Bringing Grown-Ups and Kids Together at the Park

Parks Are Opportunities For Multi-Generational Play

As we watch the people of our country become larger, softer and more lethargic, a curious thing is happening on the playground. Our children are no longer playing alone. Possibly spurred by the security issues or more likely by a growing desire to spend more time together as families. The kids are now being accompanied to the park by their parents, step-parents and grandparents. This, like anything, asks for change, creates both benefit and need. The benefit is that we are now again using our parks for the purpose they have best served for centuries: a relaxed venue to play and socialize with our neighbors. Too often that has been lost as we sequestered ourselves in our cars, work and suburbs. More importantly, this new movement finds us now socializing outdoors. With this comes the myriad of mental and physical advantages brought to us by spending time out in the sun and wind.

The need that now becomes apparent is how to design our park and play spaces to accommodate, or better yet, encourage adult play. Just as for children, play is the one place where we can totally lose ourselves. This is one activity that truly fosters a re-creation of ourselves.

Something For Everyone

Savvy park designers have picked up on the new need and are now designing into parks and schools everything from outdoor exercise machines to climbing walls. Now the adults have something to do alongside their kids. It is amazing to watch grandpa teach his progeny how to do a dynamic move on an overhanging climb. The inclusion of walking, pets, discovery and natural wet places in our parks is bringing out the kid in all of us. And once again we have a dignified form in which to both move and socialize naturally, there is no end to the potential.

Kids Will Show Us How

As has often been said in history, let the kids go and they can show the way. After all, they breathe the air of a new generation. It is then our job as adults to reinforce the mode for the importance of lifelong healthy living. The kids will as always, do as we do, not as we say. My observations say that the parents and grandparents of today are asking by their actions for a gathering place reminiscent of the village greens of history. A place outdoors to socialize, to be active, to find health with friends and family; a place to play.

Dad hiking with kid in backpack and child following on a trail in a park surrounded by mountains.