Start a Neighborhood Summer Camp

Mike Lanza is evangelical when it comes to fostering outdoor play for neighborhood kids. He even wrote a book about it, Playborhood, with concrete suggestions for how you can bring local kids together for play in their own neighborhood. For the past four years he has invited neighborhood children (geography, not age, he says is the key) to congregate at his house every morning for two weeks to play together in his neighborhood "summer camp."

He calls his camp "Camp Yale" - Yale Road being the name of the street his family lives on. This year he started camp with 16 kids and before long five others had joined in. The goal, he says, is to "bring local kids together to bond with each other and with our neighborhood."

Unlike the summer camps you might have attended with rah-rah cheerleader types as counselors, Mike tries to provide some structure and activities and then steps out of the way to let kids make their own fun. One of the highlights is a game of Huntopoly - a scavenger hunt designed to get kids knocking on neighbors doors to meet each other.

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This year they tried a new art project: "I had each kid choose from different geometric or Escher-esque designs to paint, then an artist drew each one in a square on our sidewalk, and then we helped each kid paint his or her design with color."

Inspired? Yeah, we are too. Mike has plenty of suggestions for running a successful summer camp for your neighbors on his blog. In Playborhood, he shares the story of another neighborhood camp, inspired by Camp Yale, that had 72 kids participate!

Playborhood, the book
Playborhood, the blog

(Images: Mike Lanza)

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As Apartment Therapy's Managing Editor, Carrie covers design and modern homelife with children. A lapsed librarian, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids and is in contention to break the record for most hours spent at the playground.