With some creative thinking, play can be located close to home. Not just nearby— in fact, right where kids live. Residential communities, including multi-family complexes that many kids call home, offer untapped opportunities for convenient play. It is easy to find a common area, open space, pathways, an underutilized parking area or other leftover spaces that could be put to better, and more playful, use. With kids already playing in these spaces, there are opportunities to learn from, and build upon, existing patterns of play.
The designs of many multi-family housing communities may not foster human interaction of any sort, let alone inspiring play and providing welcoming environments for kids and families. Fragmented or dispersed housing layouts, combined with the lack of suitable places to gather, can have the effect of keeping neighbors away from each other, rather than bringing them together. Fences may separate residents, while discouraging access to usable open spaces. And yet, there is no better way to unlock and transcend these physical and psychological barriers in a residential community— and to foster connections among residents—than by giving kids places to play just outside their door.
Given the ample opportunities for play within existing multi-family housing communities, these design principles focus on retrofitting existing housing developments for play. Many of the same ideas and principles can be integrated into the design of new housing, which can be an attractive feature for prospective residents.
Many housing complexes and residential communities are designed to include open spaces, such as open lawns and grassy areas or courtyards framed by residential buildings. In some cases, these spaces may be designed as formal gathering spaces and outdoor amenities for residents. In other cases, they may be underutilized, or serve no discernible purpose other than to provide some greenery, buffer adjacent residences or the street or fill unused space. Such spaces can be ready-made opportunities for play, by:
While it is not advisable to mix kids with cars, residential developments may have underutilized vehicular spaces, such as parking lots, driveways or alleys that can be closed off to cars, or at least prioritized, for play. Cities can use these spaces by:
Some residential developments may lack the types of spaces described above, or other factors may impede the creation of play installation. In such cases, other options might exist, such as: