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Tim Dick 17 May 2013We didn't have a park when I was growing up.[...]
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Category Archives: Neighborhood
“I want to propose a toast to not knowing where our kids are, and not thinking about it.” My wife and I were having dinner at the summer home of our good friends, parents of three boys almost identical in age to ours, at the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York when I made that toast last week. Indeed, five of our six kids, ages two through seven, were playing somewhere outside, all on their own. Sure, we had some … Continue reading
A parent’s worst nightmare just happened in Brooklyn’s Borough Park, a tight-knit enclave of Orthodox Jews. An eight-year-old boy got lost walking back from day camp, asked a stranger for directions, and ended up being abducted, killed, and dismembered by that stranger. Horrific. Abominable. Utterly incomprehensible. One can’t possibly contemplate a tragedy like this without pausing for a few moments to catch one’s breath, with a very heavy heart. The big question is, how do parents whose children were spared … Continue reading
Camp Iris Way in Palo Alto, CA, which just completed its second year, is the best neighborhood summer camp in many ways. It’s the biggest and the most organized I know of, by far. Its organizers, Jennifer Antonow and Diana Nemet, read about my camp, Camp Yale, a couple of years ago and decided to give it a try. They’ve totally outdone me! Amazingly, it had 72 kids, including 41 participants (from age 4 to 3rd grade), 11 counselors in … Continue reading
You don’t need a dream home to have a Playborhood. I used to feel like I had to wait for the house to create the community, but I have found that’s not the case. My husband, two sons and I have an apartment in a preschool Playborhood heaven. There are a LOT of children around: a dozen and counting! Bikes and sidewalk chalk are kept out on front porches and shared. Many days each week, a spontaneous playgroup gathers in … Continue reading
Our front yard just got a lot more interesting for kids. I had a huge mural of our neighborhood painted on our driveway, with icons of places of interest beyond. Isn’t it beautiful? Doesn’t it look like fun? (See below.)
I agree with Hillary Clinton that It Takes a Village to raise a child. I just don’t agree with her on what kind of village it takes.
In her bestselling book of that name, Clinton finds the original notion of a village to be quaint and outdated. She writes, “The village can no longer be defined as a place on the map.” Instead, “it is the network of values and relationships that support and affect our lives.” Many other writers agree with her that a village isn’t physically delimited. Even fifty years ago, communications theorist Marshall McLuhan coined the term “global village” to argue that mass communications technology had created a single, global culture.
The problem with this modern definition of a village for children is that they can’t use most of the technologies that adults routinely use to extend a village beyond a small local area. They can’t drive cars on their own until they reach the age of 16, and they can’t interact with others using interactive communications technologies like mobile phone texting until sometime in the elementary or middle school years. So, for children, this modern village concept would force them to depend on the the intervention of parents.
As I’ve argued repeatedly here on Playborhood.com, children have a deep need to experience things on their own. The more rich is the physical (not virtual) domain that children can access on their own, on foot, the better.
So, I strongly believe that it takes a village – i.e. an old-fashioned, tight-knit neighborhood – to raise a child. Not some “network of values and relationships.” Not a “global village.” This village is a place where children can wander safely on their own, where they have many meaningful relationships with people – children and adults – outside of their families. Continue reading
Santa Claus came to our front yard this past Sunday. So did an elf, Frosty, and Rudolph. A brass ensemble, the Menlo Brass Quintet, came by to play Christmas songs like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
Also, about 60 or so neighbors and friends came. They sang, ate, drank, got their pictures taken with Santa, got their faces painted by the elf, and played. Not all those who came were formally invited, I’m happy to say. Some neighbors heard the music and came over spontaneously. This wouldn’t have happened if we had had this party inside our house or at some public venue like a park or restaurant. Continue reading
The following is an interview with Hetty Fox, a South Bronx neighborhood activist who has been instrumental in creating a very warm, tight-knit community on her block, a short one-way street called Lyman Place.
Here, she describes how she rescued Lyman Place back in the 1970s, when life in the South Bronx was terribly bleak. Vandalism and theft was rampant, and arsons were totally out of control. Over 40% of all housing there was burned down during that decade.
Fox and her neighbors were forced to take extraordinary measures to enable their neighborhood to survive, but in fact, even peaceful neighborhoods that are in no imminent danger would benefit greatly from applying Fox’s lessons. Continue reading
Much has been written about the deep, positive impact that exposure to nature can have on children. I agree. Recently, I’ve seen with my own eyes how vital a relationship with nature can be for children.
However, through this experience I’ve come to realize that the discussions of children and nature have largely failed to address how to best include nature into children’s lives.
I’ve come to realize that two factors are crucial to the magical experience my two older boys (6 and 2-1/2) have had: Continue reading
I’ve been looking forward to this moment for six years, ever since my first son was born, when I vowed that I would not give my children a childhood full of screen time inside the house and packed schedules outside.
Just in the last week, I’ve helped a group of five neighbor kids (ages 8, 6-1/2, 6, 4-1/2, and 2-1/2), including two of my own, create a new society of their own. They’ve created their own hangout – a stylized tree fort – and their own culture in a creek bed by our house. They go there for hours at a time and are totally autonomous, with an adult watching passively from a distance. They plan. They build. They negotiate. They cooperate. They explore. They play. Occasionally, they disagree, but they always work things out on their own.
To me, this is the epitome of what childhood should be. The kids play and work and learn all at once. They constantly come up with new things to do. Their activity flows from one activity to another endlessly.
They don’t need TV or video games or scheduled activities, and they don’t need parents. And they’re never, ever bored.
They’ve been there every afternoon since we started on Monday, and they show no signs of getting tired of it. It’s been the highlight of their summer, hands down. I hope they do it the rest of the summer, and for years in the future.
So, how did I make this happen? Continue reading
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