Archives for September 2013

The Pocket Park: Tiny But Mighty Fun

Fishers, Indiana Pocket Park

There is a small stretch of my town that has so much potential. It has good sidewalks, several nice shops and restaurants within walking distance of each other, a weekend farmers market, and an ice cream shop to die for. The only drawback? There isn’t a public space to gather. Sure, you can sit outside at a restaurant or jockey for a space on a small brick wall (and watching moms like me try to hoist themselves up on said brick wall is part of the entertainment), but if you want a nice place to sit and visit or simply people watch, you’re out of luck. I always thought that was such a shame.

Earlier this summer I noticed that a small lot adjacent to the ice cream shop was getting a facelift. An eyesore of a building was demolished and the lot was cleaned up. Pavers and landscaping soon followed. Around the same time there was an announcement on my town’s Facebook page that they were developing the community’s first Pocket Park. They asked for guesses as to where the first park might be, as well as took suggestions for areas within the community that could use one.

What exactly is a Pocket Park? Also known as a Pop-Up Park, it is a small space within a town or city that is accessible to the general public. They are often built on vacant lots or other unused spaces. Because they are meant to simply provide a green space for community to gather and sit, they are inexpensive and fairly simple to plan and execute. They don’t require costly playground equipment or fancy features.

As you might have guessed, the area we witnessed undergoing the transformation was indeed the location of our first Pocket Park. From start to finish I would say it was completed in under 2 months. It has several benches to sit on, places to park bikes, a chalkboard wall, and my favorite feature: a ping pong table.

Fishers, Indiana Pocket Park

The ping pong table was the brainchild of a nearby local clothing shop, Vardagen. You can either bring your own ping pong balls and paddles, or you can pop into the shop and borrow some.

I love that we live in such a playful community, and that they consider the fact that all ages need playful spaces. Is this a great park for toddlers and preschoolers? No, but we have many parks in the community that meet that need. Is it a great park for tweens, teens and adults? Absolutely. Whether you’re playing ping pong, writing a message, or talking and laughing with friends, you’re having fun and that is the essence of play. Rarely do we walk or drive by the park and not see at least a few people gathering there.

I hope to see more of these Pocket Parks in my community. Is this something you’ve seen in your community? If you could design your own Pocket Park, where would you put it and what elements would you include?


Good Question: How Do You Handle Playdates with Strict(er) Parents?

Playdates with Strict Parents

Is jumping on the couch frowned on in this establishment?

We all have those burning parenting questions that we’d love to have our trusted group of peers weigh in on. Some of us are lucky enough to have that peer group nearby, but many of us turn to Facebook, Twitter, or even Google to ask those tough questions. I’ve always thought it would be nice for The Risky Kids to function as a community, helping those of us who consider ourselves free-range parents navigate some of the trickier parenting issues we face. In what I hope grows into a regular series, I’d like to introduce Good Question. The idea is that you guys will submit the questions that nag you. I’ll give my best answer, share any resources that might be helpful, and then encourage the rest of you to help each other out with your answers in the comments.

If you have any Good Questions, please share them in the comments, on our Facebook page, or email them to Angie at theriskykids at gmail dot com. I’m looking forward to lots of Good Questions and more importantly, all of your Good Answers!

Our first Good Question was posed to me (embarrassingly) over a year ago by reader Chris H. Thanks for your patience, Chris! Hope the answers are worth the wait!

Question:  How do you handle playdates with parents who are stricter than you?

Answer:  As you can imagine, this happens to us A LOT!  Pretty much every parent I know is stricter than we are (except when it comes to car seats … that’s my helicopter hot button).

I do know that it can be both exasperating and embarrassing to be the parent on the other side of the “rules.”  Playdates at the park were the worst.  While I’d be content to sit on the bench and hope to get some good adult conversation in, the other parent would be following their child around, shooing them off the climbing apparatuses, yelling at them not to climb up the slide and helping them cross the monkey bars.  It was always so awkward … do I sit there and let my kid play like we always play or do I defer to a different set of rules for one playdate?

In order to get around these situations, I often offer to host playdates at my house with the kids whose parents I’ve noticed are  stricter than myself.  I feel more comfortable both explaining the rules in our home and then letting the other parent make the call.  When visiting someone else’s home, I make it clear to my kids that different rules may apply.  We might not like them, we might think they’re silly, but it’s not our home and we are guests.  It’s a good life lesson – different environments require different rules.

I feel as if I can put up with the hassle of reprimanding my kids for getting too squirrely for someone else’s standards every now and then.  But if we’re going to be good friends and hang out often, I need the company of parents who are of a similar mindset.  If that means we move closer to a middle ground of how we feel the kids should play, then I’m good with that.  But if it means I always have to reign my kids in so that they’re comfortable?  Then it’s time to move on.

What’s your experience with playdates where parents’ rules differ?  If you’re on the other (stricter) end of the spectrum, how do you wish other parents would respond?