When it comes to Hoboken, few things grasp the essence of the city like the pier, the river walkway, and the city’s deep Italian roots. Being the birthplace of Frank Sinatra and boasting local celebs like Buddy Valastro, Jr. (otherwise known as ‘Cake Boss’), it’s easy to understand why so many choose to call it home.
But what about the younger generations? Hoboken, though rich in culture and experience for adults, is seen quite a bit differently through the eyes of its youngest population. So just how does Hoboken look to the littles of the city?
It’s one thing to search for certain “kid-friendly” activities and locations, but how do you choose a place your child will truly enjoy? Well, for starters, we thought it might help to take a look at what your child is seeing on your city adventures with them.
While most of us appreciate places that are understanding and accepting of family dynamics (hence the ‘kid-friendly’ aspect), there’s a bigger picture here. Namely, if we’re looking for ‘kid-friendly’ locations, we’re usually looking for something that is going to capture our child’s attention and (hopefully) give them a fantastically entertaining learning experience simultaneously. Or, at the very least, a chance for some physical activity to wear them out for nap time. However, there is a bigger picture here.
Beyond the “fun” aspect (or the “wearing them out” one), getting kids actively involved in their communities has an enormous impact on their futures. In fact, according to an article in UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, “research shows that getting kids involved increases their commitment to civic participation” later in life as well.
Researchers have found that focusing on what children show an interest in around their communities, increases the likelihood that they will explore and experience their surroundings. In short, when we try to see the city through the eyes of our children, we can better supply them with opportunities that are actually ‘kid-centric’, not just ‘kid-friendly.’
Kid-Centric Vs. Kid-Friendly
Kid-friendly locations like the ball pit at Romparoo, or the indoor jungle gyms of Urban Jungle Play are fantastic places for your child to gain some active play time. They are also great for arts and crafts and other exploratory and imagination play.
Hoboken is certainly rich with these kid-friendly locations. A quick Google search will have you lining up play dates at various kiddy locations in no-time, but are they your only option? In short – no. Not by a long shot.
To gain a more ‘kid-centric’ experience for children, researchers across the country have been turning their focus on more natural activities. Some cities, like Boulder, Colorado and Jacksonville, Florida, have even gone so far as to include children in the design process of their city’s public spaces. Why? What better way to encourage children to engage in their communities than to incorporate their views in the design?
Kids Designing for Kids
According to Mara Mintzer, one of the researchers involved in studying communities that participate in the kid-centric city planning, the most important thing to consider is what sparks the interest of children.
When you walk down Hoboken’s waterfront walkway with your children, what do they see? Do they see the city skyline and a great place for a jog? Or do they see the grass and the trees; hear the animals and smell the flowers? (Hint: it’s the latter.)
“Kids value things that often get pushed aside by big-money interests… in literally every single piece of work we’ve ever done with kids, they’re always (especially the younger kids) requesting more nature in their spaces – more animals, more plants, more flowers, colors,” says Mintzer.
Through all of their research, city planners around the country have taken a look at what children see when they are immersed in their communities. You might think they’d notice the flashy lights of downtown or the familiar golden arches of a certain kid-geared fast-food chain, but you’d be wrong – at least, in part.
Their biggest findings? Kids love to explore. Finding areas where children can be free to roam and explore their surroundings – namely, nature – is the simplest way to cater to their curiosity and make the most of their experiences in the community.
Since children are inquisitive by nature, give them experiences that will nurture their desire to learn. Sure, you can do this by visiting specific kid-friendly places around town, but there are so many other ways to do the same. Actually, by viewing Hoboken through the eyes of our children, we open up a plethora of opportunities for them – most of which cost nothing more than our time. Here are a few of our favorite kid-centric activities to try in Hoboken:
Kid-Centric Activities in Hoboken
1 – The Waterfront Walkway
It may seem like an obvious choice, but when you look at the river walk through the eyes of your child, the learning opportunities are abundant. Head down to the pier and make a game of counting the ferries you see or imagine where the passengers may be off to. Watch the skies for nearby aircraft coming in and out of city helipads – who knows, you may spark the interest of a future pilot or captain!
2 – The Cove Boathouse
If you’ve visited the walkway and your child wants a more up-close water experience, try the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse! Renting a kayak for a ride down the Hudson is an awesome way to spark your child’s inquisitive nature. By letting them see the city from the waterways, you give your children a unique opportunity to explore their surroundings from a different angle.
3 – The Pier Parks
Taking to heart the research findings that suggest kids love to explore uninhibited, a trip to any one of Hoboken’s public parks might be just the ticket. With wide open spaces, plenty of greenery and nature, and designated play areas, the parks are a fantastic way to let kids explore nature and their surroundings to their heart’s content.
Kids love hands-on experiences – a fact which makes Hoboken’s Fire Department Museum a fun outing for kids too. Combining history and the irresistible iconic red trucks, the Fire Department Museum is a great way to mix learning and play. If your little one loves to learn by touching everything in sight (and let’s be honest, they all do), they will love the fire truck “driving” experience they’ll get during the tour! Fire trucks not their thing? Check out any of these other historical sites in Hoboken as well.
Another thing that catches your child’s attention? Other children and what they’re doing. It’s no surprise that our kids pick up things that older siblings or friends are doing, and they usually love learning by immersion with others. What better way to expose your child to kids of all ages than to bring them to a skate park? Let them explore new activities and skills by giving them a place to observe others around them in an environment designated just for them.
Overall, if you’re looking for ‘kid-friendly’ activities for your child in Hoboken, try considering a ‘kid-centric’ one by looking at things from a kids-eye-view. Get out there and explore!