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Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Place for Play Paperback – 4 Apr 2012

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About the Author

Mike Lanza is author of "Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Place for Play." He also blogs at He's worked hard to create a very rich neighborhood play life for his three boys - ages 7, 4, and 2 - in Menlo Park, California. He's also discovered and written about dozens of neighborhoods throughout North America that are doing innovative things to make a vibrant life for kids. Prior to his writing career, Mike was a five-time software and Internet entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 19 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Addressing a Serious Decline in Play Time 14 May 2012
By Fritz R. Ward - Published on
Format: Paperback
I teach at a very unusual school: a 4th through 8th grade prep academy. The school has many very good features and if one is to judge by test scores, it is one of the best in the state of California. But one thing it does not have is opportunity for unstructured play time. Neither does the local neighborhood. And our kids are the worse off for it. When we opened the school, our principal came in to address each classroom and answer questions. Question 1 from our fifth graders: when is recess? Answer: there isn't any. But we do have PE 5 days a week. Isn't that exciting? Sort of. But I find many of my students are more than happy to give up PE part of the week to do intensive instruction, and one of the biggest draws of our Saturday Academy (held once a month) is the unstructured play time of 20 or so minutes between sessions. In this new book, Mike Lanza explains why unstructured play time, preferably out doors, is so important to children and examines the social costs of not providing for it.

Children, research shows, actually learn quite a bit from unstructured play time, not the least of which is social skills and age appropriate interactions. They also learn independence and develop creativity. Unfortunately, early 21st century society does not offer many opportunities for children to explore and enjoy free time. One can point to a variety of causes. Children spend more of their day in school than they used to, and less of that time is devoted to recess than in the past. In addition, students are given more homework than they used to receive as educators are driven to try anything to raise test scores and meet the demands of No Child Left Behind legislation. But schools are not the only culprits. Liability concerns, fear, and a political agenda to "protect" children at all costs has gone a long way toward preventing kids from developing a healthy lifestyle. As a child I would routinely bike miles from my home to fish until dark. My happiest memories as a child involved playing pick up basball games in the neighborhood, riding the greenbelt bikeway on the Boise River, and fishing ponds and streams around my home. "But we can't do those things now" I am repeatedly told when I share my experiences with parents today. And yet, crime is actually less now than it was 20 to 30 years ago, and on the whole society is safer. The problem is we have become overprotective, and our kids are suffering for it.

But what is the solution? Lanza suggests neighborhoods need to develop kid friendly zones where kids can play, often without direct adult supervision. Yards need to be less manicured and more play friendly. He provides several "models" from around the country in neighborhoods from all income and ethnic backgrounds. The biggest obstacle, aside from our own fears and overprotectiveness, is the local planning board but even local government can occasionally be swayed by a dedicated group of citizens who actually have the interests of children at heart. The alternative, unfortunately, is more time in front of multimedia presentations. Already, as Lanza notes, kids are getting as much as 8 hours of screen time, trading a virtual world that is immediately accessible for a real one that is being denied them. We can and should do better. I strongly recommend this book for all parents. Get it and find out how you can change your neighborhood into a playborhood; a place where kids can blossom with play time into independent young adults.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Concrete Ways to Cultivate Community 25 April 2012
By Amy Dickinson - Published on
Format: Paperback
I've long worried about the consequences of diminishing time for play in children's lives, but I've never thought so concretely about changes we can make intentionally in our neighborhoods to address this issue, to not just bring back free outdoor play to the lives of children but also to actively cultivate community. What I like most about this book, beyond Lanza's passion, are the diverse examples of ways people are creating community across the US. Little changes like a book exchange in Share-It Square (Portland, OR) are so easy to implement yet can yield potentially big returns in terms of fostering a neighborhood culture. From play streets in urban environments like the Bronx to homemade water slides in Seattle to white boards in a neighborhood housing development, the ideas offered in Playborhood are varied and can be adapted anywhere.

I also appreciate the book's critical analysis of our society's lack of focus on the child. Lanza's take on the way real estate is marketed (and designed) with adults in mind and often with little thought for community has me thinking more deeply about children's perspectives and about intentionality not just in how I live but where I live. For anyone who hopes to make some changes, get to know his or her neighbors, and actively build community, I definitely recommend this book.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Turn your neighborhood into a FUN ZONE! 13 April 2012
By Avery Cleary - Published on
Format: Paperback
Looking for ways to make your yard and neighborhood more kid-friendly? This book is packed with inspiration and practical suggestions. It has awesome stories about people across the country who have turned their neighborhoods into safe places for kids to PLAY. Playborhood opens up creative, new possibilities for play right outside your door!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Mr. Rogers would be proud of Playborhood!! 13 April 2012
By Jill Daniel - Published on
Format: Paperback
After reading this important book on creating a Playborhood, a regular community of outside free play for your children with the neighbor kids, I was talking with a mom friend of mine who said, "Isn't it kinda crazy that we have to work so hard at creating play outside for our kids when this came so naturally to us when we were kids??" Yes, it is absurd, but let's accept it as a given in our society today (we are all so flippin' busy, right??) and then roll up our sleeves, knock on neighbor's doors and do something about it, which is easy to act on with all the terrific tips that Mike provides in his book. We have to make our neighborhoods enticing to our kids and currently, as Mike says, our streets are often boring, especially when no other kids are outside. In his book, Mike says, "Decades ago, most neighborhoods buzzed with kids playing outside daily. Today, hardly any neighborhoods have kids playing outside at all." Mike asks the question, "Is every kid in this generation really that radically different from kids decades ago? Of course not. What's more, many parents aren't that different either." The challenging issue we face today is that the desire is definitely still there for play but not the execution and planning required to pull it off. Technology often keeps kids inside and isolated but if you text your neighbor moms and dads in the afternoons and ask if their kids can meet yours in the front yard in half an hour, you will likely find that the resounding answer will be, "Absolutely, yes!" And if it's not, don't give up! Stay playing in the front yard, not the back, where you can be seen and joined, advises Mike. For some families, it may take more advance planning to pull off Playborhood on a regular basis. In our neighborhood, we have Playborhood signs out (for sale on Amazon too from Mike) and we have two official Playborhood playdates a month, as well as the impromptu get-togethers. But it wasn't always like this on my street...
For a year we were new to the area and we lived on a cul-de-sac with lots of older neighbors without young kids and my 7-year-old son was not playing outside much. Then last summer, a new family moved in with two kids close to my son's age. (Playborhood's concept applies best to kids from Kindergarten to middle school.)
I have seen how my son has been transformed in his daily attitude and happiness when he gets to play outside with these other children and we feel more connected to our immediate community because of our communication with the neighboring mom and dad of these kids. We've had them over to our house for dinner and we take turns checking in on the kids when they are outside if we need to...(Mike advocates for limited supervision with appropriate ages). Playborhood is a win-win for all ages! Your kids will thank you for it when they look back on their fondest memories of childhood.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Practical inspiration for parents who believe in play 11 April 2012
By Kerry C - Published on
Format: Paperback
As a parent, I would certainly say that a "good neighborhood" is important to me and my children. Any parent would. But this book showed me that what is most important for my kids is a Playborhood: a street where kids are free to roam, visit neighbors unannounced, invent games together, and play freely, away from constant adult supervision. Where has that world gone, what are the repercussions, and can we get it back? Mike Lanza's book addresses those questions, but even better, it offers practical advice on how to turn your current neighborhood into a Playborhood. Since reading it, I've been inspired to make small changes that have made a difference. For example, we now hang out in our front yard more often, invite neighbors over for meals and spontaneous play, and eschew activities that are across town. We've already seen the difference on our own block, and our neighbors are joining the cause. I'll get this book for several friends who also believe in the importance of play. I'm excited to spread the word!
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