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Thread: Walking Distance and Kids

  1. #1

    Default Walking Distance and Kids

    I'm in the midst of a dilemma, and was hoping you all could help talk me through some different aspects of this situation.

    We're looking for a new house right now, and this house would likely be our forever home- or at least the only one we raise our kids in. Who knows what will happen after they move out!

    When I was a kid, I was spoiled. I literally had a soccer field, park, playground, creek, and snack bar right across the street. Down the street I had a hardware store and grocery store. A few blocks away was a corner store. From the time I was about 5 until I got a car, I could walk or ride my bike to everything my little heart could ever desire. And we were on a dead end street, so the entire street was our private playground.

    I'd really, really like to reproduce that for my kids, but unfortunately, the market and economy has changed, and it is proving to be VERY hard to find something even similar. All my favorite houses that are in our comfortable price are in walking distance to NOTHING. Which for me, is fine, I can drive. But what about when they're 5 - 15? They couldn't go anywhere or do anything without a driver. Even if I don't want them going off alone, I'd like to be able to walk with them places. Walking is such a good habit to encourage! But, I imagine there's more to having a good childhood than walking distance, right? Like, a nice house in a safe neighborhood, and enough funds to go off and have fun.

    What is everyone's experience with either being a kid or raising kids when nothing is in walking distance? What do the kids do on those lazy summer vacation days when you throw them out of the house and tell them to go play? Do they make it work, even if they're just in a crowded neighborhood? Just play on the sidewalks up and down the street? Or would I have to play chauffeur every day and drive them somewhere where there's something for them to do?
    Last edited by Krystal5; 04-26-2014 at 10:34 PM.



  2. #2
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    I grew up on a dirt road and nothing was close. We had woods all around us and a farm down the street. I played in the yard (we had a big yard) and roamed in the woods. Rode bikes on the dirt road. My mom would take me to friends' houses or they would come to mine for the afternoon. Mom would take us into town to go to the pool or to the movies, but not more than once a week, if that. It was isolated - definitely. But I wouldn't change it for being closer to town, myself. I'm an introvert anyway and I was happy. And I think I was a lot more sheltered and had a lot less opportunity to get into trouble than I would have in a subdivision or a city neighborhood.
    Last edited by Gwenn; 04-27-2014 at 01:15 AM.
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  3. #3

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    We are still getting used to our neighborhood but, I let Cody play in the front yard within my view only if there are other boys out when Sophia is napping. As far as both kids being out to get them out of my hair so to speak its going to be a long time before I let them play without me outside really until Sophia is about 5 and Cody is 8 but, they will be in view. We plan on fencing in our back yard hoping by next spring so within a year. We are close to any parks however, I tend to notice kids really enjoy running on the sidewalks, coloring with chalk together, etc. Some of these kids are out all day unsupervised running around the neighborhood. There isn't a park within walking distance however with our neighborhood I feel better about the kids being within our yard until they are much older I don't want them wandering unsupervised until they are closer to 10-13.
    Last edited by mom2CodySophia0811; 04-27-2014 at 03:03 PM.
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    Growing up we played with neighborhood kids, rode bikes, went to the park and swam in our pool. I wouldn't say we necessarily went anywhere like stores (except for maybe the pizza place), we just rode around the neighborhood and made our own fun. To me a neighborhood with lots of kids, quiet streets, and a nice backyard is really all we need/want for our kids.

  5. #5
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    We are walking distance to scho playground, three parks, corner store, grocery store-all less than a mile with the favorite park being line-of-sight from my front door.
    My kids are just turning 8/9 and they don't walk anywhere alone. So they're well into the age you're concerned about. We do walk to things together when I don't have other errands to piggy back on and we walk to the park every day. But to be perfectly honest, I would rather have a larger yard and home I'm otherwise happy with than the ability to walk places. I think that's nice, but not worth becoming "house rich, money poor" over which is what it sounds like it would be coming down to for you-stretching you toward the edge of your finances.

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  6. #6

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    We used to walk and ride our bikes everywhere when we were kids. School, stores (when we were older), creek, friends' houses... Honestly, I was riding my bike to school with my older sister when I was in 2nd grade. Nowadays, I just can't see the same being true in a lot of places for a 2nd grader. So much has changed in our society that it makes the simple things like that a lot scarier.

    When we picked our house, we picked somewhere walking distance to a lot, but it was as much for me as it was for our kids when they are older. We were living in the city and planned on staying there, so it was a big shock for me to start considering the suburbs. We looked at some houses where there was nothing but other houses all around, and it made me feel lost. I wanted to be able to walk to a grocery store, the library, coffee - various things that I was used to walking to. We found a great location where we can walk to our preschool, elementary school, parks, and all of the above (plus a few more spots we frequent) so I feel like we got the best of both worlds.


    Anne (37) DH (37) Olivia (4) Harrison (1)

  7. #7
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    I agree with what Tif said.

    I lived in a lot of different places when I was growing up, and some places were completely isolated. Only a few places were within walking distance to anywhere. My mom drove me, or neighbors drove me, or later on I got a beat-up old car (jr. year of high school), but I did a lot of playing and exploring in the general region of our property. Luckily we had a lot of nice outdoors areas in places we lived, and I could spend hours roaming around.

    I would not consider the walking score to be one of the top priorities. I know it's nice, but when I was buying there were so many things on my list of house requirements that I had to give up. The market here is so difficult to get into that you pretty much have to just shuffle your priorities (you and your dh) and put your must-haves in one column and your like-to-haves in another column. And also, my first place I thought for sure I was going to stay there a long time, and I didn't, and this current place I thought for sure I wasn't going to be here for more than five years, and it looks like we're stuck here, so you never know. I wouldn't necessarily call it a 'forever' home, although I also disagree with calling houses 'starter' homes.


  8. #8
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    I was lucky, too. There was a neighborhood shopping center a few blocks from my house and as a kid my friends and I spent a lot of time there. There was a drugstore, grocery store, department store, and assortment of smaller shops that came and went (including, for a time, an ice cream shop/pizza place/arcade). We also had a wooded area with creek at the back of our neighborhood that I spent a lot of time at. I had quite a bit of freedom to roam in those days, and it was great.

    We now live in a subdivision that is in a great location. We are walking distance from Target, my gym, restaurants, and other chain-type places. The other direction is our towns bike trail and it is awesome! Goes right by the school and to downtown (a small, college-town downtown) with a library, post office, coffee shop, children's museum, old time movie theater, and lots of places to eat. We spend lots of time walking or biking on the trail; in fact, it was one of the reasons we chose our home. So I totally see where you are coming from! For me walking to places is at the top of the list. However, I also think it is worth it only if you can find an affordable place to live without struggling to make things work financially. I feel we are pretty lucky in our situation; our neighborhood is established (built in 60s-70s) and costs are very reasonable.

    As for tossing the kids out to play, I totally do that. They love being outside and there is almost always a neighborhood to play with. Our backyard is fenced in but they play out front too, riding bikes and scooters and drawing with chalk. I feel they get a ton of exercise, fresh air, and social time. Aside from having to mediate some arguments I love that they can just go out and play and we don't have to leave the house if we don't want to.

    ~ Cassie, mama to Madison (8), Ali (4) & Wesley (new dude!)


  9. #9
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    I lived on 10acres of woods on a main highway surrounded by state land and for years we had no neighbors at all, but we didn't know any differently so my two brothers and I had a blast playing in the yard and woods . We did have a loooong drive-way so we road our bikes up and down that. We had a cement pad outside the garage with a basketball hoop and an above ground pool so those were some other things we enjoyed. The closest park was a 15min drive and I only remember going there a handful of times.

    My dad owned a boat (with a cabin) so we spent a lot of time on the lake when dad was home (he was a truck driver). We also did a lot of camping throughout the summer. My parents were very social so we never went camping without friends/family. I had lots of cousins and we got together at my grandparents' houses for cook-outs a lot too.

    LOL, growing up, we used to talk about how sorry we felt for the kids who lived in the city...we thought only poor people had to live in the city because they couldn't afford property . I have no idea where we came up with that, but it's hysterical now because we grew up in a single wide trailer with barely two pennies to rub together, we were happy though . I remember my parents always seemed happy so I guess it really wasn't so much where we lived, just that my parents always made the best of it.

    As an adult though we've lived in neighborhoods, a subdivision, and owned several houses with acreage that were more isolated. My personal choice is a subdivision setting which is what we have now, but we also have 10acres so we kind of have the best of both worlds. Everything is so close here and I love it! When my kids were younger it was okay to be more isolated since they needed constant supervision anyway, but now that they're older it's so nice to live where there are more opportunities and more diversity. Of course this location comes with a bigger price tag, but in my opinion it's worth it to have the conveniences on a regular basis.

    One thing to consider is that although a home outside of town may be less expensive, it doesn't necessarily free up funds...we've felt you tend to break even because you have to drive *everywhere*. Sometimes 30mins or more for things like a good pedi's office, work, etc...

    So yeah, I do think kids just make it work . If you were to ask my kids what their preference is they'd tell you our former residence even though it was isolated...they grew up surrounded by 50acres of family land to play on, mostly woods. They like it here because of the conveniences, but feel parks are limited and wish they had all the space they used to have to roam and explore. They'd move back in a heartbeat. Then again, that's what they're used to.
    Dh (39) Me (37) 8bio 1adopted, 14 angels






  10. #10
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    Different sort of perspective. Growing up, I lived in town, in India. Everything was right outside our door (literally), and while that was convenient, it was not fun for us, as kids. The best memories of my childhood are from time spent at grandma's over summer - outside all day, climbing trees, making up and playing crazy games, and just hanging out with friends. Nothing was walking distance, and we didn't care.

    Now, we live with a large yard, and close in to everything, but because of traffic, Mira can't go off by herself, until she is a lot older. I wouldn't have it any other way. We have her friends over, and the kids just love running around in the yard, and exploring in the woods - most of them don't have the same access to yard space that we do. When we go on playdates to friends' houses, we enjoy the amenities their communities offer, such as pools and marked trails. Personally, I always prioritize yard space over almost everything else, except commuting distance.

  11. #11

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    Thank you all for your feedback! I will respond more in detail later, but I want to clarify something.

    I feel that open space IS something. It's ideal, in fact! I would love if they had open space, creeks, trees, that sort of thing to run through. I would love if we were isolated in the way some of you mentioned, so they had just acres and acres to run around on (with or without me). But we're talking suburbs. Relatively small yard and streets. Nothing except houses within 30 minute walking distance, not even an open field!

    One of the houses we tried to get was like that (close to open space)... But we were out bid.



  12. #12

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    In the first town I lived in we couldn't walk to anything. We had to drive 20 minutes just to get to a grocery store. In my next hometown, I could walk downtown (it's a very quaint old-fashioned downtown but it had some things for middle or high school kids to do, like go out for pizza or hang around the ice cream shop), a playground, my elementary school and the high school, even the drugstore where I used to buy teen magazines and walk home with my nose in them. LOL.


    In this town you can't walk anywhere.
    As for playing outside, we have a nice sized yard, but Josh doesn't love to play outside. I can kick him out once in a while especially if the neighbors are out and he'll play in their yard or they come to ours. We like to go for walks, which is fine in our neighborhood. It's a couple blocks off a busy street but it's pretty quiet.

    Last summer he spent a week at day camp at the Y. We did other stuff like drive off to the ren fest that comes around every year and other special things that come around in the summer. We went to the library a lot, and the library has things going on for kids over vacations.

  13. #13

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    Hmmm...subdivisions aren't my ideal spot that I would want to live in, but I grew up in Vermont and had 3 acres and no visible neighbors, so that's just what feels "normal" to me. My cousins have lived in several developments and I sometimes envied how easy it was for her to find friends to play with at any time of the day or night. I had one friend that lived down the road, and even though she wasn't very nice to me sometimes, I would play with her anyway because she was pretty much my only option. I guess I would say I think if this is a big deal to you, then you would work to make any situation work out the best that it could. You could trade car-pooling to fun places with other parents in the development if you got to know them well enough, and make sure your kids could "wander" from other safe locations. We have a park in the center of town, and if I had teenagers I would consider bringing them there with cellphones and a buddy system and let them explore a bit from that spot. What I'm trying to say is that if the act of wandering, exploring is important to you to cultivate in your kids when they are older, you could let them wander from a spot other than your home.

    Meg (30), DH (40) & the 4 J's (Almost 7, 5, 3.5, 21 months)

  14. #14

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    My husband and i have lived in 3 states and owned 6 houses since we had our first child, so i cant even contemplate living in one house through all the stages of life, lol.

    We have lived in suburbs/subdivision, as well as country on acerage, and now a house on acerage "in town". I like all those arrangements for different reasons. i do like being able to walk to parks and shopping and at least be just a very short drive to restaurants and movies, etc now that most of my kids are older. We live right on the bus and lightrail lines so my older kids can get around independantly without me having to drive them, or taking the car, or without us buying another car. And because we live so close to things its much easier if something comes up last minute and they want to meet friends at the movie theater and we are now only 2miles away.

    but it was also fun when they were younger and we lived in the country and had chickens and goats and lots of space for them to run around.

    We never really lived in a neighborhood with lots of kids when mine were of an age to go out and play with others, i know people who do live in those kinds of neighborhoods, and i hear both good and bad sides to it. And of course not all subdivisions/dead end streets are the same, just because there are lots of kids the same age as yours doesnt mean the culture of the neighborhood will be one where all the kids playtogether.

    They always say "location, location location" when it comes to buying realestate. nearly everything else can be changed, and if you will be there for the next 15yrs or so you'll have plenty of time to change things the way you like them. If you dont like your location you either suck it up, or move.

    i would seek out the least expensive house in the area you want to be in, and be all ready to jump on it when it comes up because lots of other people will be doing the same.

  15. #15

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    We just moved from a house with 1.7 acres but that was at least 15 min drive to everything with nothing to really walk to- but our primary reason for moving was to minimize my dh's commute (that went from 1.5 hrs to 30 min).

    Now we are in an awesome area like 6-7 miles from Boston with lots of things we can easily walk to including playgrounds, coffee shops, many different restaurants and we are 10 min walk to the subway. The downside of course is a small yard and a more expensive house (though that was bc we wanted an updated home). Anyways, I strongly feel like it's been worth the sacrifices (though I hate having a large mortgage)... For us somehow it fells like we would rather walk to a park than play in our backyard-- though maybe it's because my kids are still young and maybe that would change with time?

  16. #16
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    I grew up not within walking distance to much and it was fine. I later rented where I could walk to a few things but it wasn't that big a deal and we usually drove elsewhere anyway. Now I live in a subdivision and love it. Not much in walking distance except the grade school and even with that, I don't see the kid walking there much because you have to go down past a wooded area unless kid was with a group. I do have an open field around me right now but eventually they will be putting homes in.

    I supposed walking isn't that big a deal around here when half the year it's too dang cold to walk around to places.

    Jennifer, 35, DH 36

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