Great Reasons to Transform Downtown Spaces into Fun Places

Imagine if your community designed downtown to be a playful place for families, an inviting, interactive place that makes learning about local history fun and encourages lingering for increased spending at restaurants and shops. What would that look like?

Image from Brookings Event Re-emerging from COVID-19: Why children and cities need play now more than ever

On Thursday, May 6, the Center for Universal Education and the Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking at Brookings hosted an event highlighting how cities are thinking about new opportunities to embed playful learning in the public realm, particularly in under-resourced neighborhoods. Speakers from the U.S. and abroad highlighted exciting initiatives being implemented in their communities.

While the pandemic forced social distancing requirements, with unfortunate economic impacts, it also sparked creativity in many communities, adapting outdoor settings for safe connection. Locally we witnessed this with clever use of downtown outdoor spaces for shopping and dining. However, we still struggled to attract the visitor market potential to spend time and money. Considering the Projects for Public Spaces Power of 10+ concept, what if visitors had a greater range of reasons to be in your downtown?

Parklet from Philadelphia’s Park(ing) Day

The event’s speakers reported that only 20% of a child’s waking time is in school. To maximize the “other 80 percent of time” and augment the learning that takes place in school, Playful Learning Landscapes (PLL) aims to transform everyday places into fun, engaging learning opportunities. The initiative encourages the development of critical skills for children to thrive in school and beyond, while broadening economic opportunity. One example, PLL advised Philadelphia’s Park(ing) Day team of designers to incorporate opportunities for playful learning into their parklet designs.

KABOOM! created the Play Everywhere community asset-based model to inspire kids to play every day and to incorporate it into their normal routines.  Three applicants in Charlotte, NC won Play Everywhere Grants that will transform the city’s public spaces to make them more playful and accessible to families and children of all ages.  This is just the playful beginning of the placemaking ideas!

What if you could transform your downtown into a playful learning center?  What if you created an interactive LOVE sign that teaches about the community culture and history? What if…

The Rail Trail Symphony, Charlotte, NC, installation of colorful, musical instruments