Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: Playborhood by Mike Lanza

Decades ago, most neighborhoods buzzed with kids playing outside daily. Today, hardly any neighborhoods have kids playing outside at all. Electronic media has essentially squeezed outdoor play out of the lives of American children to the detriment of our children's wellbeing and our immediate communities. How can moms and dads help our kids today to bond with a neighborhood play activity instead of with an indoor screen activity??

In Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Place for Play, you’ll find inspiring stories of innovative communities throughout the US and Canada that have successfully created vibrant neighborhood play lives for their children. You’ll also get a comprehensive set of step-by-step solutions to change your family and neighborhood cultures, so that your kids can spend less time in front of screens and in adult-supervised activities, and more time engaging in joyful neighborhood play.

I was interested in what author Mike Lanza had to say about this "playborhood" idea.  I grew up playing outside, making up games and exploring the canal bank for asparagus to sell to the neighbors.  That's not the way things are today though.  I'm always encouraging my kids (in the maybe 4-5 months of the year they CAN) to go outside and play.  I'm fortunate to live in a neighborhood that is full of kids.  In the summer, kids are everywhere.  Our neighborhood is off the main street and I feel like we have a good start on the kids playing outside thing.  I have awesome neighbors and I think we all want our kids to have fun outside together.  We have neighborhood get-togethers.  People bike and walk and socialize.  Unfortunately, the winter months are long and we all tend to hibernate.  

I like a lot of the ideas in this book.  I agree with a lot of them, but some of them I'm not sold on.  Mike states his case about kids spending way too much time sitting in front of screens.  I totally agree.  My kids think I'm the meanest mom in the world because I really limit the amount of time the spend on the wii, computer and in front of the television.  

I would also agree that kids need more unscheduled time to play.  Not planned and not arranged play dates.  There is a sort of freedom in having time to play and being able to do whatever you want with that time.

However, creating a "playborhood" takes money no matter how you look at it.  Not everyone has the money at their disposal to create the sort of ideals that Mike has.  He has made his yard what it is by choosing to spend his money there instead of on the inside of his home or other things.  Not all of us have the same freedoms with income. But, I do think we can do small things to encourage children to play together outside and that it doesn't have to cost a ton of money.

Mike does have a lot of cool ideas though.  

Outdoor whiteboards on the fence, in ground trampoline, fountain, river structure, playhouse, picnic benches in the front yard.  Sounds like a fun hangout to me!  The neighborhoods he has spotlighted in his book are all doing some cool things too.  It's nice to know that people care about kids and make efforts to make the world a better place for them.  I think it's so important to know your neighbors and establish relationships with them.  When we all work together respectfully we can accomplish so much.

In this book you will find all kinds of good advice and ideas for starting your own "playborhood".  If you are looking for a home to raise kids, he gives lots of tips for finding the right kind of neighborhood and home for establishing a "playborhood".

You can find out more about Mike Lanza, his book and ideas at his website,

You can purchase Playborhood at Amazon by clicking here.

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