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

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"Playborhood is important reading and an inspiration for all of us concerned with how childhood has changed." 
- Po Bronson, co-author of Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children

"The value of unstructured outdoor play, fading in the virtual age, is vital for children's health and happiness. This invaluable book, Playborhood, will inspire you create the kind of outdoor environment that nurtures the hearts of children - and parents."
  - Richard Louv, author of The Last Child in the Woods

"While there is an increasing amount of literature bemoaning our country's growing play deficit and community apathy, Mike Lanza has decided to do something about it. This book is bursting with practical inspiration on how to transform your block into a vibrant, communal space for kids to play. His case studies span inner cities, suburbs, and small towns alike, demonstrating that no matter where you live, you have the tools in hand to effect real, lasting change for your neighborhood's youngest residents. A must-read for any parent who wants to give their kids the same kind of childhood we enjoyed -- back when outdoor play was as simple as opening the front door."
- Darell Hammond, author of KaBOOM! How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play

"Want to be part of a revolution that can return free outdoor play--once the birthright of childhood--to today's kids? Playborhood is a seriously subversive book, an inspiring "how-to" guide.  It outlines with zest and clarity approaches that parents in affluent suburbs or tough inner city blocks can take to create a safe space for shared, imaginative, vigorous outdoor play that kids will love and make their own."
- Alice McLerran, author of Roxaboxen

"A culture of play helps children develop into happy, healthy, responsible, creative adults.  Single family approaches like cutting down on screen time or structured activities are a step in the right direction, but Playborhood highlights the importance of families engaging in community action to create a culture of play for everyone."
- Vicki Abeles, producer of the documentary film, Race to Nowhere

"Play and love are the most formative forces for good and survival in our species' long term adventures on this planet. Good and credible neuroscience and a wealth of paleo-anthroplogic data now confirm that our 'pursuit of happiness' rests on these two elements that are foundational for our becoming fully human.   What Mike Lanza accomplishes in Playborhood is to bring his own deep love of his kids, and his transformative knowledge of play  into mainstream action, where it is most relevant and needed. The examples in the book of successful play based neighborhood activities in a wide variety of settings also confirms the power of play to bind latent community energies into a contagious pervasive play ethic. The positive implications of this readable and engaging book impact parenting, education and the building of a trusting, life-sustaining neighborhood."
- Stuart Brown MD, Founder and President of The National Institute for Play

"Playborhood demonstrates how we can transcend the isolation of our neighborhoods to find engagement with others. Mike Lanza gives an intuitive sense for how to do this because he and the others he writes about are 'walking the walk.'  This book is full of tangible steps we can take in our neighborhoods to immediately improve our happiness, health, and sense of place."
- Fred Kent, President of the Project for Public Spaces

"Playborhood is the new owner's manual for your block. Everything you need to transform your neighborhood into a healthy, playful, and lively place for children and families. Reclaim your streets, trees, and front lawns -  it's time to make space for free-ranging play. Mike Lanza has written the how-to manual for a new generation of families that want to do more living where they live.
  - Gever Tulley, author of 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)

"When I speak to groups of parents about the great value of children's self-directed outdoor play, the first question I'm usually asked is about how to make such play possible in today's world. My answer to date has generally begun with a reference to Mike Lanza's Playborhood website. Now I can refer them to this book!  This is not only a great resource; it's also a great read. You'll enjoy it, and it'll get you thinking, even if you don't have kids.  A better place for kids is a better place for all of us."  
- Peter Gray, research professor and play specialist, Boston College

"Barriers to free, creative outdoor play across generations inhibit healthy development of the psyche, the body and the mind.  Want to counter these consequences? Start early and stay late - transform your family culture, kid's play, and neighborhood play desert into a magical playborhood. Mike Lanza's compelling Playborhood tells you how!"
- Joe Frost, author of A History of Children's Play and Play Environments

"In your hands is a book that is a revelation. It will teach you to see the the true meaning of the neighborhood where you live. Mike Lanza helps you honor your children's wonder of the world around them and inspires you with his strategies, vision, and community love stories."
- Mark Lakeman, founder of the City Repair Project

"When I was young my friends and I played all over our neighborhood. It was our world, and it gave us the security to go out later and explore the wider world around us. Life is different now. You can drive through the safest neighborhoods and they look like ghost towns. Not a single child is outside playing. I am so grateful to Mike Lanza for reminding us that play begins at home and in our neighborhoods. It takes so little to make it happen there - just awareness, passion, and commitment. This book helps to feed all of those."
- Joan Almon, Director, Alliance for Childhood

"In Playborhood, Mike Lanza reminds us that 'Go outside and play!' isn't about driving our kids away, but about enriching their lives. Even better, he lays out a wide range of examples to inspire each of us to create play-friendly spaces in our homes and blocks. Playborhood makes me want to go out and turn my front yard into the funnest place in town for kids to hang out!"
- Ken Denmead, author of the Geek Dad series of books

"At one level Playborhood is a compelling parenting guide. Mike Lanza is one of a growing number of activist parents who want their kids to have a happy childhood, acquire basic life skills, successfully navigate adolescence, and become self-reliant, socially adept, creative, problem-solving adults. In short, he proposes a return to the historic basics of healthy, happy childhoods.  The Lanza key to success is for parents to take actions in the 'front space' of homes, streets, and neighborhoods.

On another level, this well-researched, lively, easy-to-read, 'Jane Jacobs primer for kids' presents timely lessons to all those who influence the spatial public realm of neighborhoods - architects, landscape architects, planners, traffic engineers, community developers, neighborhood associations, public officials; and especially developers. Anyone concerned with the lifestyle issues affecting the healthy development of today's children should read the compelling lessons of Playborhood."
- Robin Moore, Professor of Landscape Architecture, North Carolina State University

About the Author

Mike Lanza has been blogging about kids, play, and neighborhoods at since 2007. 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.  He holds an MA in Education, an MBA, and an MA and BA in Economics, all from Stanford University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Free Play Press (April 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984929819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984929818
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #273,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Fritz R. Ward VINE VOICE on May 13, 2012
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.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amy Dickinson on April 24, 2012
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.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Avery Cleary on April 13, 2012
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!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jill Daniel on April 13, 2012
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.Read more ›
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