I recently took my daughter to George Square in Glasgow City Centre to chase pigeons. That wasn’t the main reason for our trip, but we delayed our other plans by at least half an hour so we could run after the pigeons. And I thought, “This is a normal Sunday morning activity, right? Surely I’m not the only parent who encourages their small child to chase filthy rat birds for entertainment?”
Or maybe pigeon-chasing is a city thing. I grew up in the suburbs, but my daughter is very much a city girl. Having grown up in the biggest city in Scotland, she thinks nothing of big crowds, street performers and stepping over strewn chips and street vomit. She’s been commuting with me ever since she turned one, the only toddler on a rush-hour train packed with tired grown-ups in business suits.
There are some real benefits to raising your kids in a city. Yes, cities can be loud, crowded and dirty, but they’re also exciting, dynamic and full of opportunities. Here’s why cities can be so great for kids:
1. Cities let kids get their culture on
Museums, libraries, theatres, restaurants, festivals…cities offer so many opportunities for kids to learn and experience new things. My daughter has been museuming it up ever since she was a baby, since most Glaswegian museums are free and awesome, like the Kelvingrove Museum and the Riverside Museum.
Not that she’s interested in the exhibits – she mostly just climbs up and down staircases and points out all the crying babies (because museums are always full of crying babies). It may be a few years before she really takes an interest in art or history, but early exposure can’t hurt. Plus museums offer big spaces for running around when it’s rainy, which leads me to the second great thing about cities:
2. Cities offer so many indoor activities
Glasgow has terrible weather. Really, truly crap. I’ve lived here for over a decade, but Glasgow continues to shock me with its dreichness. Thank God there are so many family-friendly indoor activities for cold, wet days – because most days are cold, wet days. Even the summer ones. One year I turned on my heat for most of July.
I honestly don’t know what people who live in rural areas do with their kids when it’s wet outside. I imagine they stay in and do wholesome indoor activities like making little fairy houses out of toilet roll tubes and mixing homemade playdough, rather than dragging their kid out into a storm because they can’t stand to be stuck in a small flat with a small person.
Speaking of small flats…
3. Cities encourage you to get out of the house
If you live in a city, you probably live in a flat. A smallish flat. City living ain’t cheap.
But there’s an upside to living in small digs. Instead of bringing everything you need inside your four walls, you need to go out to get it. You don’t have a garden, so you have to go to the park. You don’t have a playroom, so you go to a museum. Your kitchen is the size of a closet, so you eat in a cafe. City living opens up your world.
4. Cities expose kids to people from different backgrounds
I don’t want my daughter to be surrounded by other kids who are just like her. I guess that would be hard, given that she’s a half Puerto Rican, half American child who was born in England, but you know what I mean. She looks like a white, middle-class kid. No offense to white, middle-class kids – I was one, after all – but I want her to have the opportunity to interact people from other backgrounds, religions and ethnicities. Living in a big city means that she comes into contact with diversity every day.
5. Cities teach kids about urban wildlife
Glasgow may not have the highland cows, red squirrels and roe deer that our rural neighbours enjoy, but our city isn’t entirely devoid of wildlife. My daughter is growing up with pigeons, grey squirrels, gulls and urban foxes – scrappy creatures that rummage through our bins and screech outside our flat at weird hours. Urban wildlife teaches kids that nature isn’t always beautiful and majestic – in fact, sometimes it’s annoying and kind of gross. I once saw a pigeon eating a rat on my way to the office and thought, “Ah, nature. Isn’t it something?”