Throughout my career, I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to many different places. A common thread among my trips is that almost every city I’ve visited has a large park with playgrounds, picnic areas, swimming pools, baseball and soccer fields — something for everyone.
What I have found interesting during my recent trips to Israel and Hungary, was the placement of small playgrounds next to adult equipment.
In Budapest, we found a small park filled with families. Alongside it were concrete ping pong tables, which were occupied by adults playing, people waiting their turn and those just having fun watching.
In Tel Aviv, we found multiple small playgrounds adjacent to fitness trails, which are similar to Playworld Systems’ LifeTrail.
The exciting thing about these small neighborhood parks is they offer activities and equipment for children as well as adults. The parks teach some great lessons. First of all, parents have the opportunity to demonstrate the importance of exercise and play. Research tells us that when parents show their children that these things are important to them, children grow to continue to play and exercise.
The other interesting thing that happens when there are multiple things to do for various age groups is that parents move further away from their children and are not hovering and over supervising their play. This allows children to challenge themselves without parents excessively worrying about safety. We know it’s important to learn to take risks, to fail and try again, and to experiment. Americans can learn an important lesson from these other countries. We should encourage our parks and recreation departments to design multi-generational play areas. Is there one in your area?