Getting to Know My Neighborhood

Amy Rees
June 24, 2008

We've been planning all month to write this post today about how much young children enjoy getting to know their neighborhoods and befriending their neighbors. The topic of preschoolers and neighborhoods makes us think -- how could it not? -- of Mister Rogers and his unforgettable song " Won't You Be My Neighbor?" (If you haven't heard this in a while, do click through and listen via the PBS site -- what a lovely song, what a wise man.)

And then we realized, aha! there's the title for today's post -- perfect. Think no further. Mister Rogers always lets his friends borrow.

But wouldn't you know ... a pesky little newspaper called The New York Times went and stole our title!! (Or rather, Mister Rogers' title.) We'd really be miffed, except that the offending piece is actually a wonderful, must-read op-ed in yesterday's paper about the loss of neighborliness in America. The author, Peter Lovenheim, was so distressed about the lack of community in his local area that he began cold calling his neighbors to ask if he could please come for a sleepover at their house in order to get to know them. Crazy? Like we said -- read it.

Of course, we can't in good conscience recommend sleepovers with unknown neighbors for your preschoolers. But then again, the little ones don't need any such gimmicks, do they? As the routine-minded and locally-oriented creatures that they are, young kids are as drawn to learning about their own neighborhoods as they are to understanding themselves. Mister Rogers knew that.

So let's follow our children's lead once more, and together get to know our neighborhoods better than we ever have. Here are a few Tuesday tips for doing so:

  • Take lots of neighborhood walks with your child. Together, notice the plants and trees, the colors of houses or buildings, the street names, the parked cars, the people and dogs, and all the little things that change as the hours or days pass. Elisha Cooper's A Goodnight Walk provides a beautiful example.
  • Invite neighborhood kids to play. When you meet them on the street or at the playground, make a particular effort with families who live nearby. Children really do feel a special connection just because they live near each other.
  • Get to know the other neighbors too. It's easy to focus on families with kids, but the little ones enjoy getting to know neighbors of all ages. So the next time your overzealous baker makes too many cookies or your artist has a surplus of drawings, make an offering to a neighbor across the hall or across the street.
  • Stop and talk with the people who work at your local library, post office, fire station, and at the stores you visit often. All these people and places can give your child a wonderful sense of belonging.

From the Parents

  • Parent # 1

    We recently bought and restored a home while we lived elsewhere. When the home was complete, we invited all the neighbors over to see the finished product and meet our family. We got lots of nice comments on the house, but even more satisfying were all the words of thanks that we had brought the neighbors together! Home renovations, landscape work, a new jungle gym, a block party are all great excuses to get to know your neighbors.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 2

    It's nice for your kids to know the neighbors well enough that if they need help, they know a safe door to go knock on.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 3

    We have a neighborhood that is always outside! Our kids know not only the kids on several streets, but their parents! We all look out for each other and feel lucky to have such a wonderful place to live!

    over a year ago

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