- Parker Barry
A day in the city with kids may be part of your regular routine — especially if the city is where you call home — or it may just happen only occasionally. Either way, there’s always room for play! Check out these five tips for playing in the city.
- 1. Let getting there be part of the fun. Remember avoiding cracks in the sidewalk, chanting, “If you step on a crack, you’ll break your mother’s back”? Carry on the fun on a walk in the city, perhaps updating the chant with a less violent theme. Try “Step on a crack, move to the back,” combining follow-the-leader and the crack-avoiding game or “Step on a line, pay a fine,” and have kids assign a silly fine, like doing 10 jumping jacks or singing a chorus of Happy Birthday for crack-steppers. No need to worry with complicated rules — it’s just meant to bring some fun to getting from one place to another.
- 2. Create traditions to go with your outings. When I was a kid, our trips downtown (granted it was a very small town) involved a drive over a dangerously high (in my mind) hill with a railroad crossing at the top. No matter where our destination, we made sure to take a little roller coaster ride over that bumpy hill when we headed into town. If you’re coming from outside the city, build in a little tradition to your trips into the city. It could be a stop at an iconic ice cream shop or a ride to the top of the tallest building downtown. Pick something special about your city, and make it your tradition to experience on your visits there. Even if your kids think it’s a bit silly at first, they’ll eventually appreciate the memories.
- 3. Make up stories. Cities exude excitement — lots people, bustling activity, fascinating scenery, not to mention the total sensory experience with the sights, smells, sounds and more. Get creative with kids and make your own stories around what you encounter downtown. Try switch-off stories, too, where one person starts a story based on something interesting they see, stopping at a high point in the story. Then the next person picks up from there, adding to the story.
4. Prepare kids for special occasions. If your city outing is for a special event — like a trip to the ballet or theater or special restaurant, prepare kids for what to expect. Watch or read a kid-friendly version of the show together so they’ll know what to expect, or give them a preview of the menu so they can chose something they know they’ll like. Many theaters offer a behind-the-scenes Q&A session before the show, especially shows oriented to kids.
Bringing play to your city adventures doesn’t have to be a big ordeal of planning ahead, though. Just engage with the city and the ones you’re with. Point out interesting things you pass — cool buildings, interesting landmarks, or even the pigeons feasting on a discarded crust of bread. Share memories with your kids about times you’ve visited the places you’re going. You may find that they even ask you to tell those same stories the next time you’re there (creating another tradition!).