Well-being in our cities or why children need to play in the streets
World health Organization (WHO) lists road injuries and deaths as one of the top causes for people deaths. Moreover, that is a number one cause for male teenagers. This is a shocking and very concerning issue. The city became hostile and forbidden for children to experience: walk, play, loiter and do these activities without supervision. No wonder why parents are trying to supervise their kids as closely as possible managing their trips to schools and to after-class activities. Very often, kids are being brought by parents, taken back by parents.
This article looks into consequences of this obsessive parents’ behavior caused by ill-designed cities. Even though streets are dangerous and cities are filthy, these are the places where life actually happen, where kids can learn together, get some useful knowledge, take risks and responsibilities, basically, they can do everything what they can having autonomy. Nowadays, a rare city provides an opportunity for kids to go to school on their own, to stroll on their own, to hang around or even loiter with their friends.
Virtually all experiences for children are orchestrated by adults. Activities in school is supervised and led by teachers. Knowledge given there is created and delivered by adults. After-class activities as they are supposed to enrich formal curricula, do not go further in this domain, because these activities are also constructed by adults. Playgrounds in inner yards determine hat kind of games can be played there. Moreover, home is being perceived as self-sufficient place for everything that is also not true. All these places imprison children by limiting their thinking, discovering and creating. Children have to be out, out in the street, out in the park, somewhere where their smartness can take the lead. Where they should rely on their own decisions. When children are unsupervised they can actual learn what kind of decisions to take.
Children should have a chance to take risks without looking back through their shoulder and waiting for their parents’ approval or disapproval. This risk taking is very important in their development, because it enables them to become decision makers and understand their responsibilities and accountabilities of actions taken by them: “In the social field, for a child nowadays it is almost impossible to experience the risk and emotion of meeting new children with whom to try out the delicate strategies of approach, of getting to know each other, and sometimes of rejection. His playmates are almost exclusively his class mates, his companions at the afternoon courses or the children of his parents’ friends: friendships that are controlled and controllable by adults. It will not be easy for a little boy or girl, who has never been able to
select their play companions, later to choose a life’s companion when they grow up.”
Sometimes children get bored, but this is also good because in the time of boredom their creativity kicks in by trying to find the ways out of it, be it an idea, a friend, a new form of game. “Children’s play, before and outside the school, means “losing time”, losing oneself in time, it means encountering the world in an exciting relationship, full of mystery, risk, adventure.” With the extreme supervision, the only option becomes to turn to new technologies and get their freedom in virtual world.
Ill-designed cities that give priority to car traffic affects not only the presence but also it affects the future. Existing design and infrastructure of contemporary cities are harmful for children development, and therefore, for the development of whole society.
Author: Žemartas Budrys / Homo Eminens