The “Playability” Factor: Choosing a Neighborhood Based on Play

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View from my back porch. Love our mighty oak.

We are slowly but surely settling into our new home.  We’ve only been here for a short time, but I’m already noticing a remarkable  difference.

My kids are playing with other kids and outside A LOT more.

We knew when we purchased this next home that “playability” would factor into our choice.  We paid attention to the neighborhood we liked at different times of the day.  Were there a lot of kids in the neighborhood?  Did they seem to be in the same age range as our kids?  Are they outside?  We also paid attention to the specific house and lot.  Did it encourage or discourage our kids from having friends over?  Did the yard have features that would encourage them to play outside?  Did the traffic pattern in front of the house encourage or discourage free play outside?

We knew when we found the house we wanted that the answers to these questions were “yes.”  We were lucky that we found a neighborhood and a house in our price range that satisfied these desires.  But I still wasn’t quite prepared for how quickly these differences in our living space would translate into more play for our kids.  I’m thrilled, especially considering the weather is still icky (8 inches of snow last week).  Thoughts of what will happen when the weather warms up make me giddy.

I’m really looking forward to reading Mike Lanza’s book, Playborhood, to find even more ways to foster and encourage free play within our neighborhood.  If you’re not familiar with his book or his blog, I encourage you to check it out.  You’ll be so inspired!

Would you ever choose a home or a neighborhood based on “playability?”  And if you have, what led you to make that decision and how did you go about it?



  1. We’re in the process of buying a home and had to eliminate a possibilty because it was on a relatively main street. Neighborhoods all around, but the house was on a divided 4-way residential thoroughfare. I thought it was still okay because it was on a half acre and had a huge backyard to play in, but my wife put the kibosh on it. So we’ve put in an offer on a different house back in the neighborhood some.

    • After observing our kids in 3 different houses, your wife is probably right (though you *probably* know that’s always the case!). In all 3 houses, my kids have always preferred playing in the front yard. I thought that might change with this house, as we have a huge back yard, a playset, and lots of trees and places to dig. Still, everyone congregates out front. It’s a huge benefit to live on a street where I feel comfortable letting them play out front with little to no worry about cars or random passer-bys. Remind me, are you guys moving back to our neck of the woods?

      • Brandon says:

        No – Indy plans fell through. In-laws decided they didn’t want to move away from their circle of friends and I’ve got a good job possibility at my current company that I’m likely to get (fingers crossed). We will just have to convince my sister in law to move back this way. Gonna be out your way in a couple weeks to hit the matchbox exhibit at the Children’s museum before it goes away. My older son is a big fan of things with wheels.

  2. We totally did this! We moved to Fishers from living in the city in Chicago. I’ve always imagined myself either a city girl, or on the opposite end of the spectrum in the country or maybe the mountains. Instead we ended up in a suburb of cookie cutter houses I’ve always hated, but on a cul de sac and with a huge back yard. Could not be happier. When we narrowed it down to two houses, the house we preferred was much more like what I’d always imagined, but we never saw any kids outside in that neighborhood. Here, my oldest will play outside for hours with the neighborhood kids. And yes, even with the huge backyard, everyone congregates in the front. 🙂

    • I like to think that even the most beautiful, awesome house in the world would make me miserable if my kids had no one to play with and were always inside. Here’s to playful neighborhoods!