Introducing PlayPath, an app to help parents find kid-friendly parks while traveling

Aug 8 2023
Two months ago, my family and I took a car trip across the state for a family reunion.
With three young kids, I knew we’d have to find a place to rest along the way so they could get out and run around for a while. Most often, we stop for lunch along the way and they run around the fast food restaurant.
But that’s far from ideal.

The Problem With Typical Rest Stops While Traveling With Kids

Stopping to rest at a fast food restaurant or gas station is fine for adults, but not great for kids at all:
  • There’s not a lot of room to run around
  • They’re often right next to a busy parking lot or road, which is dangerous
  • They’ll likely disturb the other people there
  • There’s little to no green space
  • One feels obligated to purchase something to be there

An Environment Designed With Kids in Mind

Kids need safe spaces to run around, spaces protected from speeding cars and distracted drivers. And ideally spaces with kid-friendly amenities like swings or play structures.
What if there was an app that would let me put in my destination address and it would find great, kid-friendly parks along the way?
So recently on trips like these, I’ve gone on Google Maps and tried to find a park somewhere along our route that looks clean, safe, and fun, preferably with a playset.
That’s not always easy to do, though. I end up just scrolling up and down the route clicking on green spaces until I find something that looks good.
I knew there had to be a better way.
What if there was an app that would let me put in my destination address and it would find great, kid-friendly parks along the way?

Enter Playpath

My solution for this problem is called PlayPath, a mobile app to help parents find kid-friendly parks while traveling.
A parent will be able to put in their destination address, pick which types of amenities or accessibility features are must-haves for their family, and then see a list of matching parks that are along their route. They’ll select one they like and be able to navigate straight there.

Addressing the Unique Needs of Parents

I’m designing PlayPath with stressed parents in mind. I know first-hand how difficult it can be to travel long distances in a car with young kids. So an app to help them find parks must be simple and intuitive to use. It must help someone find and get to a park without hassle.
How to make it hassle-free:
  • No registration or login required
  • Simple straight-forward interface
  • It should help someone find the park they want, then let them use the Google Maps or Apple Maps app that they’re already familiar with to navigate there (Bonus: Those apps already provide CarPlay support)

Features that Parents Need

What do parents need in a park? And what do they need when trying to find one? Some initial thoughts:
What do parents need in a park?
  • Safe: amenities designed for kids, well-maintained structures and playsets
  • Clean: facilities managed appropriately
  • Accessible: wheelchair-accessible parking lot, entrance, paths, and playsets, if needed
  • Fun: exciting structures and play features, such as a water play feature
  • A public restroom (preferably a clean one)
What do parents need when trying to find a park?
  • To know how far away it is
  • To know how much time it will add to their trip to stop there
  • A full list of amenities and accessibility features
  • Park ratings provided specifically by other parents

Next Time: Designing the UI

I’ll post more soon about the design and development process, so stay tuned!
Hey, I'm Andrew Pethoud! I'm a full-stack software engineer 💻 who loves building joyful digital experiences for humans 👫. I'm also passionate about walkable communities 🌳 and making cities safer for bikers and pedestrians 🚴, especially when they're my own kids 🧒.
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