Opinion

Kids need more exercise—so why are we kicking them out of parks?

A toddler sport program has been thrown out of a Toronto park after noise complaints. WTH?

Photo: iStock

Photo: iStock

When my husband and I were looking for a house in 2010, we were thrilled to find one we could afford that had everything on our list. One thing worried us, though: Directly across the street was an elementary school’s field and daycare play space, and directly behind the backyard was a playground and splash pad. We wondered about traffic and noise. In the end, we decided we would live with it, and bought the house.

We were right to think carefully about these issues, because it turns out there is plenty of traffic (at school drop-off and pick-up times) and plenty of noise, too (I’d never noticed before how much kids scream when they play!). But, we figured, that’s the price you pay for choosing to live near green space. You have to live with it.

Or, it seems, you can complain. Which is what some Toronto residents did recently—and they managed to get a bunch of soccer-playing toddlers kicked out of their local parkette.

A kids’ sport program called Sportball was asked to stop holding its classes at Toronto’s Lynndale Parkette right in the middle of the program after some residents complained. Their chief beefs? The sound of whistles, increased traffic and the parking taken up by parents’ cars. The city told Sportball that the company had to find a new location, and that it, as well as parents, would incur a fine if they returned. The program has since found a new park nearby, but many parents in Toronto’s east end and Beach areas are still reeling about this—myself included.

What on earth are parks for if not playing sports? The kids never started before 9 a.m. and were always done by 7 p.m. I’m sure parents’ cars took up some parking spots nearby and caused a bit of traffic, but it’s not like hundreds of kids descended upon the park at once—there were fewer than 10 kids in the parent-and-tot class. I wonder if area residents were primarily annoyed by the use of a whistle, which I can understand might not be the most pleasant sound to wake up to if you’re trying to sleep in a little. On the one hand, whistles are a normal part of sports, and they are effective at getting a toddler’s attention. On the other hand, perhaps the city of Toronto and Sportball could have brainstormed a not-quite-as-shrill alternative to a whistle—like an old-fashioned school bell (brass hand bell) or cow bell?

At a time when kids are getting less exercise than ever, it just feels wrong to kick them out of a park, on principle alone.

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