Why aren't playgrounds more adult-friendly ?
We are going to be having our first baby in a few months and, naturally, we've been talking non-stop about how we will encourage our children to move, how we will integrate them into our movement practices, and how we will instil our love of movement in them. We value our movement exploration capabilities and we hope they will, too.
We often stop at playgrounds to swing, climb, balance, jump, and cavort. And we regularly visit a local high school's parkour facility where we also swing, climb, balance, jump, and cavort. And it got us thinking...Why can't these two spaces be combined?
Why aren't all playgrounds more adult-friendly?
It is heart-breaking to see a playground full of kids having a grand time, while the parents and care-giving adults are often sidelined on park benches. The most action many adults get at a playground is to be the designated swing-pusher or slide-spotter.
While escorting my small niece, nephews, cousins, and friends to playgrounds, I have often wanted to engage more fully with them. But the tunnels are usually quite narrow, the swings and slides too small for my hips, and the monkey bars seem to groan under my weight. I am not a huge person and I have flexibility on my side. Many adults risk getting outright stuck in some of the tunnel slides that I have narrowly passed through by squeezing myself into the most aerodynamic of shapes! (Full disclosure: I once broke a few climbing holds right off of a play-land structure, but I blame rotten wood for that, and consider it a service - better me to fall down than the little guys.)
I know adults who spend gobs of money and time going to the gym for mindless reps and sets in order to maintain a level of health that enables them to "keep up with the kids."
This is time and money that could be spent WITH our children,
not separated from them, if we had municipally-managed family-oriented play structures more readily available.
Some movers out there might note that designating certain spaces as "movement spaces" cuts us off from the plethora of movement opportunities that already exist in our cities, parks, woods, etc. By relegating movement to playgrounds, do we imply that there are spaces where movement is acceptable and spaces where it is not? And does this limit both our capacity for movement and our scope for movement ingenuity? Can we better serve the objective to get people moving by working to create an environment where all spaces are essentially playgrounds for adults and kids? I hear you. (And that is a great question to explore in a further post!)
But until that cultural mindset arrives, can we at least adapt the existing movement and play spaces to be more adult-friendly?
We would love to see cities and schools take us, the adult-sized lovers of play, into account when designing and building play facilities. We have Family Yoga, Family-friendly restaurants, Family Movie Night, and Family-friendly TV. How about Family Playgrounds that provide equipment designed with all kinds of bodies and shapes and sizes in mind.
What are YOUR thoughts? Does your city designate space for adults and kids to move and play outdoors together? If not, has your family come up with other solutions in order to spend time moving together? Share your comments below. Better yet, share your thoughts with your city council and local Parks and Rec dept!