Inspired by this article of the Playborhood concept for kids and neighborhoods, I am reminded of my own experience when I was a kid, growing up in Clifton, NJ, a suburb of Manhattan.
After school was spent over my friends’ house, 3 brothers: Mike, Daniel and Jeremy. Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lee had devoted themselves to their children and creating an environment both inside and outside their home where their children and their friends could learn, discover and play. They were teachers by profession and their love of children was palpable.
In their backyard, Mr. Lee had build a wooden fort, with a ladder to climb u to the top and in the ‘basement’ of the fort was a sandbox.
I remember spending hours in that sandbox in the summer, using a colander to sift the sand to make it as fine a powder as I possibly could. I was and am always fascinated with texture, nature and the earth.
The brothers would join me for awhile, but they were more interested in climbing up and on the fort, or playing on the swingset nearby.
In the humid heat of a NJ summer, their outdoor pool was also a soothing retreat.
But it wasn’t just their backyard that was a playground on my street, our street itself, St. James Place, also became our world to kick ball, pop tar bubbles in the summer heat or roller skate down.
There were no ‘scheduled’ playdates, they just happened, after school or on the weekend. We were pretty much left to our own devices. Our parents would call us in for meals and such and of course, when it got dark, we were expected to be home.
But we had freedom to discover ourselves through play.
In the cooler months, we retreated inside their home to the basement rec room. There were legos, building blocks, Lincoln logs and in the back room, Mr. Lee had set up his model railroad.
There was also an Apple computer with very early ‘video games’. There was a haunted house game we would play, but the computer wasn’t the sole focus of what we did. And of course, these were different times. We weren’t hooked in to the internet.
It was more fun to create our own worlds with the other toys that we could get our hands on.
I am really grateful for that experience. I wonder, those reading this, did you have a Playborhood growing up?