The Kidspace Idea Book:
Creative Playrooms, Clever Storage Ideas, Retreats for Teens, Toddler-Friendly Bedrooms
by Wendy A. Jordan
May 15, 2001
An Indoor Track
Parents know what it's like to have kids cooped up inside because the weather outside is too hot or too cold or too wet: Children have energy to burn, and they're going to burn it any way they can. The way to let the kids spend all this energy without forcing their parents to use up all theirs keeping them in control? Give the kids room to move.
North Carolina architect Sarah Susanka, author of The Not So Big House, advocates planning an indoor track into a family home. "Especially in climates where kids can't go outside a lot in winter, they burn up with energy. There's no place to go and parents are constantly telling them to calm down, be quiet, sit down," Susanka said. "If a house has a built-in loop like the one in the drawing here, kids automatically gravitate to it as a race track. If there's a place where they can run around and hide and wait for another to come around, they do it automatically. It's a way to let them literally unwind in a situation where it's difficult because they can't race around outside."
It might seem that giving kids a large open space--say a recreation room--would satisfy the kids' urge to zip around. Susanka says square footage is not enough. In this plan, designed by Susanka's former partner Dale Mulfinger, a wall of storage running through the middle of the main level of the house provides the children with a track. "It's different if there isn't that obstacle there," she said. "Part of the delight is to get up a head of steam and hide. Like peekaboo. The fact that you're hidden for half the length is a big part of how it works. Some people would just think they've got a big wide open basement, so surely that's better. But if you put something in the middle of that open space it's even better. You need a wall; but it doesn't work if it's attached to another wall at one end because that makes a U, which defeats the purpose.
"If you think about a racetrack, you can think the same way. The fact that the path is defined makes it something that you can challenge yourself against yourself or against a friend."
From The Kidspace Idea Book, Chapter 4, p.129