My family’s lived for nine months now in a home we spent 2-1/2 years searching for. We were determined to live on a block that had great Playborhood potential, and I was pretty sure we’d found it.
So, how’s it going? In brief, my verdict is that we’re right on the verge of becoming a bona-fide Playborhood now. I consider a Playborhood to be a place where children, ideally from more than one family, play outside on their own on a regular basis – i.e. at least a couple days a week.
At least three or four nights a week after dinner, I play with my two boys – Marco (4-1/2) and Nico (1-1/2) – in the street. We usually play street hockey, but we’ve also played basketball and t-ball. If it were only us out there, we would be no closer to being a Playborhood than when we moved in and I saw kids playing outside very rarely.
However, other families are starting to join in, too. And, most importantly, Marco and other toddlers are starting to take some independent initiative. Three nights ago was an excellent example of this. After dinner, the boys and I brought out the hockey stuff (net, sticks, and balls) and started playing hockey in the street. Two kids from two doors down were playing on their play structure, and they asked Marco to join them. So, Marco ran off and joined them.
About that time, parents and a 1-1/2 year-old from two doors down the other direction came out and joined Nico and me playing hockey. A bit later, one of the neighbor kids on the play structure came to join us. Meanwhile, Marco and the other kid started playing in our garage.
Confused? Sorry. It wasn’t boring, that’s for sure. It was a wonderful, free flowing night. We all had a great time playing, and we adults had great conversation, too.
We’re having more and more moments like this. It’s still too parent-mediated for me to call it a Playborhood. The kids should be initiating the play more and coming up with the ideas for what to do. I want to hear about made-up games that have intricate rules crafted over many play sessions. I want to see hide-out forts filled with makeshift furniture. I want to see a distinctive kid culture develop in our block. And I want to see this kid culture become a permanent fixture in their lives, not just a passing fad. When these things happen, I’ll be satisfied.
And I know that making this happen will take a much stronger push than we’ve made to date. That’s why I’m renovating my front yard to make it into a “front yard family room.” We just broke ground for this today, and we should be done sometime by May. I’ll be writing about this separately soon, but it’s very exciting.
Also, we’re adding a fabulous play structure to our back yard, and we hope to use this to entice our adjoining neighbors to agree to put gates in our fences.
We want our kids and neighbor kids to make our front and back yards their hangout. We want them to go there and find other kids to play with when they have some free time.
We’re getting there, but we have a lot of work left to do. We’re gonna get there. Stay tuned…