Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Judging a Neighborhood by its Playground

I have spent a lot of time exploring the playgrounds in my city with my daughter this year. Some rules seem to apply to all of these: nannies talk to other nannies more than to parents, ethnic subgroups of nannies talk to each other before other nannies, babysitters are more likely to talk to parents than nannies, men are often looked at with suspicion by everyone (even other men), and based on things I see you should Always wash your kids hands before they eat or leave any of these parks.

However, the cultural differences at the parks seem to really well illustrate the nature of the neighborhood the park is in. While many of these you might guess by the cost of houses in the neighborhood, some are surprising. In one direction from me people almost never speak to each other at the park. In another they even apologize if their kid touches yours. In another the sandbox is like a giant ashtray full of cigarette butts. In another the donated toys are all broken beyond use and there are never other kids there. In another, the toys are so nice that its hard to believe they don't get stolen, and it's clear they get used regularly. In another it is always so busy that Lyra is just too little to hold her own. In another the young kids are there without their parents and yet give me (often sound) parenting advice and want to hold Lyra (I try to avoid this...she's 20 lbs of quicksilver).

Anyway, it occurred to me that today that whether you have kids or not you should consider spending some time closely observing the environment at the closest playground to any house you're considering buying to get some idea of some of the nuances of the neighborhood culture.

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At 6:11 AM, Blogger Tamar said...

This is very true! I live just up the street from a really nice, enormous suburban playground, and my pet peeve about it is that it's empty 95% of the time. I grew up in NYC, where the playground was always packed with kids on a nice day, so this breaks my heart. Here in the suburbs, people stick to their own backyards and their own $1500 swingsets and their own organized activities, and their kids are woefully undersocialized.


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