Six months ago, we moved to a new neighborhood. We were moving from a townhouse with almost no yard, and while my boys seemed to be fine playing in a tiny patch of nature, I was hoping for something larger.

Our new house has a fenced back yard and a covered patio: perfect for playing outside all year round, during Florida afternoon rainstorms and cooler “winter” days. I love seeing my kids digging together, spraying each other with the hose, making moats and dams from mud, collecting leaves and rocks.

Digging in the back yard

As much as I love our yard, I quickly realized that our tall fence, which is required in our neighborhood, keeps my kids in… and other kids out. There are plenty of children in our neighborhood, many the right age to play with my boys. I just had to find the best way to get them together.

After we moved, my older son was excited to play with his closest friend from kindergarten, who lives down the street. A whole mess of us walk home from school together, and the kids clamor to go play at each others’ homes. I didn’t want to deny my son that experience, but it seemed to me that the kids would often stay inside, watching TV or playing video games.

So in the late afternoons, as the weather started to cool off, I brought my kids out to our front yard. They made up games, rode bikes and scooters around the cul-de-sac, colored with chalk and climbed trees.

Chasing bubbles

Would the neighbors join us? I hoped to see half a dozen boys and girls chasing one another around, playing into the warm evenings. Maybe some of the other moms or dads would join my husband and me, chatting while our kids played.

Several afternoons a week, we play in front of our house where are neighbors can see us. Sometimes, my son will go from house to house, collecting his friends, asking their moms if they can play outside. Other days, we will find a bunch of kids already playing together when we get home, and we sometimes postpone homework in order to squeeze in more play!

Playing outside with the neighbors as the moon rises

Now, neighbors of all ages gather outside to talk and laugh and play. There’s even been talk of having a pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner outside in the cul-de-sac. I’ll bring dessert!

© Victoria Green and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2012