As was exemplified within the readings last week, the opinions of children are largely regarded in a much less serious manner than they ought to be. Children’s minds are usually not weighted down by the solemnity that typically accompanies adult life; as a result, they are boundless in their imaginations and dream of the impossible. Although some of their ideas may be a bit far-fetched at times, more often than not, they offer truly insightful accounts of a sort of unadulterated human spirit.
These ideas can be incredibly useful in terms of the design of public spaces, as was discussed in the readings by Francis and Lorenzo. It has become overwhelmingly clear that in recent years, structure has become a fundamental part of life for most children, whether it be a rigorous class and activity schedule, or even the types of play which they are allowed to engage in. The readings discussed how, largely, the presence of fixed objects in pre-organized places like parks denies children the opportunity for free play in natural spaces. Children are only allowed to engage with certain people, in certain places, and only do certain things. The freedom to simply be a kid appears to be limited, especially for children growing up in this era.
Francis describes what research has concluded to be characteristics of better city spaces. A few of these characteristics included “Mixed use/ mixed uses,” “Sociability,” and a “Natural, environmentally-healthy, growing and in movement” spaces. Children don’t need million-dollar parks with every plaything possible to have a good time. The sheer number of instances in which my little brother and his friends have ditched their new toys to simply go outside and run around with sticks is unmeasurable. Kids really don’t need much to have a good time, just some open space, other kids, and an imagination will typically do it.
The problems encountered by children are not usually do to their own shortcomings, but rather, these obstacles of play space are largely due to overprotective parents, who have been on the rise in recent decades. Surely, the world is a dangerous place, but spending your entire life living in fear probably won’t do you much good. As was mentioned in the reading by Lorenzo, children learn best by doing; they learn from experience, and if these experiences are denied to them, they will live sheltered and rather mundane lives. Sure, scheduling in soccer practice or dance lessons or piano practice will build character, but I’m willing to bet that these kids probably just want the chance to run around their backyards with some sticks too.
One of the quotes that was constantly repeated to me as a child and even now is that of my mother, who regularly stated that, “It’s not you that I don’t trust, it’s the rest of the world.” Naturally, she was a lovely parent who just wanted to keep her children safe. Unfortunately, however, the world will not become safer if children are kept inside, away from the “big scary world.” This idea was elaborated on by Lorenzo, who stated that as children have abandoned public spaces, these places have gained reputations for being dangerous. As long as they are regarded as being dangerous, it is likely that no one will use them — it essentially is a cycle. What most cities are in desperate need of is a way to invigorate these spaces, to make them new again, and take into account the ideas of children who will want to occupy these places for free play, learning, and socialization. It is important that we as a society do not lose sight of the creativity and free-spirited nature that children appear to possess in abundance. Perhaps if we listen to them, we may learn many new things ourselves, and the world.