If we were playing word association and you said the word “neighborhood”, the first thing that I would say is my childhood street. It’s filled with wonderful memories of playing seven steps around the house, walking down the deserted street during a snowstorm, and watching lightning strikes at sunset. It’s also listening to my parents’ stories of the neighbors now, 15 years after I left, and keeping up with a couple of them on Facebook. A neighborhood stays with you for a very long time.
The second thing I would see is a 6-block area in Minneapolis, not too far from where I actually live. It’s the neighborhood of my dreams. There’s a slight curve to the streets with big fat trees covering everything in a brilliant canopy. They’re lined with cracked sidewalks for walking dogs and kids, while saying hi your neighbors. And of course, beautiful homes—most of them around 100 years old—grace lovely little city plots of land, most of them on a hill gazing down at you. I suppose it’s the kind of neighborhood you’d find in a romantic comedy. This neighborhood however, is real. Plus it’s filled with professors from the local university, there’s a school with a playground at one end, and there's a park with a witch’s tower at the other. Oh, to live in that neighborhood.
But the reality is this. I remember my childhood neighborhood not for what it looks like, but what it felt like to be there for many years. I love the Minneapolis neighborhood because of how it looks and feels without ever living there. But I live in a regular old suburb that’s kind of, well, average. A neighborhood where I wish I knew my neighbors better. Little by little—and mostly thanks to my growing 3 year old—I’m beginning to know their names and their children. My daughter wants to play with everyone and their dogs every day. So instead of yearning for things I used to have and things I can’t have, I try so hard to remember that this is her neighborhood of future memories. Then I bury my reservations and head outside to meet the neighbors!
How can we help kids understand their neighborhoods? We’d like to share a series of collectible printables with our readers. Kids can “build” their own dream neighborhood, or mimic the one they live in now. Check back often to see the latest downloads. We’ll be adding all of those things a neighborhood needs: homes, a town center, coffee shop, school, church, families, etc. We’ll start today with our first house and a neighborhood requirement: a tree!