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Unscheduled Play

A Dad of two boys writes in from Bergen County about “whatever happened to the days of unstructured play, where there we didn’t have playdates”  He then asks “What towns would you say have a good selection of nice houses around a main town playground (that would also include ballfields) within walking distance?”  Even better if walkable to the town as well.

Dear Dad of Two, I too long for those carefree days, but in todays climate it just seems “not safe” to let our kids play freely as they did back then, we get fear from magnification of any bad event widespread by the media, or organized sports/activities have taken over. My children are still quite young, so I’ll have to look forward to the whole “school” era.  I’m an unstructured sort myself, which is partly why i took on this site for the spontaneity of going to a playground vs. a playdate. I’m sure I’m missing some, so I’ll leave it up to our other readers to comment on the bottom of the page..  Here’s my take…

As far as main town playgrounds within walking distance to nice houses, I can tell you I liked Chatham (Memorial Park), Millburn (Taylor Park), Westfield (Mindowaskin Park, no ballfield though), Madison (dodge field)  is great, I heard Montclair is nice (need to visit), Van Saun Park is great, but maybe too large, and not sure about the surrounding houses.. Lyndhurst Town Park is very new, and I can say that it resembles a pretty active community.  You can tell by their website (esp. in the summer) that they were about making community events, including an outdoor movie night… Summit is a pretty good community too, Mabie playground is active and it’s cool to see the seniors out there playing their regular bocce game..

Lots of luck to you, I was just reminiscing how my next door neighbor when I was 11 had a paper route that I used to tag along since mom didn’t let me have one, and then we’d go sledding down one of the streets they closed with all the other kids, all unsupervised having a blast, ahhh the good old days..

2 comments to Unscheduled Play

  • tcowen

    Thanks for your response. I finally got some time yesterday to visit Madison, Chatham and Summit with my family. The parks and environment in Madison and Chatham were very nice, but we absolutely fell in love with Memorial Field in Summit. The size and amount of fields and the layouts were tremendous, as well as the way the houses are laid out around the park, probably about 20 roads leading into the area. But the one thing that really caught our eye was the “baseball game” on the concrete field on the side of Brayton School. Totally unstructured, kids from 6 – 12 playing a pickup game and having a great time. I have not seen anything like that in my town and it reminded me of my days growing up in Queens.

    This is exactly what we were looking for and we have looked now at the housing choices around the park and they are pretty pricey. We will continue to zero in on this area, but also wanted to know if you know of any other parks like this. I would say that Ridgewood is similar in size and scope but that the houses don’t surround the park the same way (on all 4 sides) and it doesn’t have the character of the old brick elementary school and the concrete field.

  • DilaRocks

    Hi. This is a great resource. Thank You. I am still checking out the content but will surely post some pics of the playgrounds that we visit witg my little one. We went to Van Saun for the 1st time this weekend. We loved the zoo and the baby loved the train. Sorry no pictures but some to come.

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