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Community Building Begins at Home

By: Carolina Pichardo

For Young Urban Moms, getting your kids outdoors is a little more challenging. But according to new research, it’s all a matter of setting up your community for success

Despite the rainy, Spring weather in New York City, my daughter insists on going out to play with her friends, ride on her scooter and skate around.

I feel for her.

After a brutally cold season, we’re both ready to step out and enjoy the sun. But living in the city (especially New York) doesn’t make it always that easy. New York City alone made up 58% of crime within the entire state in 2010.

That means that leaving my daughter to play out alone is not an option, and as a working family with limited time already to begin with, rearranging our schedules to take her is another problem. This is an issue that many young, urban moms face.

But according to Dr. Rachel Kimbro of Rice University, getting her out could be as easy as the network and resources that surround me. She conducted a study – along with other researchers from Rice, Columbia and Princeton University – on urban public housing and outdoors play for children. “Neighborhood centers which facilitate getting to know one’s neighbors, and programs which seek to generate or improve trust in a neighborhood,” she said, “hold real promise to improve urban environments.”

It’s all a matter of setting up your community for success.

Playgrounds are a Mom’s Best Friend

This is the easiest way to get things going. Not only do playgrounds give your child room to play, but also parents the time to socialize and build those networks. If your community doesn’t have a local playground, lobby with your politicians and activities to get one. Urge them to create policies that support your parks maintenance and brings opportunities for kids to get involved. New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation has several projects that make it easy for parents and communities to get involved. They are also always looking for sponsorship opportunities and ways of improving their service to local neighborhoods.

Learn to Trust Your Neighbors

As Dr. Kimbro’s study suggested, when moms know and trust their neighbors, their kids have better physical activity outcomes. “What overrode being fearful or living on a disordered block,” she said, “was having a high degree of reciprocal trust with neighbors.” So take a cue from Mr. Rogers and learn more about your neighbor.

Build a Network

If all else fails, build your own resources. Gather a few friends, post flyers to recruit more people and start building your own social capital. The National Recreation & Park Association (NRPA) recommends that groups look into public, nonprofit and faith-based partnerships for potential sources of play funding, programming and community development. This is an effort that Dr. Kimbro supports as well, “The ability to access information and resources through social networks,” she said, “really predicts which neighborhoods do well and which did not.”

So make your neighborhood a safe and successful one, because your kids’ overall well-being depends on it.

Young Urban Moms’ co-founder, Carolina Pichardo, is a digital marketer by day, writer and community activist by night, and mom to Lulu always. You can reach her at or on Twitter @c_pichardo.

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