I’ve been feeling a lot of gratitude for my East Vancouver neighbourhood lately. On Thanksgiving Sunday, my girls were out selling lemonade at at lemonade stand in front of our house, with a couple of the other kids on our block. We know our neighbours, the kids are welcome to knock on someone’s door and ask if they want to play, and many people stop to say hi and play on the swing in front of our house. It really is a great place to live.
A Great Place to Live
Here are five key factors that turn a neighbourhood into a great place to live for families:
Being able to walk to the library, community centre, grocery store or SkyTrain station is a great way to stay active when you’ve got young kids. Living in a walkable neighbourhood means that not only do you get more exercise and use your car less, you’ll also see your neighbours more because they’re walking, too.
2. Friendly Neighbours
Getting to know your neighbours can make a huge difference to the community feel in your neighbourhood. How to build relationships? Try impromptu shared meals, after-school play dates or summer sprinkler parties. One day last summer our home-brewing neighbour was handing out pints of beer to neighbours as they walked by and we had a spontaneous sidewalk beer garden. Hooray for community!
3. Community Projects
Vancouver has a great program designed to build community relationships, called Neighbourhood Small Grants. This grant will donate up to $500 for a community project, like a block party, neighbourhood book house or peace day celebration. Smaller-scale community parties, potlucks and gatherings help you build connections with your neighbours, too.
4. Lots of Kids
This is something you might not be able to do anything about in your current neighbourhood, but it’s something to look for if you’re moving house. When Bea was a baby I read about the Free Range Kids idea and some of the statistics around children’s freedoms today vs. 50 years ago. I was afraid that there wouldn’t be any other kids who would be allowed to play on the front sidewalk with her. My fears have turned out to be unfounded, and there were many evenings in the late summer when I found myself standing on the front porch, calling for her to come in for dinner. Kind of June Cleaver, but I love it.
The best thing about a community is the generous give-and-take that can happen when a group of people live together. Like the aforementioned beer garden, neighbourly dinners or book exchange house, the best neighbourhoods are those where people are sharing with those around them. This is what really makes a community a great place to live.
Want to turn your own neighbourhood into a great place to live and raise your kids? Getting to know your neighbours is the best place to start. Building friendship and trust leads to a healthier community. Community projects, generosity and spending more time together will all grow naturally from there.
What makes your neighbourhood a great place to live?
Michelle Carchrae is often asking those important life questions: "who moved the scissors?", "how would you do that differently next time?" and "are you finished with the glitter glue?" Homeschooling two girls, ages 6 and 3, is her full time job. The rest of the time Michelle can be found blogging at The Parent Vortex, hiking in the forest or knitting and reading simultaneously. She recently published her first ebook, The Parenting Primer: A guide to positive parenting in the first six years, and moved to Bowen Island.