Playrooms, Not Yards


Sometimes you have to look at our culture like an anthropologist: What artifacts are precious to the people of today, what activities are protected?

It is with those glasses on that we examine this nearehbrkd
article in Acculturated
, which quotes a real estate agent saying:

“Buyers today — especially millennial buyers — want everyone to have a private space of their own to decompress under one roof, and the bonus room/playroom outweighs a large yard in their buying decision,” said Patty Blackwelder, a buyer’s agent with Twins Selling Real Estate Realty Associates in Northern Virginia. “The first item that seems to fall off the list is the large yard.”

It’s not that large yards are necessary for a good childhood. Of course they’re not. Kids can play anywhere, even on a patch of concrete. But with many parents no longer allowing their kids to go to the park unsupervised — sigh — a yard at least offered an outdoor space that parents trusted — a “childlife refuge” is what I’m going to call it.

And when kids are outside, they are getting a few things they can’t get inside, including a chance to attract other kids (you thought I was going to say predators?), and at least a little interaction with nature.

They’re also more likely to be doing something physical, which in our sedentary times is certainly salutary. (Sorry — I seem to have OD’d on Downton Abbey.)

Anyway, another trend among homeowners is turning the dining room into a play room. I love what the author, Jennifer Graham, has to say about that:

[T]he dining room, maligned today as a dusty, stuffy room that no one used—an oversized parlor—was designed to be a place that children sought to flee, a place where grownups ate adult things and drank adult beverages and talked about adult things…An unused dining room is not an indictment of the purpose of the dining room, but of the inhabitants who fail to use it.

In other words: Carving a space where kids are not the center of attention allows parents to turn their attention to things other than…their kids. I truly  believe that one reason we are so worried about every aspect of our children’s lives today is simply that we spend so much time with them. When we do, we see all the spats, spills, and ever-so-slightly dangerous doings that earlier  parents missed, because the kids were off somewhere. But once we see all this, we’re often compelled to intervene.

Which, of course, makes us ever more leery of leaving the kids unsupervised.

Which brings us back to the playroom. And brings our kids back inside, where we can watch, watch, watch them. Which is apparently what today’s house hunters are hoping to do. – L


At least someone still gets to enjoy the backyard. For now.

At least someone still gets to enjoy the backyard. For now.

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68 Responses to Playrooms, Not Yards

  1. Vicki March 8, 2016 at 11:04 am #

    When we bought our house, we had a toddler and one on the way. My husband and I couldn’t agree on dining room furniture. So we left the room empty. Eventually, I made it into the boys play room and when they out grew that, we again had to decide what to do with the room. Since we don’t host fancy dinners, it seemed a waste to revert it to a dining room. So, we bought a pool table and ping pong cover for it. Best thing ever!! Being in Florida, we don’t have a basement for kids to play in and it is often too hot to play for long periods outside (we don’t have a pool). The boys now have something to do with their friends at our house. Yes, they still play frisbee and basketball outside and go to friends’ houses with pools. I will never regret not using our dining room for its intended purpose. I disagree with that author on this. (Of course I wasn’t putting in the play room just so I could hover over my kids)

  2. Kimberly March 8, 2016 at 11:10 am #

    We changed our dining room into a playroom when ours was a toddler so she could go in there and play and lose herself while we sat in the next room and enjoyed adult time and a clean living room. It was perfect. She had a tent and she would look at books, play pretend with her toys, and do her own thing. She loved it. I feel like it was a space where she could develop freely without us always being there. When she was old enough, she went outside with the neighborhood kids and climbed trees, played soccer with them, and had the outdoor childhood I had. These play rooms and free ranging aren’t mutually exclusive.

  3. Katie March 8, 2016 at 11:14 am #

    I would not say these reasons are why a millennial would not want a large yard in the dc/northern Virginia area. Personally I would say I don’t want a large yard because:
    1. It just contributes to more sprawl and taking away for land from nature which is an environmental waste.
    2. A lot of yards look horrible around Northern Virginia. Nor do I want to put in the time or money into a yard to have it not look horrible. And the yard is the first impression.
    3. The larger the amount of land the less likely it is near good/frequent public transportation (granted I suppose this is true the larger the playroom-but I find the second scenario much more common in Northern Virginia-dining rooms that turn into playrooms-but with housing prices being what they are sometimes there is little choice-but that is not to say that children should not be required to put away toys in common areas when they are done playing with them rather than leaving them all over the place. And if your bedroom has also become a playroom-well that is a different story!
    4. There are plenty of playgrounds both by walking and public transit.
    5. There are also common areas kids can and do play on without private land such as shared grassy areas and sidewalks, etc.

    Granted I do agree though, the whole playroom thing is a bit silly. But I also know people from when I was a child who had playrooms too.

  4. E March 8, 2016 at 11:15 am #

    I find this whole post confusing.

    In the first quote, it’s talking about having a play room or bonus room > yard. Do we know the financial impact on this? Isn’t it cheaper to put a room over your garage than buy a house with another half acre? Maybe people are making that trade off because they can afford that option.

    In the 2nd quote — she’s lamenting (and judging) people that want to make their square footage work better for them. How nice to be “indicted”.

    But the thing is — if we want kids to be out from underfoot while adults eat/drink adult things, then the rec room/bonus room is a great place for them to do it right? LOL.

  5. K March 8, 2016 at 11:20 am #

    If we ever buy a house with a space for a formal dining room, we will probably turn it into a library/reading area, with lots of great light and comfortable seating. My inlaws have a formal dining room and in 16 years I’ve never been in it. The family prefers to gather in the large, warm kitchen or out on the deck. The dining room has become a dumping ground for other stuff.

    As for large yards, who wants the upkeep? I’d rather send the kids to the park when they want to play and enjoy my smaller yard instead of spending hours every week caring for lawns and gardens and trees.

  6. Molly S March 8, 2016 at 11:25 am #

    So true! The point of outdoor play is to give both kids and parents a break. So glad I figured out early on to keep my nose out of my kids’ business whenever possible. Really makes life easier!

  7. Backroads March 8, 2016 at 11:26 am #

    Huh. One of the reasons we picked our house was because it had a decent-sized yard. Our house is too small for a playroom (though the library is becoming a mutant of this).

    But it’s true! I look at all the new developments popping up and the houses all have itty-bitty yards.

  8. Molly S March 8, 2016 at 11:31 am #

    PS Yards are important! You cannot put a price on unstructured play with neighborhood kids of all ages. The upkeep can be family time working together, or chores when they get older. Should be a priority if possible.

  9. E March 8, 2016 at 11:47 am #

    Yes — not everyone wants a large yard. And if the lots are bigger, the homes are typically bigger and of course the price tag is bigger. How dare people weigh things and come up with a decision that other people might not make!

    And how hard shall we judge city dwellers! They don’t have yard so they must really be helicopters!

  10. James Pollock March 8, 2016 at 11:47 am #

    Hmmm. In my area, large lots are just not available for new construction. New construction is designed to build the largest house possible on the smallest lot. (I live at the edge of the suburbs, just short of where the actual farming is done.) In the city, the focus is on “infill”; the city encourages development of “Auxilliary Dwelling Units” or knocking down one house and building two on the lot as solutions to increasing population.

    When the build a new housing development, they’ll build big houses that are maybe six feet apart, with the minimum legally-required setback from the street, and around 12 feet of yard in back. Then they’ll build a community play area… not a park, which belongs to the public, but with playground equipment and a bit of turf.

    In this area, a “playroom” is borderline necessary because we can expect rain most days for about 2/3 of the year. Yes, children are waterproof, but most of them don’t want to go play outside in the rain. Schools have covered play areas, but houses don’t.

    In my house, the “playroom” is at the complete far end of the house from the bedrooms and features its own door to the backyard. The conclusion that there’s a playroom for the purpose of keeping the kids inside and under surveillance couldn’t be more off-base.

    As for the dining room, my daughter didn’t like it, not because in the dining room she wasn’t the focus of attention, but rather, because she was. The dining room is the part of the house where electronic communications devices (televisions, computers, and cell-phones) are banned. Like most American families, I’d wager, we had a set of trays in the living room and often ate in front of a television. If we were in the dining room, however, attention was expected to be on the other people in the room… exclusively.

  11. Workshop March 8, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    My kids’ play room is the sunroom, and the best part about it is that I can close the door and no longer hear them. I think of it as a feature, not a bug.

    Luckily, we still have 5 acres to play on, plus a lake. So much fun for kids to go looking for frogs and snakes and bugs. We had a bald eagle land in a neighbor’s tree this past weekend while little Workshop and I were out flying a kite.

    “playroom” – bah humbug. Go get muddy.

  12. lollipoplover March 8, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    To each his own with house preferences.

    We bought our home with it’s big backyard almost 20 years ago…because we had large dogs.
    Now we have kids so the backyard gives us all kinds of use with play (mostly soccer and baseball), firepit and barbeques, and I have a considerable garden where we grow quite a bit of food for 4 months out of the year.
    Right now the yard is covered in dog shit so not of much use to our family (but the dogs still love it)…winter is almost over so I will get out and tend to it and get a bit of exercise. I love our yard.

    We also converted out basement after we had kids to a *rumpus room*. Many a wrestling match, ping pong games, and other crazy kid stuff that I don’t need to see occurs down there. It’s a great room. i rarely go in the basement but the kids enjoy it immensely. I do think kids should have a place of their own to escape the parents and for bad weather days. They keep their instruments down there and listen to music and do weird shows and plays.

    I do love my dining room. We’ve had family holidays and great dinners at that old table. It’s now covered in clean, folded laundry and uniforms but can be cleared off in no time if we have company for dinner. And the kids sit at the kid’s table, in the kitchen. Where we can’t see them and worry about them eating nothing but ambrosia for dinner.

  13. Diane March 8, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

    To each his own, I say. But it’s good to reflect on whatever living situation you’re in and find ways to accommodate the way of life that’s important to you. No need for anyone to get defensive.
    We have a townhouse with an enclosed patio. I wish we had a yard so people could see my kids playing in the front and send theirs over, maybe, but we also live on an extremely busy street with a bar next door; I don’t think many children are walking by! My kids go out in the streets in the neighborhood behind us to play sometime but the parents of those kids don’t feel comfortable sending their kids up to our place without an adult walking them, so that ends up being a more scheduled and rarer occurrence.

  14. M. March 8, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

    Hm, I would want both, ideally. My house has a small yard, which is more than big enough for kids to play in, but we do not have any spare rooms that could serve as a playroom. I have considered turning our very small and terribly laid out “formal” living room into a playroom, but I just can’t see walking onto the house to a giant mess of toys right in the way. As it is now our living room/tv room/great room/whatever you want to call it houses most of the toys and is always a mess, I would like that to be a more peaceful space, but I think the kids would still opt to play there, even if there was a playroom.

    Anyway, I don’t think you really need a huge outdoor space for kids, a small yard will suffice until they’re old enough to roam, and they’ll turn pretty much any room into a playroom if you let them.

  15. Warren March 8, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

    With close to twenty diners at any given holiday and other social whatevers the dining room gets used enough if even just as the buffet. Any less than two acres and I wouldn’t even consider the house.

  16. Jeanne March 8, 2016 at 1:24 pm #

    The referenced article first “indicts” parents who value individual spaces (anti-family!) then “indicts” parents who don’t value a formal dining room as an individual space where “children flee” (anti-adult!). Growing up in the free range 60s and 70s, formal dining rooms I encountered were used primarily for homework anyway. And most yards were small. And the best kid-magnet homes had playrooms. Nothing to see here.

  17. Dave March 8, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    I’ve said in my own blog (click on my user name) that parents need parent-only time, both for sanity and marriage preservation. Kids need adult-free time, and adults need kid-free time. It gives the kids a chance to play creatively and sort out their own disputes, and parents a time to think and act like an adult, and communicate with each other.

    One good time to do this is before dinner (and it’s another great argument for sit-down family dinners!) Send the kids off to their rooms while mom and dad prep dinner and get a chance to catch up on each others’ day. Another good time is after dinner, or after the kids’ bedtime. There’s a reason little kids have early bedtimes, and it’s not just for their benefit. My parents enforced 9pm bedtimes until we were 12, and then moved it up to 10pm. They went to bed at 11.

  18. JulieC March 8, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

    So much of this depends on what area of the country you live in, plus weather, and income – that really there are only preferences, which may or may not work out.

    I live in the SF Bay area, where a three bedroom two bath one story house that needs work could easily go for over a million. Playroom? Hah! That was our family room too. The dining room, which does get used for big family dinners, also is where my son prefers to do his homework.

    Basements? Not many in earthquake country. I grew up with a dark and creepy basement back East.

    I’m grateful that we bought long enough ago that our house has a reasonably sized back yard, where I can grow lots of vegetables and we have several fruit trees planted. A house with two acres is but a dream … a dream that around here would easily be over $2 million (and with a house that needs a lot of work lol).
    Newer houses around here are built on very small lots, because it takes developers forever to get permission to build homes, so they have to maximize profits when they finally build (that’s my theory anyways).

  19. Molly S March 8, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

    To each his own, for sure. And not everyone has the option of a large yard depending on location. However, if raising free range and self reliant kids is a priority for you, I do think a yard supports that mission more than a playroom does. I can’t count how many times my kids have had to solve conflicts, negotiate mild dangers, make up rules for games, etc while playing with other kids in our own yard. And who can say how much influence those experiences have had on my older kids’ choices and self suffiency? Both are successful in college, one is halfway across the country, and we talk to them about once a week. They handle their own day to day affairs without help from us. I would not trade our yard or neighborhood for anything, and think it has helped shape my kids into who they are. And still influencing my 10 year old! My two cents, I agree with Lenore wholeheartedly on this one.

  20. Jessica March 8, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

    We’re in the process of buying a townhomes, which is a downgrade for most people from our quarter acre lot with its trampoline and play set. Problem is, we don’t care much for yard work, and the boys would much rather play with other kids than in our backyard. New place has a nearby play area, a high density of kids, and undeveloped land to explore. Like others have said, to each their own. Find what works for your family and run with it.

  21. andy March 8, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

    I do not need to design a room so that kids flee it. We have taught our kids meaning of the word “spicy”, so we can eat adult foot with them in room. Special run filled cookies are stored next to alcohol beverage and kids avoid them too. There are very few topics I am not willing to discuss in front of kids and most of them I am not willing to discuss with friends either. We have adult gatherings in living room and kids either hang around to steal food or play in their room.

    I am ok with kids playing alone and I agree that it is great for adults to do things that are not kids oriented. It makes sense when you are crafting and have room for that. It makes sense when you are doing sport and have a place for that. Dinning room does not make sense. Each room cost extra money whether you are buying home or flat and I am not willing to pay extra for room that is rarely used. A lot of this nostalgia and complains amounts to “now that things cost different, Millennials are buying different things”.

  22. Vaughan Evans March 8, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

    People are paranoid.
    I live in Vancouver, B>C. In 1977, I visited Fernie(a small town 500 miles east of my city.(I had never been there before) Someone saw me walk past a school,. They called the police.
    The policeman was very nice. He asked me why was I in the city. Am I looking for work? Am I visiting relatives/
    (When I go to a strange own-and take a walk, how COULD I know-wherr a street could take me?

  23. hineata March 8, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

    Possibly different in the States where you have more room, but I am now a fan of smaller sections and personally don’t like to see lifestyle blocks anymore…..such a waste of farmland. The advantage of cramming people closer together is the ability to provide more services – read public transport etc. You can still have a productive garden on a tiny section….and a kid’s fort or play area etc.

    We have a small house and have never had a problem with adult/kid time either. If I have something that I don’t want the kids to hear about (rare these days, but maybe something involving confidentiality) they scarper to their rooms….and they always did play in one or the other of their bedrooms if they wanted to play a messy game. No need for playrooms…..though I wouldn’t have said no to the extra space if we could have afforded it :-).

  24. E March 8, 2016 at 3:11 pm #

    Yeah — there is way more at work here.

    My sister lives in WI. I am certain that during the dead of winter, when temps can be really really cold, and it gets dark early, and she’s a working parent, she would have loved to have a little more elbow room in their house (if they could have afforded it).

    It doesn’t even make sense. “Send those kids outside” is endorsed, but “let’s build a room over the garage to get the kids out of sight/mind/earshot” or for when they have friends over is somehow bad?

  25. sexhysteria March 8, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

    There is a government building with a parking lot on my block, and after office hours/on weekends the kids who live on the block meet there to play ball, skateboard, etc. so parents can monitor them from their condo windows. Even though it’s a big city it’s a quiet, dead-end street so if anybody screams everyone will hear it.

  26. Donna March 8, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    The article said LARGE yard, not no yard. I think the issue is more upkeep than not letting kids outside. I have a large yard. The upkeep sucks (so I don’t do much and it looks overgrown) and my kid could easily have fun on half of what we have. In fact, she almost never plays in the yard unless she is on the trampoline. She goes to the park. So basically we have this big yard for a little 13 pound dog. It seemed silly so we just got the little dog a baby brother.

    The playroom, I love. I can have friends over in the eveming and boot the kid into her playroom. Or just boot her into the playroom because she is bugging me.

  27. Papilio March 8, 2016 at 3:39 pm #

    Yeah, not much room here either. I grew up in a large-ish house (especially considering this was in a city), but we had a ‘living kitchen’ where we ate our meals and drank our tea. There was a fancier dinner table: in the living room. Next to the play table for Little Brother and me when we were small… So much for separate rooms 😛

  28. Yocheved March 8, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

    Before the real estate bubble burst, I used to flip houses. I can tell you that dollar for dollar, and extra room is a much better investment than a large yard. Yards mean WORK and upkeep. If you let it go natural, so the kids can play “jungle out there”, you can be sure that the neighbors will complain. If your playroom looks like a bomb went off, nobody is going to notice.

    When you go to sell, that extra room will bring back every penny you put into it. Who doesn’t love having a den, woodshop, sewing room, place for grandma to stay, etc? She can’t very well stay out on the lawn!

    The other drawback of a yard, is that unless you are xeroscaping, you are going to spend a fortune on your water bill. I highly recommend using plants that are native to your area, and that will establish themselves with deep roots within the first year of planting. A cement or brick patio, surrounded a planting of lush, self managing shrubs and flowers, with a space for kids to grow a garden, is the best way to go.

  29. Michelle March 8, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    I want a playroom so that I can get my kids out of my living room. We have a yard, and my kids are even allowed to leave the yard and go other places without me. But you can’t be outside all the time, and I would love to have more space in the “public” parts of my house so the kids weren’t right on top of me all the time. 😛

  30. Yocheved March 8, 2016 at 5:51 pm #

    Oh, and I wanted to add, when I lived in Seattle I had a house with yard, but it rained 10 months out of the year! We never used it, it was just a place for the dog to poop.

    Now that I’m in sunny Israel, two blocks from the beach, we’re outdoors all the time. Our apartment doesn’t even feel like a small space, even though it’s smaller than the Seattle house.

  31. Katie March 8, 2016 at 6:34 pm #

    ” Who doesn’t love having a den, woodshop, sewing room, place for grandma to stay, etc?”

    LOL-That depends on grandma.

  32. Warren March 8, 2016 at 10:51 pm #

    Yards mean work? Depends on how you look at it and how you do it. I prefer the riding mower and 3 beer method. Quick go round with the weed eater, and then onto the riding mower. A text to the house when my beer is empty and someone shows up outside with a refill and takes the empty. 2 to 3 hours once a week and good to go. Have a few beers, listen to some music, work on the tan and mow the lawn. The best alone time you can get.

    Never rake the leaves.

    Plow the drive and snowblow the walks. Again me time outdoors.

    And no matter what window or deck you view from, no neighbors can be seen. Little effort for huge payoff.

    If you want maintenance free living and the ability to know all about your neighbors, and vice versa? ……… get an apartment.

  33. Warren March 8, 2016 at 10:56 pm #


    Why spend a fortune on water? The more you water the more you have to mow. If it rains great, if it doesn’t oh well.

  34. Anna March 8, 2016 at 10:57 pm #

    Dave, I think you must have meant to finish this sentence, “Send the kids off to their rooms while mom and dad prep dinner and get a chance to catch up on each others’ day” by adding “while enjoying a nice aperitif.” Actually, an even better idea – the kids prep dinner and set the table while mom and dad catch up over an aperitif.

    Also, I totally agree about dining rooms being a nice place to dine. I’m a bit mystified by all the people who say how useless a dining room is “because we don’t host fancy dinner parties.” How about eating your regular old family dinner in the dining room? Just a radical thought. . .

  35. AlanaM March 8, 2016 at 11:43 pm #

    Our dining room was never actually big enough for formal dining so it was a playroom too. What we called it changed as the boys got older: train room, Lego room, lounge area, etc. Still not a dining room.

  36. Cassie March 8, 2016 at 11:46 pm #

    Have to disagree too.

    We have a playroom so my kids can bugger off an play unsupervised for hours – not so I can watch them!!

    In our case, it is a dis-used enclosed verandah. It was a junk room until I moved every single toy from the house (every single one) and made that room their own. They spend hours every day in the room, and because it was a back verandah they come into it first…. so it merges with the outdoors. I don’t worry about the dirt that they are tracking in from outside, and it is a very small room to keep clean (with no beds for toys to gather under).

    Basically I close the internal backdoor, and they spend their day between the backyard and the playroom.

    Okay, I do look at them occasionally, only because I will be walking past the huge internal windows and love seeing them so engrossed in projects at their desks (or on the floor, or outside in the dirt) all in a bright room full of windows…. But that is not “helicopter parenting”, that is merely the “can’t take my eyes of how awesome kids are when left to their own devices” giddiness.

  37. Jeff Brown March 9, 2016 at 12:51 am #

    When I was a kid, if I spent more than five minutes inside I was asked what was wrong? Are you not feeling well? No I would say I feel fine. I’ve just come in to escape the great outdoors. Ha, Ha. not true. I come in to get a drink. well harry up and get back outside your father and I want to use the dinning room. For what I would ask. For adult stuff that you kids wont understand. Today it seem that developers are taking away the back yard so they can add more apartments and reduce the pleasure of childhood exploration of the great outdoors. If the kids are inside it may (as I feel from the developers point of view) push up the value of the property. A little cynical maybe but sometimes I feel that the way of the world of late.

  38. andy March 9, 2016 at 7:43 am #

    You should work harder and longer hours! Millennials are lazy, entitled and think world owns them living. They are not working enough hours! They are not earning enough money to buy house soon enough!

    Neighbor bowling leagues and similar social clubs are dying! Millennials are not social enough with neighbors. They should be less self-centered!

    Millennials don’t see dinning rooms in houses as a priority! Millennials don’t organize elaborate several hours long formal dinners anymore. That is bad too! Oh, and dinner must be organized so that children flee it, otherwise it don’t count!

    Parents are not reading enough to their kids! Many millennial parents are too lazy to actually care about their kids and spend time reading them or caring about them and don’t give damm about school!

    Or maybe just older culture writers like to complain about everything millennials do.

  39. BL March 9, 2016 at 8:13 am #

    “Or maybe just older culture writers like to complain about everything millennials do.”

    So what are the millennials going to say when they get old? “Get off my lawn” won’t work any more.

    “Get out of my playroom”?

  40. Emily March 9, 2016 at 8:37 am #

    When I was growing up, my brother and I had our own bedrooms, but they were adjacent, with a door between them that could be opened to create a large play area, so we didn’t need a playroom. We also had a large backyard. This worked well when we were kids, but when I got older, privacy became a problem, because my brother used to like to spy on me through the keyhole of the door between our rooms, and randomly open the door (no locks) when I was changing clothes or whatever. I remember plugging up the keyhole with Silly Putty when I was maybe thirteen or so, and my parents didn’t object. Later, when my brother got old enough to want privacy as well, the door between our rooms stayed closed, and we pretended it wasn’t there. But, back to my main point, I think outdoor play is good (because, exercise and fresh air), indoor play spaces are good (because I live in Canada where winter can last six months and get down to -30 C, and anyway, it’s harder to do Legos or puzzles or complicated board games like Monopoly outside), and private bedrooms are good as well (because I’ve always been introverted, and anyway, the best way to teach kids to respect privacy is to give them privacy so they understand what it means). However, I agree that it’s a problem when the indoor playroom replaces outdoor play. That definitely shouldn’t happen.

  41. Donna March 9, 2016 at 10:02 am #

    “it’s harder to do Legos or puzzles or complicated board games like Monopoly outside)”

    Yesterday the kid and I played Monopoly outside. She is on Spring Break and I am mostly working (while she stays home alone), but I took yesterday afternoon off. She wanted to play a board game, but I objected because it was such a beautiful day. We compromised and spent the afternoon playing Monopoly in the front yard.

  42. Emily March 9, 2016 at 10:10 am #

    Well, Donna, your mileage may vary, but my brother and I were never allowed to play Monopoly outside, for fear that the money and cards would blow away. We still lost a few pieces over the years just playing it inside, and we replaced those pieces with the hand-drawn deed card my mom made from a piece of a cracker box, and paper houses, hotels, and larger denominations of money that my brother made on the computer, because we liked to play with more money than we were supposed to. But, our Monopoly set had sentimental value to my mom, because it was hers from when she was a kid, so she didn’t allow us to be careless with it, and to her, taking it outside counted as being careless. We were allowed to play other board and card games outside; just not Monopoly.

  43. Warren March 9, 2016 at 10:27 am #

    Get off the “Canada is a frozen wasteland half the year” crap. Being a kid in the 70’s and a teen in the 80’s, there were very few days the weather stopped us from being outside. If you actually wanted to be outside, you went out. We never let the weather stop us. It was our parents that stopped usand that only happened a few times in total.

  44. Anna March 9, 2016 at 10:34 am #

    “Get off the “Canada is a frozen wasteland half the year” crap. Being a kid in the 70’s and a teen in the 80’s, there were very few days the weather stopped us from being outside. If you actually wanted to be outside, you went out. We never let the weather stop us.”

    That was true for me too, though I’m not sure it was always our choice to be outside; I seem to remember being told “Go out and play.” I don’t think it was all that optional. Also, we always went outside for recess at school unless it was pouring rain; snow certainly did not prevent outdoor recess.

    But then again I’m from Southern Ontario, and I believe you are too. In Sudbury or Edmonton or Winnipeg, things are probably different.

  45. BL March 9, 2016 at 10:38 am #

    “but my brother and I were never allowed to play Monopoly outside, for fear that the money and cards would blow away.”

    Yeah, I never saw the point of trying to play outdoors with game pieces that could blow away.

    Backgammon or checkers or chess (if the pieces were weighted) was OK.

  46. BL March 9, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    “But then again I’m from Southern Ontario”

    My earliest years were in suburban Detroit, just across the river from Windsor, Ontario, and I don’t remember “gotta stay in ’cause it’s too cold” days.

  47. Emily March 9, 2016 at 11:21 am #

    Warren, all I can say is, to each their own–I never really liked the cold. I’ll tolerate it to go skiing, but after about the age of maybe eight or nine, I didn’t really like “playing in the snow” for its own sake–aside from skiing in the winter, I preferred to use my spare time to read, or draw, or write stories, or do crafts, or play the piano (and looking back, I wish I’d kept playing the piano). That’s also the age that I stopped really “playing outside” in the typical way that children did, during the non-winter months–I wasn’t into sports, I wasn’t co-ordinated enough to do cartwheels, or tricks on the monkey bars (although I learned to do a cartwheel years later, as an adult), and I wasn’t really allowed to just walk or ride my bike or Rollerblade around the neighbourhood freely, so after I (mostly) outgrew playgrounds, I didn’t have much to do outside. Now, it’s a different story–I’ll go for a walk or a run if it’s nice out, either alone or with my dog, or I’ll go to the beach in the summer, either alone or with a friend, and during the two years I lived in Australia, I was outside a lot as well. However, that’s on my own terms, and I wasn’t able to just be out and about on my own terms as a child, because my parents worried about safety. My brother and I had a fort that we built in the woods behind our house, but our parents stopped allowing us to go there after some other kids fought us for it (really, there was a knife involved). We ended up moving the fort within view of our backyard, but that was boring, because it was right within view of our backyard, so our parents could see everything we were doing. So, yeah, I wasn’t much for playing outside when I was a kid, but I don’t understand why you treat this as a “value judgement” thing. I was an unco-ordinated, introverted kid. I’m still introverted and (somewhat) unco-ordinated as an adult. This doesn’t make me lazy, because I exercise daily, and I’m a fitness instructor certified to teach yoga, Aquafit, and Zumba. If someone tells me that they’d rather, say, go outside and play soccer than do yoga (which can also be done outside in warm weather), I don’t think that person is lazy or whining; I think they just prefer soccer to yoga, and that’s okay. So, I think the reverse should apply as well.

  48. andy March 9, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    @Emily Yeah, we would not play with easy to blow boardgame or expensive easy to loose lego pieces outside either.

    I stopped preferring outside too when I was above certain age. I liked to read, I liked to crafting and both are better inside by large. Plus, when parents were not home I would watch junk tv :). I would go outside when my parents insisted I should and drive bike randomly. It was fine, but rarely my really first choice. I was sort of hermit back then.

  49. E March 9, 2016 at 11:55 am #

    For those colder climates, it probably depends how much daylight time you’ve got as well. If kids have working parents, they might not be getting home before it’s dark (after school programs).

    But geez, there’s nothing wrong with a kids only (or mostly) space. We had a basement and I’m sure my parents LOVED having a place where the 6 kids (or at least some of them) could play, make noise, whatever. Ours was nothing special and would get damp if it rained a lot, but it served the purpose.

    As a parent, our house has plenty of room (and 2 large living areas), but there wasn’t a place like that for my kids (and their friends) to convene and have some freedom to make a mess or a lot of noise/louder music without bothering us (open-ish floor plan). So they went to the kids houses that DID have those spaces. I still wish we’d had a bonus room.

    We do however have a largish lot and are about to spend a LOT of money taking down trees that are aging and leaning and their size is now a risk to our home. I love our neighborhood and our lot, but there is quite clearly a specific cost associated with living here (should I tell you about my septic repair costs?). I can totally understand that people might say it’s not for them without being helicopter parents. Our tree man said something like “not everyone wants to spend $10k on trees every 10 years — or $1000/year”.

  50. Warren March 9, 2016 at 2:16 pm #


    Go ahead tell us about your septic repair costs. Just replaced and updated our entire system, tank and all fice years ago. 25 years old, and this new one should last 40 plus years. Considering the fact we pay less property tax not being on city water and sewer, also don’t get a monthly bill for water, am not subject to water usage restrictions we are still well ahead financially.

    As for your trees, you are the only person I have ever heard that spends 10 grand every 10 years. Hell, I have removed 6 from our property in the last 2 years, to widen the drive and expand our deck. Didn’t coast more than 200 dollars total.

  51. E March 9, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

    @Warren — yeah, our septic is circa 1978 though we’ve only been in the house for ~20 years. The previous owners broke all kinds of code (and I suppose the county let them) by expanding a deck and an addition over part of the tank and drain field. So what we thought was going to be a repair, is really nearly a completely new install which included ripping off a deck for starters.

    The issue with the trees is that we are *very* wooded and the trees are very close to the house. Sure some trees can be taken down easily in some cases but this endeavor includes a very large very heavy crane truck that will lift the trees over our house.

    We’ve been here 20 years and while we haven’t spent $20k we’ve probably spent 10k (presumably tree was exaggerating but trying to make a point — wooded lots aren’t maintenance free).

    Point being, if you don’t have the ability or tools or confidence to take down trees (even small ones) then you are paying someone to do it. In this case, even some tree people don’t have a business large enough to own a large crane.

    So — *to us* (like your large property to you) our half acre lot is exactly what we want (at least at this stage of our lives). To many others, it would not. Finding out you’ve got a $20k+ unexpected “project” is not necessarily fun news. I do get a new deck out of it (after all is said and done) but that could be done with far less than $20k, lol.

  52. Puzzled March 9, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

    Formal dining rooms – something I’ve never had, but have always wanted. I have mostly lived in 1 or 2 bedroom apartments, although for 7 years I lived in a very nice 2 level apartment, and I could have turned the main room into a dining room. For one year I lived in a large 2 level with a room I never did anything with – in retrospect, that would have been perfect for a dining room, but I knew it was temporary and that I’d have nowhere to put that furniture when I moved.

    Someday I would like to have a house with an old-fashioned, uncomfortable formal dining room where I can host long, multi-course dinner parties. Someday. Then I’ll also need friends willing to sit through such a thing, and to get dressed up appropriately.

  53. Warren March 9, 2016 at 7:48 pm #


    If the builders and or installers broke codes on septic systems, even back then you can go after them for money.

    Here local health officials have to sign off on all septic systems, and should have the plans and company’s name. If they don’t you go after the deck builder.

    As for the trees, I thought you had a big lot, sorry.

  54. Stephanie F March 9, 2016 at 9:30 pm #

    We just bought a house, and the space for a playroom was a big deal. That said, we have a good sized yard, and the playroom is actually a portion of the carpeted three car garage, separated from the house by a breezeway. Not only do the kids get a great place to play, it’s where bikes, skates and scooters are stored, and being a garage, has great access to the outdoors. They have to put a little more effort into getting where other kids can see them, as the garage is in the backyard behind a gate, but they know where the remote is.

    My husband also wants to set up the tool bench nicely in there, mostly for his own purposes, but I fully expect the kids to get into it also.

    It’s so nice having a place where the kids can be messy and not worry overmuch about it.

  55. E March 10, 2016 at 8:30 am #

    @Warren — thank for the advice, but I suspect that whatever happened in 1984 (the year of the addition) is not going to get revisited by anyone. The previous owner also did most (maybe all) of the addition. I’ve been working with the county to figure out what we’ve got (and where we go from here) for over a month. While our lender (back 20 years ago) wanted some paperwork related to the septic, it was a cursory check by a private company, not the county.

    In other words, many folks took short cuts. But like you said, this many years w/o paying city taxes, we’re probably not coming out any worse having to replace the system that that old. We’ve reminded ourselves of that as well.

    I guess the key is to find the house/land that works for you and acknowledge what the pros/cons are going to be.

  56. K March 10, 2016 at 9:50 am #

    200 dollars to have a tree taken down? How big was the tree? My parents spent much than that having three trees trimmed. Friends of ours bought a house with a tree that needed to come down and they made it part of the closing agreement that the sellers would deal with the tree. Because it was going to cost 8000 dollars. For one enormous, dangerous tree. There were power lines involved and fences that needed to be taken down to make room for multiple pieces of heavy machinery. The tree service said it was the hardest one they’d ever done. Another friend lives on a lovely four acre lot and when I asked how long it takes him to mow his grass, he laughed and said he pays someone to do it.

    We live in the city and are lucky to have a garden (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it. Lots of people move to the city specifically to not have a yard). Most people have a concrete pad. Our yard is maybe 20 by 25 feet. I love to garden but even this small yard (no grass, flower beds, veggies, a couple of small evergreens and a brick pathway down the middle) takes up a lot of my time in the spring/summer. I don’t get the judgment against people who don’t want big yards. We’ve all got stuff we don’t like to do. I hated mowing the lawn as a kid. So much that I made a deal with my brother. He mowed the entire yard and I did all the inside chores. As a family, we love to hike, play soccer and basketball, kayak, etc. I’d much rather have a small yard and have the time to do the things I actually enjoy.

  57. Warren March 10, 2016 at 11:11 am #

    That was 200 maybe 300 bucks max. for all 6 trees. 2 big maples, the rest huge scotch pine. Gas for the saws, beer for the boys and all is good. Oh yeah, fuel for the backhoe. The maples were approximately 50 or so feet, the pines 50 to 100.

    Then again most people these days don’t know how to do these things, don’t have the friends willing to help, are too lazy, or prefer to just pay someone else to do it.

    One of the neighbors asked who we had do it, because they had a walnut tree they wanted to get rid of. That weekend him and I did it. Other than time and a few beer, it cost them nothing.

  58. K March 10, 2016 at 8:33 pm #

    Ok, paying your buddies to take down a tree is totally different from paying a pro to do it. I’m a city girl. I don’t know how to take down a tree and neither do any of my friends. And seeing as how tree trimming is a highly dangerous occupation, I would prefer to just pay a pro, in the unlikely event we move out of the city.

  59. Warren March 10, 2016 at 10:17 pm #

    Didn’t pay them a cent. It is called being friends. We did the trees in the morning, and the rest of the families joined us after for a bbq. You city folk are weird. Here friends and family neither pay or request payment for helping each other. Hell we don’t even reimburse for gas. What goes around comes around and we all end up even when we are dead.

    Just half an hour ago my friend down the road called to ask where I got the wine she borrowed, on the weekend. I didn’t even know she had, but sure enough there was the note where the two bottles had been. Told her where to get the wine, and to keep it at her place because we are suppose to be down for dinner and hot tub Friday night. Thats how friends work.

  60. K March 11, 2016 at 8:53 am #

    Providing beer and food for people who help you is still a form of compensation. And I know how friends work. I’ve helped many a friend move without expecting anything in return and just recently had friends help with childcare when my father was in the hospital. I’m just pointing out that not everyone has access to people who know how to take down trees and therefore, home owners may need to factor tree maintainence into purchasing a property with a large yard and lots of trees. You live in Canada, right? Someplace fairly rural? I’m not surprised you are comfortable dealing with trees. As a life long city resident in a more temperate climate, I have no tree knowledge other than climbing them. All our trees are city owned and the city takes care of them. I also don’t know how to put tire chains on (they’re actually illegal here) or drive a snow mobile or use a tractor. That doesn’t make me lazy or stupid and I’m pretty sure there are things I can do that others can’t.

  61. Warren March 11, 2016 at 9:18 am #


    Born and raised in Toronto, as big a city as they get. Instead of just saying I don’t know how, I learned.

    Took the day off work today, to help a friend put new hemlock beams in his barn, while taking out the old ones. Hot tub and wine gonna be just what the doctor ordered.

  62. Rainytown March 13, 2016 at 12:06 am #

    This isn’t always bad. I live in an area where it rains for over half the year. Kids will eventually get tired of being soaking wet and having to play in a mud pit day after day after day for months. So, when friends of mine bought a house they specifically bought one with a large formal dining area so that they could have a large indoor playspace for their kids. They’re not helicopter parents but they definitely supervise their children playing more closely simply by virtue of them being indoors, but the kids have somewhere fun to play when the weather’s bad.

  63. Eevee March 14, 2016 at 10:59 am #

    Another way to think about this is that maybe millenials are cutting out the large yard for some other reasons that are important to them, not because they don’t think kids should be outside unsupervised. Speaking as a millenial myself, here are some possible reasons my peers might not want large yards based on some ideas and shared values of my peers:
    -We need to improve our use of water to be more resourceful and less wasteful, sprinklers and lawn upkeep is a terrible waste of water
    -Keeping up outdoor spaces is expensive, and I don’t make enough to justify the expense of making a yard look pretty
    -I would rather contribute the money I would spend on upkeep to a park or play area which can put in more elaborate (and fun!) equipment than I could in my own yard
    -Keeping up outdoor spaces is time-consuming, and many of us are now working well into the weekend on top of the workweek, there just isn’t the time to keep everything mowed, weeded, pruned, etc.
    -Land is becoming a more valuable and scarce resource, it’s excessive (and expensive) to own a big patch of land in addition to the land occupied by the building itself
    -Whether you agree with it or not, because there are more demands being placed on children academically, they just don’t have the time to play/after they get everything done that needs doing, it’s dark outside
    -Living in an unpredictable climate, we want children to have a space to play at any time regardless of the weather
    These are just a few reasons I came up with based on my experiences with my peers and the values and ideas shared by our generation. In short, there may be some small piece of the decision that comes from worry about children playing outside, but really there are so many other possible reasons millenial buyers are shying away from large yards as result of a generational shift that have nothing to do with worrying about “safety”.

  64. E March 15, 2016 at 9:42 am #


    I bet someone could judge us because we have a king size bed, when my parents had a full most of their married life and only moved to a queen size when they’d been married about 25 years. Someone could probably say that my relationship is less [something] because we wanted a king size bed, and of course a bedroom large enough to have it. LOL.

    Baloney. We realized we sleep better in a king size bed. It’s valuable *to us*. And that’s all that really matters. 🙂

  65. Nina March 15, 2016 at 10:56 am #

    Looking at houses for sale here (Canada), I never saw a separate dining room. The whole ground flour is an open space where the dining table stands somewhere. The kitchen may be symbolically separated by kind of a divider, but no solid walls, no doors. Is it a US thing to divide ground floor into rooms?
    I grew up in an all-purpose room in a tiny apartment. Converting from kid bedroom/playroom to dining room and back was easy, using folding furniture and a drawer to hide toys in. I don’t know why it must be one-or-another for house owners.

  66. Katie March 15, 2016 at 1:10 pm #

    @ eevee

    I’d also add that if you want to live by a metro station in Northern Virginia (where the quote came from) or other good public transit options, than you aren’t going to have a large yard unless you can afford a 1.5 to 2 million dollar house. And by large I’m talking about less than 1/2 an acre which is probably not large by some peoples standards from what I am reading here.

  67. Warren March 16, 2016 at 11:37 pm #


    Who wants to live near a metro station, or near any public transportation. So much nicer having room to roam, and having the choice of two trucks, suv or car to go into town with. Might even fire up an atv or snowmobile to go to the local general store. Or even just crank up the snowmobile to race around and burn 5 or so gallons of gas, just for no other reason than I know it bothers you.

  68. andy March 19, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    @Warren I love a good vine or beer with friends, so public transport is strong preference. With friends means everyone can drink, no designated victim on water.

    And I like to walk to the store, read book or play game on phone while going to work when it is rainy or cold. I bike when it is good weather and long distance would prevent that too. I like driving and drive sometimes just for pleasure, but I prefer it to be optional instead of necessity.