Jaime Flores: A Place to Play

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Jaime Flores says many young people don’t have the spaces for play and an active life the others take for granted.

I still remember the time I refused to move to a different place. In  the beginning, I was confused when my parents told me we were moving to an apartment in SoCal. I remember telling them, "Are we taking the trees?"

A few days into my summer break, we checked out the place, and while my parents saw the apartment, my sibling and I looked around, and we noticed the place had gates and entrances, a big parking garage and the walls were painted white. We saw it did not have any spaces for kids to hang out in. Those were important parts for my sibling and me, other than wanting to see plants, flowers, and more colors.

Eventually, my family and I moved here before I started middle school and found out other kids there felt the same. We hung out together and helped each other choose the possible afternoon games we could play using the laundry rooms and the space in the parking garage. When we were not playing, we enjoyed snacks and put any money each of us had together for everyday objects to play.

While I’m an adult now, play and connection is needed in our everyday lives as it helps us discover the world and how it works.

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Before moving, I was able to play without any rules. I was able to go in my front yard, and there was space that I could play in, making and choosing my activities like climbing trees, tag games, and sometimes inviting people on the block and from my school over to hang out. The memories I had growing up there, such as building a bike ramp with them, made me realize how having spaces we could hang out in lets kids create and grow for the rest of their lives.

I'm sharing my childhood because I had the opportunity to try out ideas, build strengths and community, and talk and gather with others. Kids don't get that now. They get fewer opportunities, are encouraged less to play or even connect, and lack the space for it. It seems like not exploring children's ideas on important parts is becoming more of a priority.

It is time to welcome kids' opinions to better the social environment and show what happens and comes out of play as an important part of supporting them.

With a Perspective, I’m Jaime Flores.

Jaime Flores is a first-generation graduate student at Cal.