How Do You Get Kids Back Outside, Playing? One Cool Idea

Hi Readers! Here’s a story from Palo Alto Online about some neighbors who created their own “camp.” It’s run by older kids for younger kids (with parental supervision), it’s very casual, and it’s just a great way for everyone in the nabe to get to know each other, and also get used to playing outside, with each other.

It’s sort of like re-introducing a wounded bird back into the wild: A slightly artificial program by which kids are introduced back into the world of childhood. Hooray for the moms who started this and hooray for the group that inspired them, Playborhood. Its founder, Mike Lanza, also started a “family room” on his front lawn. Here’s to community! L

Iris Way, [is] a Palo Alto neighborhood located off of Embarcadero Road. It has everything a suburban family could possibly want — beautiful houses, giant trees, quiet streets and plenty of sun. Now residents have one more thing to cross off their checklists: Camp Iris Way.

Diana Nemet and Jennifer Antonow founded Camp Iris Way, which runs this week from 9 a.m. to noon, so neighborhood kids could play games, do arts and crafts and meet the other children on the block. The camp is for kids ages 4-15 and is limited to those living on Iris and one neighboring street.

Nemet and Antonow decided that they wanted to encourage the kids in their neighborhood to go outside and play after the pair of mothers read blogs on Playborhood.com, a Menlo Park-based website.

“We decided to do it the first week of summer so that the kids could to get to know each other more and can play together for the whole summer,” Antonow said.

The two sent out e-mails and printed fliers to get other neighborhood parents involved. While Nemet and Antonow originally thought they would only attract enough kids to fill a back yard, the camp directors ended up with 44 of the approximately 60 kids living in the neighborhood. With so many parents wanting their children to participate, Nemet and Antonow had to call the City of Palo Alto to get permission to have part of the street blocked off.

“The idea was for kids to open their front door and come outside to play,” Nemet said. “We never thought it would be this big. It’s been wonderful to see how much they’re already bonding.”

The older kids are counselors and the fifth- and sixth-graders are counselors in training. The camp is broken up into four teams to make things more manageable. Each team has two counselors who run the activities for the day.

“I’m moving into this neighborhood over the summer so it’s a cool way to meet everyone,” said 14-year-old counselor Rachel Wood. “Most of the kids have seen each other in the neighborhood but didn’t know them. They became friends really fast.”

Best of all:

The neighborhood kids have already started playing together in their free time.

“Yesterday after camp my doorbell wouldn’t stop ringing,” Nemet said. “The kids from camp kept coming over asking my kids to come out and play. As far as I’m concerned, mission accomplished.”

As far as I’m concerned, too. If any of you are doing something like this — or are inspired to undertake a similar project NOW — please let us all know! We want to hear! — Lenore