Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Is Chicago a Good Place to Raise Children?

This post was inspired by a recent article entitled, Is NYC a Good Place to Raise Children? -- Laura Houston, Motherhood Later....than Sooner.

Parents often wonder if it is a good idea to raise children in the city, and they get their share of opinions from family and friends. As Laura points out, this decision is based on parents' values, resources, and their ability to find balance.

Most people can think of reasons to raise their children in the suburbs - good schools, small communities, ample green space, less traffic and crime. These are some of the arguments. So, why raise children in the city? While some of these reasons may hold true for the suburbs as well, they highlight even greater potential benefits of raising children in an urban environment.

Resources -- Chicago has tons of resources for families. From early intervention programs, daycares, preschools, private and public middle schools, academic and language academies, technical and college prep high schools to children's hospitals, libraries, religious communities with programming for kids (e.g., Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Buddhist, Jewish, etc.) and a plethora of park district activities, Chicago has it all.

Diversity and Culture -- An urban setting, like Chicago, is rich in culture and diversity. There are a wealth of museums, many with child specific attractions (e.g., Children's Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, etc.) as well as children's theaters. Further, Chicago has several ethnic specific neighborhoods (e.g., Greek Town, China Town, Little Italy, Korean Town, Polish, Ukrainian, German communities, etc.) where kids can experience cuisine, clothing, art, literature, music, language, and the like. Want to try something different for dinner - soul food, vegan - the options are endless. There are so many ethnicities, cultures, races, religions, and other kinds of communities in the city that children are exposed to a wealth of differences just walking down the street, in schools, and on public transportation.

Activities -- There are no shortage of activities for families in the city. In addition to numerous playgrounds, green space, and water features (think Crown Fountains in Millennium Park and the fountain area in front of Navy Pier), Chicago has several large parks (e.g., Millennium Park, Grant Park, Humboldt Park, Clarendon Park, Jackson Park, Burnham Park...and the list goes on and on), a zoo, and bike paths. All summer long there are free movies and music in the parks, neighborhood festivals, fireworks and activities at Navy Pier (boat rides, hot air balloon lift, ferris wheel), and Family Fun events sponsored by the city of Chicago. Let's not forget about the beaches that run from the North side to the South side as well as the river that runs right through the city. Not sure what to do with your children, well there are websites devoted to children's activities in the city; just check out ChicagoKids.com or GoCityKids.com

With so many resources, such diversity and culture and with ample variety of activities, it's no wonder so many family choose to raise their children in the city. Predominantly family oriented neighborhoods are popping up all over the city - think Lincoln Park, River North, Bucktown, South Loop. Might it take extra precautions to keep children safe? Yes. Is it possible you won't have a yard? Yes. But, is it easy to get around and are you in a place of exceptional opportunity? Definitely.