In Seattle, there are many indoor play spaces that get used frequently – especially in the rainy autumn and winter months. These spots are all over – in cafes, bookstores, malls, etc.
Play is such a big part of our lives as children and parents, so every detail of a play space counts.
However, as I wrote about last week, many public play spaces just aren’t nice. Their materials are in disrepair. They’re dirty. Overall, they send the message to our children that they are not worthy of quality spaces.
Here are some tips that I have come up with to improve the quality of public play spaces.
For business owners:
If you own a public play space, thank you! You are providing a much needed sanctuary for busy families.
Keep it simple. Children don’t need a lot of things to keep busy. If you have toys out, try taking several of them away. Most of the time, when less stuff is present, children actually focus better.
Keep it beautiful. If toys get worn, discard them. It’s better to have nice toys out for children than to have toys that are in disrepair that can’t really be played with anyway. Choose durable toys in the first place so that they won’t have to be replaced as often.
Though I LOVE wooden toys, consider buying toys that are made from eco-friendly plastic. They will last longer and be easier to sanitize.
Do a daily clean up. At the end of the day, have a routine for cleaning up your play space. Discard anything that’s broken or worn. Recycle any spare papers that have traveled into the space. Sanitize toys as needed, especially during the germy winter months.
Create a protocol. As the business owner, you may not be the only one cleaning up. Train your employees on keep the play space clean for families.
For parents and community members:
As a user of a public play space, you can make a difference – even if it’s a small one. Next week I will be diving into my recent renegade playspace clean up experience. Until then, here are a couple of tips:
Sort the toys. If there are a bunch of toy sets, consider sorting them into bins. Include your child. Many kids thoroughly enjoy sorting activities, so this is the perfect opportunity.
Line up the books. So many place spaces have books available, but they are not displayed in a way that is pleasing. Put the books on the shelf in such a way that all the spines are displaying the title correctly. If the books are in a bin, make sure they are easy to flip through.
Discuss what you’re doing with your child. If visiting a public play space, all of this goes over way better if you’re actually with a kid (haha)
Let the child know that you’re making the space nicer so that there is more space to play. Let them know that the next person who comes to play will appreciate having an organized space.
Volunteer. If you see a play space that is having a hard time being kept up, volunteer to visit every couple of weeks to clean it up. Better yet, get a committee together to donate durable new toys to the space.
Letting kids know that they are worthy of nice spaces is something that not many people think about. However, it is one of those subtle things that speaks to children on a subconscious level. This can also go for your home – showing respect to your child’s space at home can inspire play and creativity in addition to a sense of respect.