The right town or neighborhood can be a real asset when it comes to raising your children. If you don’t already live in a child friendly neighborhood, you might consider relocating before you have a child or yours gets too much older.
What’s in a Neighborhood
Before your child reaches school age, it’s important to find a neighborhood or town that provides the right environment to raise your child in. Child friendly neighborhoods have things like children’s parks and playgrounds, indoor play areas like gyms and discovery museums, and retail stores where you can get books, toys, and clothes for your little one(s). Some neighborhoods are literally planned with children in mind. You shouldn’t need a map, compass, or a GPS device to find a playground suited for your two year old. The best neighborhoods have sidewalks and walking paths for moms, or dads, and strollers with playgrounds and parks accessible from those walkways. Most towns and neighborhoods have some type of online parents networks where parents can discuss important issues and help others find places to take their kids to play. I found the Berkeley Parents Network where I live to be invaluable.
Kid friendly playgrounds have clean sand, toys that aren’t safety hazards, and play structures that are built above shock absorbing materials and not just sand, dirt, or grass. Nearly 200,000 children a year are treated in emergency rooms for playground related injuries and the right shock absorbing materials have really cut down on the number and severity of those injuries. Having access to a well maintained playground is important. You shouldn’t find animal feces for example in the sandy areas of children’s parks. Most towns have a parks and recreation department that maintains playgrounds and they usually do a pretty good job keeping kids playgrounds clean and free from unsafe toys. Most parks are well stocked with toys that parents have dropped off after their children no longer use them, but sometimes they get old or broken and are hazardous. If maintenance crews haven’t removed unsafe toys you might consider removing them yourself.
Indoor Play Areas
Not everyone lives in Southern and Central California where most days you can take your children to outdoor play areas. The best neighborhoods will have some type of indoor entertainment available for children during those cold wet winter months. Different types of bouncy houses are popular now and have sprung up everywhere. Those are great for kids to run around burning off energy in a safe area. Discovery museums are a great asset to any town. They are museums that are designed for children and their love for touching everything. Not only will your children be entertained, but they will be learning something as well. Most of these places do cost money, but many are set up where you can buy one yearly pass that gets you into several places. If you can find a free museum, even better.
Before you relocate into a new town or neighborhood you need to know what things are red flags and places to possible avoid. Some things are obvious, while others not so much. It’s easy to spot bars on windows, but not everyone notices the presence of security cameras. I would wonder about a neighborhood where people think they need bars on their doors and windows or security cameras. Other signs that a neighborhood or town may not be the most kid friendly are the presence of adult book or video stores, bail bondsmen, pawn shops, liquor stores, check cashing places, or the presence of a lot of businesses that are closed down. Something not so obvious is the presence of lots of new stores. Is business booming, or are things so bad that people keep moving away and new unsuspecting business owners keep moving in? Homes in a constant state of disrepair is also not a good sign. It may be that your prospective neighborhood or town is dependent on an industry that is no longer viable and people just are not making it.
The neighborhood you are considering for raising your children in may have plenty of kid’s parks and playgrounds, but are they occupied by children? The presence of adults without kids, or kids in their late teens or early twenties just hanging out should raise a red flag for you. I would want to know why those kids are there and not home, working, or doing other activities to occupy themselves.
Before You Move In
Before you buy a home, make sure the neighborhood suites your life. If you have children you’re going to want to have easy access to children’s amenities like parks, playgrounds, toy and clothing stores, and indoor play and discovery areas. Walk around at night just to get a feel of the place and see if it is an area that you feel safe in, along with your children. Investigate thoroughly before you buy the “perfect” home in the worst neighborhood on the planet.