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Working in preschools and child care centers over the years, I have encountered a lot of different play and learning spaces.

So often, children’s play spaces are just not nice. They’re not kept up well. They need to be cleaned and organized. Toys are in disrepair.

Preschools and early childhood centers are often set up in dark basements where no adult would choose to work.

Toys are preschools are caked in crayon and broken toys are kept in the mix rather than discarded.

It is sad.

What are we telling our kids when we give them places to play that aren’t nice?

It reminds me of schools and how they are funded. Research has shown in recent years that schools in areas that are subject to higher levels of poverty generally receive less funding.

“Funding to low-income Title I schools has decreased since 2010 and a number of states have cut pre-K educational per student funding in recent years and many have had to reduce enrollment numbers.” (Source: Matthew Lynch, Ed.D, Huffington Post.)

When it comes to public play spaces, I see the same kind of thing, but on a different level. Child spaces are not worthy of being kept nicely. Therefore, they are often in disarray and dirty.

I see this in all sorts of play spaces, of course – but it became very evident to me lately when I was hanging out at a local cafe.

There were many toys, but none of them were cleaned up. There were books everywhere in no particular order, many with covers ripped off or missing pages. There was garbage everywhere in the form of flyers and marketing materials from other parts of the business that the play area was located in. There were toys that had been left behind that didn’t really go anywhere.

What is this telling our kids?

That they don’t deserve nice things. When an adult space is beautiful decorated and maintained with a filthy child space inside, it tells the children that they are lesser. Sounds harsh, but it does. I know it’s not intentional – it’s just what we have come to know.

That they don’t have to clean up. What’s the point of cleaning up a space that is trashed to begin with? Cleaning up a room that is so messy it such a task that no one wants to bother.

That order isn’t important – or if it is, they are not worthy of it. Having everything in its place is important. It helps us to find things and get things done more efficiently. To have a space that isn’t organized at least a little bit is showing children that it’s okay to keep things messy. How is this setting them up for success as adults.

Is there a solution to this? Yes! Stay tuned for next week, where I will include an article on how to keep public play spaces nice for the children in your community – whether you are a business owner, employee, or parent.

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