1.  Architecture & public art/fountains/displays are for touching.  

If you can’t touch it, what’s the point?  I abhor going to some lovely public place and finding a place to sit and enjoy the space, only to be reprimanded by a security guard for letting my children splash their hands in the fountain.  Or being told that picnics are not allowed on the grassy lawn.  Or that the enormous bronze animal sculpture that shines from the friction of other kids' bottoms is not meant for climbing on.

great action shot courtesy of Mike Willis

2.  Mama MUST be able to see the enclosed yard from one of the living areas of a home.

Parents of young children cannot and should not spend all day playing with their children.  They've got to let the children develop some independence at some point and the perfect place is an enclosed yard.  But parents of a certain age child must still be spies-- lurking and peeking and checking up on their precious charges.  

When we bought our current home, our eldest was an only child, 18 months old.  I had no idea that this was such an issue.  If only I could see the back yard from the kitchen!

photo courtesy of jemasmith

3.  In a parking lot, it’s not how far away you park from your destination; it’s whether there are sidewalks to get there.  

I have long thought that the most dangerous place for a person to be was the FREEWAY.  People who are on the phone with a headache having a bad day late for an appointment are driving the vehicles on all sides: people who learned to drive by playing racing video games.  People who go too fast & too close.

Now that I have small children, the freeway has dropped to second place;  first place has been awarded to PARKING LOTS.  The same people mentioned above who are now obsessed with finding the closest spot as quickly as possible have no awareness of pedestrians, especially short ones.

Who designs these awful parking lots with no sense of right-of-way and no designated pedestrian walkways?   Yup, you guessed it: architects.

And who raises these children who on occasion run out giggling into the parking lots without holding hands, and not even looking where they're going and giving their mama a heart attack?  Yup, you guessed it: me.

photo courtesy of Elizabeth/Table4Five

4.  It is much more important for something to be INTERESTING than FANCY. 

Kids love colors, textures, terminating vistas with a sense of mystery, spaces that are scaled for being alone (like reading nooks), hide-outs, murals, surprises and just plain cool stuff.

Kids have no use for expensive finishes, excessive symmetry, collections of breakable things, collections of things that don't "do" anything, spaces that are intimidating, artwork that does not have a story or at least some really cool colors, places where you have to sit quietly with your hands on your lap.

Kids are pretty smart cookies.

view of St. Peter's dome through a keyhole at
the Knights of Malta HQ piazza, designed by Piranesi 1765
photo courtesy of tiseb

5.  Park strips* don’t just provide a perceived buffer between street & sidewalk: they also give your kid somewhere to fall on his bike that’s not out in front of a car.  

* "Park strips" are the green space between sidewalks and streets.

These narrow strips of grass, bushes & trees always seemed a great way for people to feel comfortable walking next to a road... but it was more of a psychological thing to me (don't even get me talking about feng shui and chi).

Now I notice cars driving on sidewalks when a right-turn lane is too narrow; I see young kids falling off their bikes into the street. Sidewalks should be safe from vehicular traffic!

even a weedy park strip provides protection.
photo courtesy of mlinksva

6.  Beautiful & delicate is for princesses; the rest of us need beautiful, durable, and easy to clean. 

'Nuff said.

photo courtesy of Freddycat1

7.  With small children in the home, privacy is primarily an acoustic concern.  

Small children need a quiet place to take naps and sleep long before the rest of us retire to bed.  Parents need a quiet place to work, rest or meditate (even just for a few minutes) where they cannot hear the chaos of the little ones.

photo courtesy of bixentro

8.  The definition of a "usable" yard is very different when designing for a family with children.

A "usable" yard usually means that there are areas designated similar to rooms for different functions.  With children, we're talking sandboxes and swings and treehouses and ziplines and a surface for riding a bike on, all within a secure, enclosed yard.

good memories of a sandbox at Granny's when I was a kid
photo courtesy of FourTwentyTwo

9.  Using a stroller gives you a small sense of what it must be like in a wheelchair

People with wheeled pedestrian devices need ramps and assistance with steps, stairs, and heavy doors.
The wheelchair-accessible paths are sometimes very convoluted, forcing you sometimes to go all the way around a block from the main entrance to find a ramp.

Our current accessibility standards are a minimum for what is needed, a more "universal" approach would be a huge improvement.

"Man with a Baby Stroller" courtesy of DoobyBrain

10.  Drive-thrus are not just for lazy people.  

Bear with me here: small children are good for about one errand.  Getting loaded up in the car, getting out for the errand and back in the car takes all their attention and energy.  After that, you're pushing it.  My youngest is now three, and we can do two errands now without a problem.  What that means is that a lot of errands get pushed off to another day, another week, another year.  Some errands can stand to wait, others cannot.

The saving grace is drive-thrus!  Our Walgreens has a pharmacy drive-thru, which has saved us many times when we had a sick kid.  But if you need bandaids, too, you're out of luck.
We did have one great restaurant with a drive-thru (in an old bank building), but it's closed now.  So we're reduced hamburgers now if we need a drive-thru.

And what about grocery stores?  In the small Louisiana town where I lived briefly after college with my folks, there was a lovely little grocery store run by the same family for generations.  When they saw me for the first time, they knew what extended family I belonged to just by the family resemblance & wanted to know if I wanted to put it on the family tab.  (Seriously?)  You could phone in your order and they'd have it ready for pickup.  Here in Salt Lake, we've got a great local chain called Harmon's that has much better customer service than most.  After you do your shopping, if the kids are acting crazy or it's a snowy day, just get in the car and drive to the pick-up area where someone will load your groceries for you.  If only they could take it one step further and take orders over the internet so you didn't have to get out at all.  Or even just put a drive-up window at the deli counter so that you could have one drive-thru option at the end of a day that is NOT hamburgers.

Besides, drive-thrus are-- architecturally speaking-- just AWESOME.

drive thru image courtesy of Matt McGee


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