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Designated play area: The Playborhood!

As kids, we played for hours. After school, we’d knock on our neighbours’ door and invite our friends out to play. Then we’d play outside until the sun went down, or until our parents physically dragged us back to the house.  Our playtimes ruled. The Wii had not yet been invented, and still we managed to have a blast. 

Today’s kids aren’t enjoying the same long stretches of unstructured free play. Whether it’s because they’re  overscheduled, glued to their video screens and/or not allowed to roam outside unsupervised, it makes us sad. California dad Mike felt sad about this too and wanted his three sons to have something akin to the hazy, lazy days of his own childhood. So he decided to turn his own yard into the most awesome neighbourhood hangout ever, and in the course launched the Playborhood movement and its accompanying online hub where parents can read his blog posts and share ideas. He thinks that, with a bit of effort, our front and backyards can be the best hangouts ever too.

Kids and parents jumping on Mike’s trampoline

His personal playbourhood boasts a front yard family room featuring a sandbox, picnic tables, media system, fountain and basketball hoops, an awesome back yard with a swingset, playhouse and ladder on the fence that neighbourhood kids can use to climb into the Lanzas’ yard, and a trampoline. The best part is, the kids in his nabe and their parents flock to his yard.

Want to create your own playbourhood? Here are 5 tips from Mike:

1. Keep your lives simple. Limit your kids’ screen time and the amount of structured activities in their lives.

2. Move to a potential playbourhood. Change the way you think about moving. It’s hard to find neighbourhoods where there are kids outside playing. But you can look for a neighbourhood with families and calm streets that will facilitate a potential playbourhood.
3. Make a neighbourhood hangout. Get your neighbours involved, with the common goal being to create a space where kids will want to spend time. And make it appealing for adults as well. Your adult neighbours should want to bring their kids over and stick around to hang out themselves.
4. Embrace technology that gets kids outside. This applies more to older tweens and teens. You don’t need to completely get rid of TV and video games,  but embrace technologies for kids that are less sedentary and foster face-to-face experiences (such as location-based games with GPS). Bring this media technology out into the yard.
5. Facilitate self-reliance rather than try to control your kids. Be okay with your kids being with other kids and going next door to knock on their neighbour’s door. Self-reliance enables kids to function in the world, negotiate social situations and make decisions.
To get you started, here are some awesome backyard toys:

Daytime view of the playhouse

Playhouse at night

This Bunch:

  • CITY: Menlo Park, California
  • OUR BUNCH:Mike, tech entrepreneur, blogger, author. Perla, runs greatnonprofits.org. Marco, 5.5, loves bouncey balls. Nico, 2.5, like screaming “Yeah!” like an enthusiastic partier from the movie Animal House. Leo, 11 months, loves his dad.
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