Children in the Community

In previous readings, we have been exposed to Jane Jacob’s strongly held beliefs in regards to urban planning, and the importance of creating spaces that are made for and by its inhabitants. In her chapter entitled “In the Uses of Sidewalks: Assimilating Children,” Jacobs focuses on the role that children play in such urban communities, and discusses how children playing on the streets and sidewalks are in fact much safer and happier than those on playgrounds and parks.

There has been a recent shift in parenting that emphasizes the over-protectiveness and control of children, occupying their time with structured play and activities such as soccer leagues, piano lessons and play dates at the local playground or park. Even watching TV after school has become normalized in many American households. In my experience as a babysitter for a number of families in my neighborhood and a camp counselor over the summer, parents will give me a detailed itinerary of their child’s free time. Two hours of TV, one hour of homework, basketball practice, violin lessons, dinner and then bedtime. I have found that it is rare for parents to allow their children any flexibility or say in how they spend their time after school. Although I grew up in a suburban neighborhood in Maine, I was surrounded by kids my age and my brothers’ ages, and every day after school we would meet at the circle at the end of the street on our scooters and make up new games. It was our “unspecialized outdoor home base” and the opportunities for play were endless (81). The countless plays we wrote and the modified games of tag we played for hours at a time were how we formed our notions of the world. \

One of the fundamental characteristics to a successful participatory project according to the “Participation Cook” is that it is “an inclusive process” that involving everybody. In order to change the way children occupy space in urban communities, it is important to not only alter the backwards thinking of adults, but to gather input from the children who are the concern of many of these projects, such as the Terrazza Via del Cortona we will be working on.

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