the restrictions.  I can also continue to be their friend.  They know I am on their side and they can share concerns and problems with me.

Maybe I’ve been a bit slow to find the wisdom to become the “grandpa” down the street – but better late than never.

One thought on “Being “schooled” by kids

  1. When asked to build a playground at an existing facility, I often start by looking at how kids are currently using the space and design around that instead of starting over. Creating a neighborhood playground is generally like “starting over” since there is an assumption that the space created is where kids will play regardless of established patterns such as streets, driveways, riversides, etc.

    I came across a park in Waimea, HI that was used as a passage from one side of town to another which was not previously accessible. The people who ran the privately managed park felt that kids needed to have other avenues of access through town other than sidewalks. By planning for kids in this fashion, they paved the way to make their entire community a playground. The Leathers Playgrounds which once was the focus for play quickly lost patronage and became a bit obsolete except for tourists that would drive through town.

    It would be an interesting precedent to decentralize the playground. Instead of spending oodles on one location, use the funds to study how kids move through a community, where they stop, or what they are attracted to. I suppose this is the Playborhood concept which could work in any location whether suburban or rural.

    One of the objections for decentralized play would be safety, but I think the concern could be quelled by two points. First, crime is not absent from playgrounds when, in fact, they are often targets for vandalism, sexual predators, and drug deals. Second, by campaigning for children to have greater presence throughout a community, one refreshes the concept of eyes on the street through the awareness that kids are no longer hidden away in isolated venues for play.

    I suppose the major impediment to this is gaining the attention of the public which has a very short attention span. Its easier to focus on one playground at a time that yields a monument to play to make a politicians’s voters pleased.


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