When we moved into our current house, I decided that my number one priority for every feature in my front and back yard would be its contribution to my kids’ play life. Thus, my number one target has become my driveway with pavers – those brick-like rectangular stones that form the surface of many “beautiful” driveways.
What’s wrong with a paver driveway, relative to smooth concrete or asphalt driveway? Well, I’ll list all the great things that kids do with driveways that pavers make difficult or impossible:
- ride a skateboard
- ride a scooter
- draw with sidewalk chalk
- bounce a bouncy ball
- play four-square
- play basketball
Grass also makes it difficult to do these things, but it offers other advantages for kids. It cushions falls, so it’s better than hard surfaces for running and rough-and-tumble games. It’s more comfortable for laying down in. It’s cooler to walk on on a hot summer day. It absorbs the carbon dioxide we exhale and provides us with oxygen to inhale.
Pavers? Nada. They provide no benefit to kids.
So why do we build so many driveways with pavers? We do this because as a society, when we build our outdoor environments, we largely ignore children’s needs. If kids happen to find something fun in their front or back yards, it’s often by accident – i.e. they’ve stumbled upon an unintended use for something.
For instance, my sons love the edge of the street next to the curb where puddles form in the rain, but it’s unlikely street engineers decided to design streets that way so kids could jump in puddles. In addition, our fences have a few choice spots that Marco, my 4-1/2 year-old, loves to climb on. Did the people who designed and put up our fences intend for kids to climb in those nooks and crannies? Doubtful.
Looking at every inch of our front and back yard from the point of view of kid utility has been a very eye-opening experience. Right now, we’re in the process of renovating our front and back yards – tearing out the useless stuff and adding useful stuff.
In future articles, I’ll describe what we’re adding. Here, though, I’ll list some useless things we’re taking away:
- pavers on our driveway (adding smooth cement)
- thorn bushes
- sections of fence (adding gates to neighbors) – I wish I could remove them entirely
- large areas of plants that are not walkable (e.g. grass), edible (fruits or veggies), or pretty (flowers)
I encourage you to think of every inch of your front and back yards as potential playspaces for your kids. Sure, kids can be resourceful, but they’re much more likely to find fun in a back yard and front yard designed for fun.