I would like my new home to be in a child-friendly neighborhood. (At this early stage in my search I am still allowed to be idealistic, so it’s going to be on a quiet, leafy street where my two children can play in relative safety with their neighborhood friends.)
I also want the kids to be able to walk down to the local stores together, or with their friends (one reason we’re not planning on heading to the hills). I place a high value on being able to loosen the leash a little and give them a sense of independence as they move into their teens.
The street we live on now has basketball hoops that face into the road, hosts daily skateboarding practice sessions (jumps and grind-rails included) and the two neon yellow “kids at play” men owned by neighbors are put to regular use. Fortunately elderly neighbors and drivers show a kindly tolerance to this display of kid power. (I also realize there’s little chance I will find another street that welcomes the yellow men so warmly.)
Mike Lanza, an internet start-up veteran in Palo Alto, yearns for what he sees as a return to unregulated neighborhood play. He recently launched Playborhood, a website committed to bringing back free, unstructured play (or what it refers to as simply “play”) in America.
A visit to the site reveals a survey of parents in which 10.3% said they would pay between $200,000-$500,000 more for a house in a neighborhood with “substantially better play opportunities” (that’s not a little). There’s also a charming video of Lanza’s father recalling the games he used to play as a child on his Pittsburgh street in the 1930s and ’40s.
If your yellow men aren’t doing the trick, you could always imitate the resourceful father in West Salem, Ohio who placed lifesize cardboard cut-outs of his children on the curb (above) to encourage drivers to slow down. It worked: not only did people reduce their speed, but a few drivers even shouted at him from their cars, chastising him for letting his children play so close to a busy road.
[Cut out photo credit: www.local6.com]