Nearly seven years ago, we moved out of our old neighborhood into a different part of town.
Every few months, we drive through those former streets of ours, taking in what changed and what stayed the same.
“I still miss that fish pond we walked by on every walk,” my 11-year-old daughter said with a sigh on our most recent drive down memory lane.
She was just four when we moved into our new home, and yet our old neighborhood still holds a dear place in her heart.
In the same way, our current neighborhood has a magic all its own. I’ve realized that it’s not necessarily the locations themselves that add the magic. Rather, it’s the way we experience these blocks with our kids.
I think it’s possible to live in a magical place your whole life and never really see beyond the ordinary and mundane.
Children give us a wonderful opportunity to playfully look past our buildings, yards, and fences, and see what makes the places we live wonderful, spectacular, and yes, a little bit magical.
Here are five suggestions for making your neighborhood seem more magical to both you and your kids.
1. Name your own landmarks.
After a particularly memorable Halloween night, in which my 3-year-old Luke Skywalker happened upon a 5-year-old Darth Vader and challenged him to a fierce lightsaber battle, our family now has a spot called “Star Wars Corner”. We also have “Rollercoaster Hill”, “Pinky & the Brain’s House” (named after two quirky dogs), and “The Most Beautiful Tree in the Neighborhood,” to name a few.
Your kids will have a great time naming their favorite landmarks around your home.
2. Draw a personalized map of your neighborhood.
After you name your landmarks, take out a big sheet of paper and help your kids draw a map of the neighborhood. After helping label the street names correctly (it never hurts to learn them!), have fun adding friends’ homes, interesting landmarks, and special notes to your map. While you’re at it, why not put the finished map in a frame or on the fridge for all to see?
3. Find the closest Little Free Library.
Little Free Libraries are neighborhood book-sharing boxes that are always accessible. They’re built on the model of “Take a Book, Leave a Book”. Often, they’re stationed near the sidewalk of someone’s home or at a nearby park. You can find a map of registered Little Free Library locations to determine where the closest one may be to you. Or, build one of your own, and let the book sharing begin! My kids are always thrilled to trade old books out for new ones on a walk around the neighborhood.
4. Award the 7 Wonders of the Neighborhood.
A short drive away from our home is an enormous hedge. It is truly a thing of beauty: perfectly manicured, standing more than 10 feet tall. It was my personal selection for our family’s Seven Wonders of the Neighborhood. Each member of my family has chosen at least one location. Taking time to look for and discover the wonders of our neighborhood has helped us pause and notice the everyday beauty right around us.
Extra credit: Write a note to the owners of each chosen wonder, thanking them for their beautiful additions to the neighborhood!
5. Take a holiday stroll.
Whether it’s the 4th of July, Halloween, or Christmas, set aside time to take a leisurely stroll around your neighborhood as a family to check out festively decorated homes. Is there a beautiful window display? A spectacular light show? Or, a hilarious scene in the front yard? It’s easy to drive by all of those decorations, but my family has found they’re best enjoyed on a walk. Each year, no matter the temperature, we have a tradition of walking around our neighborhood, enjoying the Christmas lights – and adding a little magic to our holiday in the process.
Has your neighborhood become a little ho-hum to your family? Try out one or two of these ideas and see if you can breathe new life and magic into how you see your neighborhood.
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