13 Practical Things That Would Make the World More Kid Friendly

They are our future.  They make up almost 30% of the population.  And yet we ignore them and make no provision for them.

1.  Children’s public toilets.

We manage to have disabled toilets, which is great, and there are more kids around than people with disabilities.  So how about a slightly larger stall so they can deal with their clothes or Mum or Dad can fit in with a lower toilet, toilet paper they can reach and a low, big, easily turnable lock. My husband has just informed me that men’s toilets usually have one lower urinal, which says some interesting things about women’s toilets and designers.

2.  Children’s cutlery and plastic cups at cafes.

It’s hard to eat with cutlery that’s too big, no wonder they drop it all the time!  It’s not that hard to give them teaspoons and dessert forks, or even get some actual kid’s cutlery. Even better than plastic cups, plastic cups with a narrow mouth.  Wide mouths just end up pouring out the side.  How would you like to eat your meal with salad servers and drink out of a bucket?

3.  Play equipment and feeding chairs in shopping centres.

I remember when shopping centres used to have little garden areas, before they realised they could stick stands in there and get more rent.  I know sometimes privacy is good, but then you have to entertain the older child while feeding the baby, or use a hard wooden bench.  So how about providing some comfortable chairs with basic play equipment, even simple things like floor mazes or moving pegs on boards if you’re worried about kids getting hurt and suing you.  A place where both kids and parents can have a break before heading into the next shop.  You may miss out on the rent for the floorspace but you would get a heck of a lot more customers, and ones who are more relaxed and can look around.

4.  Menus that include something other than chips.

Need I say more?  My kids like chips too, but it would be nice to have some choices!  They also like dips and crudites, or salad plates, or eggs, or risotto, you get the picture?

5.  Miniature shopping trolleys.

Sometimes I only want a few things, and why should kids be cooped up in a trolley?  It can be hazardous in a shop, getting hit by a full trolley is both likely and serious when you’re only 3 feet high.  I see this as a win/win – give them a little trolley with a flag sticking up so everyone can see them and they get to be included and have something to do, which means a whole lot less whining and tantrums!

6.  Steps they can stand on at counters that are meant for kids, like icecream shops or food courts!

I confess, if there is a bench at counter height I let them sit/stand on it and bad luck anyone who doesn’t like it.  It’s not fair that in a shop that allegedly caters to children they can’t even see what they are ordering, let alone gasp! order for themselves. Some of them might even like to hand over the money and pay for themselves.

7.  Matinees or afternoon shows, or ones late at night.

Wouldn’t it be nice to take kids to see something like Cats?  Or Starlight Express?  Cirque de Soleil?  I’m probably just showing my age here!  I’ve got nothing against the various kid groups, but my kids would love to see other shows too.  A show where people sing and dance and rollerskate – they’d sit through it.  What are tweens supposed to see – too old for the Wiggles but really too young for pop, they’re stuck with growing up too quickly or nothing.  But unless you live somewhere like London they’re always on at times that are no good, when they are winding down and tired.  Or as a parent I’m barred from going because they are right in the middle of bedtime.  If I could get them to bed first then go out later it would work much better.  Don’t complain that teenagers and young adults don’t appreciate ‘culture’ when they have never been given the opportunity.

8.  Roped off kid areas at places like cinemas or sporting venues

Notice how cinemas always have huge waiting areas?  How about roping a bit off so kids have a place they can jump, roll around on the floor, and generally do those things kids do when they’ve been waiting a long time.  They’re not in anyone else’s way, no-one is going to walk into them.  Sounds good to me.  Obviously parents would still have to keep an eye on them, but it would be a much more relaxing wait for everyone concerned.

9. Family/parent queues

Wouldn’t it be nice to move those kids through before they get to the stage of whingeing?  And seeing there aren’t that many adults who choose to do kid type activities if they don’t have kids, it’s not as if they will take anyone’s ticket by going through first.  But even if they do, I’d hope that the adult would be able to express their disappointment in an adult way.  Of course if there was a designated kids’ area that parents could see while they waited in queue, …

10. Playgroup for big kids

We have a brilliant play group, with amazing toys, dressups, play equipment and craft gear.  But it’s only accessible until they start school.  Once they are at school there are organised activities like sport, scouts, or music, or they are supposed to have friends over.  Now there’s a place for organisation and competition, but there’s also a place for creativity, imagination and co-operation.  It would be really nice to have access to the same range of gear and large groups of children so they can continue to play creatively.

11.  Flexible school hours.

Work with me on this one, it’s a bit harder.  Our school hours are a product of a society where kids went home in the afternoon to do chores or help out on the farm.  They needed summer off so they could work.  But is it the best distribution for a modern society?  What if teenagers could go to school from 11am – 5pm?  What if primary students could go from 7am-12pm then go home for lunch?  Or what if they did 9am-5pm but with a 2 hour break in the middle of the day when they could rest, play, do art, sport or something completely different?  It might be a great option for working parents.  What if school holidays were rearranged to have 4 blocks of 3 weeks?  In the NT we have 1 week at Easter, 4 weeks in the dry season, 1 week in October then 6 weeks in the Wet season.  Wouldn’t it be great if school districts could make these decisions?  It would be difficult logistically – if you had kids in different schools for example, but isn’t it worth exploring a bit creatively?

12.  Public transport

How about designated seats on public transport that had flip down booster seats? Not that hard to do, then kids don’t have their feet dangling and can see out the window, which automatically makes it more interesting. And they could even have harnesses attached!

13. Attitude!

Everything I’ve suggested so far is practical and do-able. But it will never really change the way society views children without a change of attitude. Children are human too, with exactly the same right to respect and dignity as adults. So adults need to be aware of this, respect them and allow them their dignity. Give them time to process questions and answer. Accept that they won’t walk as quickly as you do. Enjoy the fact that they have so much fun playing and smile at them. Assume that parents know a bit more about the context than you do and support them in their decisions. Understand that their sense of time is completely different to yours and they live at a much faster pace.

And if you can’t do that, remember what your mother said: If you can’t say something nice,don’t say anything!

How about some more suggestions?  And how do we take these to a higher level – lobby shopping centres? Councils?

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14 responses to this post.

  1. I’d just appreciate public transport that has room for a pram. On the train we sit in the disabled seat as it is the only spot there is room for a pram… but that doesn’t work if a) someone not disabled is sitting there or b) someone who is actually disabled needs it.

    On the flexible school hours… I’d love to be able to choose the number of days a week my kids went to school, though as a teacher I know that would be a nightmare for some!!

    But you know.. pretty much all of these ‘issues’ can be solved by society just valuing our children more. Respecting them and their care givers and seeing them as people, rather than second class citizens who should be seen and not heard.

    Oops off my soap box now…

    Reply

    • Absolutely – if we don’t respect children then the trappings are useless. And if we did respect them, the rest would follow from that.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Leonie on November 19, 2009 at 11:11 am

    all so true and not really asking that much!

    Reply

  3. Ikea has kids trolleys and they are fabulous. I completely agree with all your ideas and will be shouting them out to the world! Thank you and fingers crossed we can change attitudes and planning provisions.

    Reply

  4. Oh what a whinge. Im sure you will delete this however this is what I have to say.

    I take my kids everywhere. We go into the city on the train. The ends of the carriages have heaps of room for the double pram. Westfield Chermside, Strathpine and Northlakes have wonderful play areas to use for free with seating and coffee shops next to them. They all have fantastic parents rooms with toys double toilets (kiddies and parents toilets) plenty of change tables,
    As for the cinema Indooropilly has family sunday. If you take your family to see a movie not only do you get cheep rates, they put on a jumping castle, animal farm, face painting crafts etc.
    Sizzler provides kiddy sized knives and forks. You can always take your own, We do, and we take drink bottles. If you have so much time to write this blog surely there is time to fill a drink bottle.
    Lots of coles around do have kids trolleys and if youre not going to coles you can take your own, we do. Or buy your groceries online.
    Not every shop has to cater to kids, some dont want them there. Others go all out. Like the big indoor play centres.

    Reply

    • Since you didn’t read the comments guidelines, I’ll tell you personally. I welcome disagreement, so long as it is polite. I actually find it quite childish when people say things like “I’m sure you will delete this,” seriously, are you daring me?

      You have missed the point. There are some wonderful places that are kid friendly, I talk about them quite a bit in various places. However as a whole, our society does not respect children. I think it’s fantastic if some places in your area have things like kid trolleys or cutlery. I travel a lot, in the last couple of years I’ve shopped in Darwin, Alice Springs, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne, and the only place I’ve seen with kid trolleys is Toyworld in Darwin. Perhaps I’m very unlucky in the places I visit, but my point is that they are not standard. As for the train, kids grow out of prams. My niece used a booster seat in the car until she was 7 or 8, so her choice on a train or bus was extremely uncomfortable. And she’s not exceptionally small – there are other children in this situation.

      You know so little about me you obviously can’t realise that I always have the full kit – bottles, books, toys and even food with us, in spite of your need to make a dig. But I’ll use Sizzler as an example since you’ve brought it up. In a so-called family restaurant I’ve searched around and found teaspoons for my kids. They can’t use those ridiculously large cups without spilling out the side, although at least they are plastic. I’ve helped 12 and 13 year olds who are embarrassed because it’s hard for them to reach the back of the salad display without spilling things or overbalancing their plate. Can you not see the indignity here? Should an almost teenager need help to serve their own salad? Would you really consider it reasonable to have to take your own wine glasses to a restaurant? A step at the salad bar, some children’s cutlery that’s easily accessible, a different shape of cup and a toilet for children – it’s not a lot to ask. But it requires a shift in attitude to realise that children’s needs are as valid as adults, and that we should plan for them as well as the other 70% of society.

      As for special cinema days, it’s great you have them in your area, and how lucky if you don’t work on a Sunday and can go. But let’s do a couple of substitutions with your examples. How about “the cinema has disabled Sunday?” or “Not every shop has to cater to Aboriginal people, some don’t want them there.” Discrimination is discrimination.

      There are a lot of places that do allow for children. But our society still acts as if children should be seen and not heard, and the various concessions that are made are special. It is not until we allow for children as automatically as we put in disabled toilets and wheelchair ramps, not until we speak to and of them with respect, that our society will actually be kid friendly. I suppose some people could argue that we don’t have to be, but I don’t see how sending a message to 30% of our population, our future, that they are lesser beings can possibly be good.

      Reply

  5. Wow great list! Really makes you think!

    Reply

  6. My daughter is grown up now, but these ideas would have made life so much easier for me and her!!
    http://holisticknitter.blogspot.com/2009/11/thirteen-things-ive-loved-about-autumn.html

    Reply

  7. Interesting. My kids are past those stages, but I wholeheartedly agree. Happy T13!

    Reply

  8. Well done Deb. You’ve raised some very valid points about the way children are viewed by the wider population. I totally agree that their needs deserve to be met because they are smaller, they walk a bit slower, but hey, they are people!
    I’ve stood and blocked another adults way before at the security point at the airport because someone thought it was acceptable to push my 6 year old out of the way while she tried to get her bag off the conveyor in order to get his first. What irritated me beyond belief was that she had put her bag on first and therefore should be able to retrieve hers first. She wasn’t being exceptionally slow about it either.
    I too have sat and watched my kids try to eat with giant cutlery at a restaurant, and have had to lift my 8 year old so he could serve himself at a buffet – something he’s completely capable of doing – and had to put up with the exasperated sighs of people nearby.
    Enough is enough people! It’s about time we stood up and took notice of our special little people and their special needs. Because we do it for everybody else.

    Reply

  9. Sorry, I obviously struck a nerve with my previous comment. You say on your private blog that you have lived in remote locations. I have too! However when I decided to have children I wanted to move to the city. I planned on being a SAHM and the country does not provide enough for SAHM’s of little children. So I live in Brisbane. It is no coincidence that the area I chose is child friendly. I looked really hard for an area that had kid friendly shops, wonderful playgrounds, and a positive child friend’s vibe to it.

    I did not want to raise my children in a community. So yes I am a discriminatory person. I did not want to raise my children in the violence, drugs, abuse and drunken filth. Why did you choose to leave the remote locations?

    I went out to coffee for a ladies night last Friday. We went to the coffee club, it is such a rare thing for me to do. If someone was there with their little kids screaming and carrying on I would have not had the same experience. I wanted an adult evening. We loved it. Our hubbies all stayed home with the kids and we could relax. If the coffee club was forced to conform to be kid friendly the possibility would have been there for people to have little ones running around.

    Plenty of restaurants cater to kids with a kids menu. Local RSL’s Clubs etc They have huge playgrounds or kids clubs and the kids menu often has a pasta, fish, nuggets, burgers, or other treatish meals. They are also happy to serve up some veggies if you ask for toddlers and bubs and often don’t even charge.

    As for using the cinema example to prove a point – this is a business trying to compete in a flooded local market. They are trying and if people are going to complain about the effort they do make why should they bother! They use Sunday as it is for the kids, Kids should be at school during the week, they put it on early enough so that the little ones can get home to have a sleep, they don’t put it on on a Saturday as most kids in the area have sporting commitments. Sunday is the best choice it costs them almost $1000 to put it on. If their parents work on a Sunday then the suitably qualified person looking after them could take them along. I would hate to think that kids who this is aimed at were at home on their own.

    If kids are to small to serve themselves then yes their parents or another member of the community should help them, no it is not a cause for indignity. When I am at the supermarket I am forever getting something down from the top shelf for people who are not tall enough to reach, sometimes other young adults but more often it is the elderly. I love to help; I am lucky to be tall. Kids need the practice at asking for help with something they cannot do. The people I help at the supermarket don’t run away crying to the service desk that its unfair everything is not at their level.

    If you feel the need to place your child on the counter where everyone’s food is placed go ahead, it is no worse than the hand bags the people leave on the toilet floor or food court floor “ewe” Counter tops at shops are invisibly gross. But the food is wrapped and put on a tray so I’m sure it does not matter. If they put steps out the front people are likely to fall over them.

    If kids are young enough to be whining at counters they need to go shopping early in the day when there are not a lot of people around. When the majority of the population are at work or school. If they are old enough to go to school they are old enough to wait without whining, if they can’t manage it leave them home. I will always let a frail sick looking usually elderly person pass and more often than not ask everyone in front of me to do the same. But naughty kids .nope I would just as soon tell them off. If we are all this wonderful community that has to make concessions for kids then we should all be able to talk to them how we like too. Or is it just cater to them but not control them.

    I don’t treat my kids as lesser beings, I treat them as kids, I do not treat them as adults and I don’t want them to be part of the adult world. I take them to kid friendly venues where people watch their P’s and Q’s. They only have a small amount of time to be kids and enjoy kid friendly opportunities, why on earth do people want their kids to fit into the adult world so early?

    So don’t go getting your nickers in a knot. I am a wonderful stay at home mum of kids, I just don’t expect society to drop everything to cater to me so that I can pretend my kids are little adults.

    Reply

  10. Rizoleey, I think you’ve completely missed the point. Pretty much everything you’ve described only reinforces the point Deb was trying to make.
    From your post it’s apparent that you’re with the vast majority of the world who thinks that children should be seen but not heard. Your comment about taking children shopping really struck a chord with me. Why should someone only take their children shopping if it’s early in the day so they’re not making noise or when they’re at an age that they ‘know’ to be quiet! I think everyone, including you, needs to realize that there are children in the world, so why should we ignore that?
    And it probably wouldn’t cost $1000 every Sunday at your cinema if they set themselves up with more permanent facilities to be kid friendly every day.

    Reply

  11. No I did not miss the point. I just dont agree with it. There are plenty of kid friendly places out there and there are plenty of adult places too. I just dont see why they all have to be kid friendly. Sometimes people want a break from being around kids. Not everything adult is appropriate for them.

    They should take their kids shopping early in the day when its not busy so that the lines are not so long, the kids would not get so bored and frustrated. Kids are generally happier first thing in the morning.

    If parents want to take kids out after lunch or after school obviously they can, its a free world. They are the ones who know what their kids like and dislike. They know if their kids are tired or not. I just dont see why I should step aside because they can’t organise thier day better. I want to get home too. If I need to go to the shops later in the day, My kids are most likely at home with their dad and I want to get back to them. No one moves aside for me ‘casue I want to get home to my kids who are missing me.

    Should someone going out for a romantic dinner at the Hilton ready to propose have to do so in an intimate setting with a baby at the next table crying and a toddler running about the place because the parents think that their kids are just so cute and special that no one else matters.

    The cinema has to hire in the animal farm, jumping castle, etc as public liability insurance is just through the roof. these companies provide their own insurance making it far cheaper. And again. It is a business trying to be kid frindly and still you have a dig at it.

    Other than the public transport booster seating issue (that wont happen unless people want to start paying for their kids to use public transport to start with) anyhow other than that everything else that is a complaint is available in North Brisbane. Not at every single location but it is out there. So when you are writing to town planners, shopping centre management, local sporting clubs, cinemas, etc etc perhaps you can suggest to them to take a trip here and have a good look. Life is not that bad. Like I said I choose to move away from the county and communities to raise my family somewhere family friendly. I did not try and make the whole country change to accomodate my kids.

    Reply

    • Sorry it’s taking me so long, I’ve been extremely busy. And my reply is getting longer and longer so I think it’s better as a post to explain my position properly.

      But because it isn’t relevant to the post and you asked – I haven’t moved I’m still in a remote town, and I’ve been happily SAHMing there for more than 4 years now.

      Reply

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