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Malia Jacobson

Be a Good Neighbor

How to help kids connect to their community

Let’s Roll (ages 0–5) Neighborhoods—and connections within local communities—have never mattered more. Research shows that where children live, play and attend school impacts everything from how much they exercise to their grades. Studies also show that “social embeddedness,” or strong ties to social and cultural relationships within the neighborhood, can boost kids’ social, emotional and academic outcomes. As families are deciding to stay closer to home, neighborhoods provide important opportunities for socialization, connection and play. Like growing a garden, cultivating a richly connected neighborhood takes time and effort, but families can reap rewards for years. Here’s how to create social connectedness in your corner of the world. 

20 • SanDiegofamily.com • November 2020

Creating a connected community starts with getting to know your neighborhood and your neighbors, says Catherine Bagwell, professor of psychology at Oxford College of Emory University. “One of the most important ways to foster relationships with neighbors is to create opportunities for children to have frequent, positive contact and interactions with them,” she says.  Often, this simply means playing outdoors, from a driveway game of hopscotch to a backyard soccer scrimmage. Help kids get to know their area by creating a scavenger hunt that includes specific neighborhood landmarks, and ask other kids on the block to participate. For a safe, socially distanced outdoor activity for little ones, create a regular weekend “Roll and Stroll” or “Wagons and Wheels” playdate to bring kids together outside.

Safe Spots (ages 6–12) Remember long hours spent roaming your childhood neighborhood? Many adults do, but kids today don’t get nearly as much unsupervised outdoor time as their parents did, mainly due to safety concerns. When neighborhoods are viewed as less safe, kids spend more time inside, get less exercise, and are less connected to their communities, according to research. Per Bright Horizons Family Solutions, a childcare provider with locations across the country, helping kids feel safer in their community fosters a healthier, more balanced perspective to counteract the sometimes-scary world depicted by news reports. Families concerned about neighborhood safety can establish guidelines for outdoor play (such as

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