Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Seattle families: How to shut down your street so kids can play (yes, really!)

With your free Play Street permit, you can open your street for exercise and fun and limit vehicle traffic up to 3 days a week.

Play Streets are back! The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) issues permits for Play Streets — the legal closure of non-arterial streets to thru traffic to allow people to socialize and play safely. Last year the program was suspended but as of April 8, 2021, the program is once again available to Seattle residents. 

According to the SDOT (Seattle Department of Transportation), with your free play street permit, you can open your street for exercise and fun and limit vehicle traffic up to 3 days a week, for a maximum of 12 hours per week during daylight hours. Learn all about play street permits and how to apply for one.

Celebrate with an Earth Day Play Street

SDOT is encouraging families to celebrate Earth Day with an Earth Day-themed play street between April 22 and April 25.

SDOT offers the following ideas for your Earth Day Play Street:

  • Name your trees: choose a favorite street tree on your block and ask neighbors to share goofy name suggestions.  
  • Plan a nature scavenger hunt: come up with a list of trees, animals, and flowers that kids (and adults!) can spot on your block. 
  • Beautify your block: rake leaves and cherry blossoms, clear storm drains, freshen up gardens, or draw pictures with sidewalk chalk. You can also sign up for a Clean Cities Initiative volunteer event at a park near your neighborhood. 
  • Hop like a bunny: set up a hopscotch course or dust off the ol’ jump rope and start bouncing.  
  • Have a picnic: pick up some seasonal produce and enjoy the flavors of spring outdoors.  
  • Test your cycling skills: create a bicycle obstacle course and challenge your neighbors to friendly game.  

Apply for an Earth Day play street permit!

A Play Street Provides Benefits for All Ages

Dawn Schellenberg, SDOT spokeswoman says. “Closing your block provides a safe space right outside the front door.” There are health benefits, too.

“No matter what season it is, spending time outside promotes active lifestyles, exercise, and better mental health,” says Ying Zhang, a family physician with UW Medicine and a Seattle mother to Grayson, 3. “I love watching my tot’s imagination come alive when he plays with random sticks, rocks, and leaves on the ground.”

As a bonus, she notes, outside playtime encourages communication and intentional time together when fully disconnected from phones and screen time.

PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON

A Play Street event in 2019

“Consistency and communication are the key to having a great Play Street,” says Schnellenberg. Try printing invitations decorated by neighborhood children and hand-delivering them together to ensure all neighbors, including those on adjoining streets, get invited.She also suggests applying for a recurring Play Street permit to “create visibility and provide over time awareness that something cool is happening.”

Once you have support from your neighbors, there’s plenty of fun to be had!

More Outside Fun in the City:

Explore 6 of Seattle’s Nicest Small Playgrounds