To those of us who think of childhood summers as carefree times for neighborhood fun, free of schedules and direct adult authority, children have no summers anymore.

Sure, school still ends every June and the weather still gets hot (hopefully), but neighborhoods are no longer filled with children’s yelps and laughter on summer days. In fact, for the most part, they’re completely dead, as dead as they are during school days in the winter.

Of all the unfortunate aspects of childhood in 21st Century America, this fact depresses me more than anything else.

So, some other parents and I are fighting back. We’re running neighborhood summer camps to change the culture of our neighborhoods. For one week or two, every morning, we’re gathering neighborhood kids to play together.

If we’re successful, the kids will get comfortable enough playing with each other to do it again on their own. They’ll keep playing when the day at camp is over. They’ll start ringing each other’s doors. Someday, maybe, just maybe, they’ll pass whole summer days together playing, discovering, and learning.

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For more info on running a neighborhood summer camp yourself, visit Playborhood.com.

We’re thrilled to introduce our new weekly contributor Mike Lanza, founder of Playborhood, a blog (and soon-to-be-released book) that shows parents how to give their children a life of neighborhood play. Mike writes about how he’s done this for his three boys, ages 7, 3-1/2, and 2, in his Menlo Park, CA neighborhood, and he also writes about other playful neighborhoods throughout the US. You can email him with questions.