Metro Cities: How cities can foster free-range kids
Here are five ways children are roaming free, and cities are letting kids be kids.
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When Vancouver dad Adrian Crook blogged about how his four kids, aged seven to 11, weren’t allowed to take the bus to school, he became a national symbol of parents letting kids do their thing. While there’s plenty of concern that parents and authorities over-protect kids these days, there’s also a push against this.
As Ellie reminded Carl Fredricksen in the movie Up, adventure is out there. Adventure playgrounds, growing in popularity across Europe and North America, invite kids to engage in unstructured play. Read: more mud puddles and fewer safety warnings.
In part thanks to wide bike lanes and sidewalks, kids largely roam free in the Netherlands. They’re also the happiest kids in the world, according to a 2013 UNICEF report. Compare that to Toronto, where signs forbid ball hockey on dead-ends.
Into the Woods
Nature schools, a.k.a. forest schools, are increasingly popular in Canada. Kids spend time exploring woodlands, learning about nature and enjoy unstructured playtime. Not just in rural places, nature schools in Canadian cities take advantage of the urban wilderness.
Tear Down the Walls
There’s nothing that makes a neighbourhood less inviting than fences. In Toronto, self-branded community choreographer Dave Meslin and a team of urban activists help people take down their fences to create more open neighbourhoods. Add picnic tables and tire swings to take it up a notch.
Ride the Wave
Sculptures, statues and other public art have a strong pull. Haligonians know all too well there’s no keeping kids off the art. Despite warning signs and a fence, kids and others climbed the Wave sculpture at the waterfront so much that the city added a rubbery pad on the bottom, making it safer for inevitable climbers.