Trading the large yard and dining room for interior play spaces

Home buyers with young kids are looking for houses with certain kinds of spaces:

The biggest requirements for families with children, according to the National Association of Realtors, is what you’d expect: 62% of those with kids 18 and under say the quality of the neighborhood is important, while 50% are looking for a good school district and 49% want the home to be convenient to their jobs. Fewer said that lot size or proximity to parks and recreational facilities were a factor in choosing a home. The statistics come from the group’s 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report.

Yet once those top-level needs are met, families start to make more detail-level compromises. And being able to visualize a place for the kids to corral their stuff and play has become a priority, according to Blackwelder and others…

But in the Kansas City area, too, an indoor play area is a priority, Hines said, since parents want a separate space to keep toys from flooding the kitchen and family areas. “The volume of toys we have is much higher [than in generations past],” she observed…

Retailers are also suggesting the dual-use room as a trend. On the website for Land of Nod, a Chicago-based retailer of children’s furniture and products, there are tips on how to create a formal dining room and playroom in one.

How Americans choose and use their homes is often influenced by larger social forces. Based on this article, here are some of the larger forces at work:

  1. A move away from formality. Americans have often been said to be casual and informal people and this removes one of the more formal rooms of the house (along with the living room).
  2. An ongoing interest in private space. Play for children here is confined more to settings that are easier to control and within quick sight and sound of parents.
  3. The need for increased safety for children also contributes as kids are not only in private spaces but are also still within the home where others cannot reach them.
  4. A greater emphasis on the needs of children as opposed to other members of the family. Perhaps every child should now have a dedicated play room and parents should have no spaces off-limits to kids. (Think of the formal parlor of past decades where children were banned or very infrequent guests.)

Will the dining room completely disappear in the trend toward great rooms and open living spaces? Probably not, particularly if there are some easy solutions to split the use of the space between more formal dining and play areas. Yet, if fewer people have formal gatherings, perhaps the dining room will become a luxury item in homes with the extra space or for those who desire such segmentation.

Play explores idea of a proposed mosque for downtown Naperville

Inspired by reactions to a proposed mosque in Naperville several years ago (and another proposed mosque received opposition), a playwright has put together a script that involves a proposed mosque in downtown Naperville:

Khoury said he’s seen the same response elsewhere, including in unincorporated land near Naperville. The Irshad Learning Center in 2010 took to court its attempt to win DuPage County’s approval of the needed conditional use permit for a worship center on property it owns on 75th Street east of Naper Boulevard, just across the city border.

Neighbors of the 3-acre parcel had ardently opposed the center, voicing concerns about traffic, lighting and noise, with support from the Naperville Tea Patriots and the anti-Islamic organization Act! for America. After a divided County Board in January 2010 denied the request, the matter wound up in federal court, with Irshad claiming its Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and equal protection had been denied. Northern Illinois District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled in March 2013 that the county improperly withheld the permit, in part citing the outside groups’ role in the process. The Irshad board is preparing to open the center later this year…

The play centers on a proposal from a ficticious group called Al Ulama, which has prayer space in a Naperville neighborhood but wants to move to headquarters on the actual site of the downtown Naperville Nichols Library, property owned in the play by Truth Lutheran Church. The plan calls for razing the church annex and building a new 100,000-square-foot structure on the same footprint, an Islamic worship site that’s taller than the previous building. In the play a town hall meeting has been scheduled to present the plans…

“The fear really is of Muslims: What’s this going to do to our downtown? Is it going to scare people away?” he said.

While fictional, this does present an intriguing hypothetical. Would any religious group be allowed to utilize valuable downtown land for a religious building? Downtown Naperville is a business and civic center but communities can sometimes protect properties in order to keep them on the tax rolls. There are churches within several blocks of downtown Naperville but I can’t think of any immediately within the business and civic district.

The end of the article says there will be public readings of the play in Naperville in the next month or so. It will be interesting to hear about reactions…

Watching social interaction in the bouncy castle/moon bounce

A New York Times parenting blog explores how children interact with each other in a bouncy castle/moon bounce. Within a short period of time, the interaction moves from pure mayhem to the forming of powerful tribes:

Initially, the children bounced in random joy. They screamed and flailed about. It was pure mayhem, only rarely interrupted by a call for a parent to “watch this” and “look at this.” There was little collaboration among the children at this stage…

For as the first wave of youthful energy burned off, the children settled down and started to recognize the other. They tentatively reached out, jumping together as they held hands. It was simple collaboration accompanied by squeals of delight…

Then came the teams. Neanderdad was surprised to see kids in his children’s age group start build alliances. Three or four tikes would bounce together and exclude the other kids from their area. Those kids would, in turn, form their own factions and stake out territory as well…

After the small teams came the bouncy tribes. As all the territory inside the Bouncy Castle became claimed, conflicts between teams developed.  As a result, smaller groups merged to make themselves stronger. This co-opting processing progressed until only two large tribes remained…

When things seemed be getting a bit too heated, Neanderdad and other fathers were forced to step in and break up the door monopoly and disband the teams. Interestingly, once the conflict was defused, the children on both sides suddenly seemed to lose interest in the Bouncy Castle.

What is most interesting to me is that these are young kids working through patterns of interaction. Very quickly, they band together and stake out territory. Is this a real life version of Lord of the Flies? Would this sort of behavior hold true across cultures? Where exactly do children develop this process?

Next time I see one of these moon bounces in action, I may just have to look more closely.

(An odd side note: the title of the blog post is “the sociology of the Bouncy Castle” while the second paragraph suggests the author is turning “an anthropological eye on child’s play.” Sociology or anthropology? Perhaps both – but this doesn’t help the perception among some that the disciplines are the same.)

The beauty (and pain) of baseball in a single play

One of my uncles once said he likes baseball because it is so unpredictable. On any day the worst team can beat the best, the best hitters fail about 70% of the time, and the best teams rarely win more than 60% of their games.

This was exemplified today in one play in the Cubs-Phillies game. In the top of the 9th inning, the Phillies trailed 1-0 with a runner on second with two outs. On a ball hit to left field, the rookie right-fielder threw home as the runner tried to tie the game. The throw bounced to the catcher, who had just enough time to catch it and tag the runner. Except the catcher dropped the ball, the run scored, and the Phillies tacked on three more runs to win it. (Watch the replay here from

This is one big reason to watch sports: it can be hard to predict how a single play might alter the course of the game.

And on a related note, not completing a play like this seems like one that happens to teams that are not very good. A better team would make the out to end the game. In baseball, it is very interesting how good teams always seem to get the breaks – most of which they probably make for themselves.