Remember when we all walked down the street to school. Remember when “day care” meant you spent the day at a neighbour’s house a few doors down the street? My how times have changed. My son has just finished kindergarten and will be in school full time next September. For now, however, he attends a pre-school day care centre part-time along with my daughter who is there full-time and will be there until she too reaches grade one. Luckily, both the school and the day care centre are a short walk from our home and when we can, my wife or I or both, walk or ride bikes back and forth. What’s really amazing is how these nearby facilities have helped us build a stronger Playbourhood. Mike Lanza recently posted an article about how kids attending the same school can develope closer ties to their own community and neighbourhood.While the school is a natural place for nearby kids to interact, the day care is a different setting. Working parents often travel great distances just to find space in a good daycare. And the decision is often based on convenience for the parents, rather than the benefits for the kids. We’ve been very lucky to find a wonderful day care with dedicated and passionate teachers. Kids are very social creatures. They make friends easily and develop relationships at the drop of a hat. My kids are no different and they come home every day with stories to tell about the fun they had with their friends. The development benefits for kids who have the opportunity to socialize are obvious and well documented.
But there’s another phenomenon to consider. The impact on kids from the same neighbourhood attending the same schools and day cares is an important consideration that parents need to look at when making a decision about where to send their kids. As Mike Lanza points out, there are all kinds of reasons for choosing a school or a day care – and, by extention, choosing a neighbourhood in which to raise your family. Some kids need more supports, some benefit from more structure while others thrive with less. Some families desire a religous setting. The list is endless and it all depends on your priorities. I suggest that when making those lists of pros and cons for which school or day care you want, you should also look at the advantages of going local.
If you’re interested in the Playbourhood philosphy, then you need to consider the nearby school and day care as an extention of the neighbourhood. While my family is lucky to be living on a street with families and kids who regularly interact, the impact of attending the same school and day care is clear. Some of our neighbour’s kids go to different schools and the ones who attend the same school are closer and play together more often. Kids of various ages, in different grades, have something in common (they know each other’s teachers, they play in the same school yard, take the same bus, attend the same events). It allows them to connect on a number of levels and in different settings. And it provides the parents with a common reference point, too!
A year ago, we hardly ever saw one of our neighbour’s kids. When we did, they were shy and hesitant. Then they started attending the same day care as a couple of the other families on the street. It seemed that overnight, that relationship changes. They kids started playing togehter at home in the yard, just as they would at the care centre. Parents would run into each other during drop off and pick up times and at special events. For everyone, kids and adults alike, there was a renewed connection and a stronger relationship.
Those close connections and opportunities to spend time together are what make Playbourhoods possible. Local schools. Local day care. Think about it.