Thursday, January 26, 2012
Are you a hibernator?
Last year, I went walking with a friend at 9:00 p.m. on a chilly winter night. My friend, a city planner, was talking about an article she read regarding the use of outdoor space in the winter. We talked about places that embrace the cold weather and provide gathering places for people despite the temperature. For example, in some cities, the chairs and tables at outdoor cafes aren't stacked and locked up for the winter. In fact, these cafes might even provide heat lamps to make the outdoor ambience a little cozier. (For the record, I haven't seen any outdoor cafes here in Helsinki. I think it would be a logistical nightmare with the constant snow removal going on here!)
Even before we came to Finland, I wondered why we hibernate in the winter in Chicago. We know it will get cold. We know that it's pretty likely we'll have snow. So why don't children play in the parks in the winter? Why are all of our afterschool programs INSIDE? Why do we hesitate to send children outside for recess? Why can't we have more ice skating places in Chicago? I'm not talking about dangerously cold weather--but the teens, 20s, 30s--all are fair game in my book!
I know that individual families make an effort to get out in the winter, but I'm wondering what it takes to become a culture that wants to be outside regardless of the temperature.
From what I've observed here in Finland so far, life outside doesn't stop because snow fell or the temperature dropped. In fact, when many children leave school, they head over to the local park where an attendant supervises them until Mom or Dad comes to pick them up. The park across the street from me is FULL of life in the late afternoon. In fact, I feel it's one place where my loud kids can be their loud selves!
Sadly, the photos I took at the park yesterday don't give you an idea of how many families were at the park at that point in time, but I would guess about 30 kids and a dozen parents were playing there.
Snow forts are all over the place!
This park is sandwiched between the dog park and the ice skating pond, so there is a lot of activity.
We live in the apartment buildings you can see in the background.
By the way, the boys were skating while I took pictures of Liily at the park. I'll try not to be so preachy in my next post...