We all know how important it is for children to play outdoors. And we also know that huge numbers of children are deprived of that experience. That’s why Mike Lanza’s new book Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood into a Place for Play is so important. It provides blueprints for neighborhoods working together to encourage children’s outdoor play and to create safe spaces to enable it. In addition to step-by-step solutions for families and communities, Lanza highlights inspirational stories from communities in the United States and Canada that have transformed themselves into neighborhoods that encourage the kind of independent outdoor play that many of us remember from our childhoods.
Lanza explores new trends in urban and suburban design—walkable communities, common space, co-housing, and back yard “playscapes.” He describes neighborhoods where the ingenuity and commitment of a few individuals have transformed blocks into thriving communities that support children’s outdoor play—and he provides step-by-step instructions to help others make similar transformations. He gives hints for prospective homebuyers in how to identify a neighborhood that supports or can support children’s play. And he gives suggestions for creating “kid hangouts” in existing neighborhoods.
Playborhood is a wonderfully practical and inspiring guide to transforming neighborhoods into play spaces. One caveat: It’s troubling to us that Lanza urges parents to buy cell phones for kids as young as nine in order to make parents feel more comfortable about their being outside unsupervised. That’s the same argument marketers were making years ago as they began pushing cell phones on ever-younger children—feeding into parents’ fears to sell them on phones for children. And given all his other great suggestions and the huge amount of time children spend with screen technologies, advocating for cell phones for young kids seems, at best, superfluous. The media and marketing industries are already doing a phenomenal job of convincing parents their young kids need phones—they don’t need help from someone whose primary commitment is to outdoor play.