My neighborhood kids love playing outside — but it’s disrupting my work. Help!

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Quiet Please Enamel Pin by Punkypins

Christina asks:

Hello Offbeat-ers! I’m having a little problem with my neighbours. (I’m Canadian… my neighbours get a “u.”) I’m curious what you might suggest for me.

Our backdoor neighbours have a little parking lot for their backyard, and gangs of kids play there almost non-stop in the summertime. These dozen kids or so SCREAM, yell, laugh, bang basketballs and soccer balls around, and generally have a great kid time.

But it’s all day. And I work from home. So in scorching, non-AC, 35C (95F) weather, I’m closing my windows to shut out the screaming so I can get some work done. What is an acceptable level of noise for playing kids? Is it fair to swing by to ask the neighbours to keep it down for at least some of the time?

Comments on My neighborhood kids love playing outside — but it’s disrupting my work. Help!

  1. My childhood home was on a street nicknamed “diaper alley”, so there were always oodles of kids around, especially in the summer. Whenever a new baby was born, i can remember the mums sometimes coming around, and asking us kids to keep it down during naptime. We were a pretty close neighbourhood, so it was a request we were used to (and most of the mums knew each other from their baby-sitting co-op). However, how a mum approached the kids made a huge differents in how us kids reacted to or honoured her request. We would keep quiet for a ‘meanie mummy’, but would do so very begrudgingly. Mums who brought out baked goods or lemonade or watermelon? They were loved, and it never felt like a big deal to head to the park or out on or bikes for a few hours. Food is an awesome way to help your cause…same goes for showing that you appreciate the fact that the kids ARE playing outside in the first place! I can still remember the summer someone bought a community bucket of chalk, bubbles, and other (quiet) summer toys. A little kindness and a little demonstration that you also like to have fun goes a long way.

    • Yes, of course…bring the cookies to the noisy inconsiderate kids..sure they will understand and become outstanding citizens in the future knowing that they can do whatever they want and asking them to respect others is costly.

  2. What about a local university/college library? I don’t know how it is in Canada. As a Uni student in Australia, I’ve studied in other university libraries with no one asking me to leave. I walk on in, find a nice spot in the quiet study zone and park myself down for a while. As universities tend to be open for summer units as well, there was only two weeks over the Christmas/new year break that the library wasn’t open (which marks the start/end of uni here).

    This was particularly awesome in summer as my house as no a/c, but the uni libraries are pumping out the cold air! I even had to bring a jumper.

  3. i think this might be a case where you just have to get over it. sorry. i understand. i work from home & in my last place kids played very loudly & sometimes walked into my apartment if i forgot to lock it. lol they wanted to see my kitties. 😛 but they are kids having fun. surely an office would have many of the same issues – annoying cube mate or creepy weirdo constantly asking you to go out…

    maybe consider noise canceling headphones (wireless would be best), a fan, or maybe the ac if it’s absolutely killing you.

    now, if they were doing this loud & late at night, that’s different, but children playing during the day is completely acceptable & (like other commenters are saying) it’s so much healthier than how we normally see kids today. so, consider it your little sacrifice & brain storm some ideas.

    & get back to us on what you did. 🙂

  4. Tough one… have you tried ear plugs? I used them when I was writing my diploma thesis and there was construction work right in front of my flat going on… worked just fine.

  5. I guess I’m in the minority but I think you’re entitled to ask them to keep it down a little. Yes, kids playing outside is great, but if they’re being *excessively* noisy (as opposed to just general kid-noise) then I don’t see any problem in asking them to quiet down a little. Parents tend to block out their own kids noise so perhaps their parents don’t realise how distracting it can be for their neighbours.

    The key here is in balancing the neighbourhood kids’ need to play outside with Christina’s need for some quiet work time. Neither should have to completely give their need up for the other, but between them they should be able to compromise.

    If I were Christina I would try and make an effort to be friendly and get to know the parents first. And then be super polite and willing to compromise. If you can get on friendly terms with the parents, then asking them to get their kids to keep it down for an hour or so while you do phone calls is less likely to be seen as an attack on their kids right to play and/or their parenting skills and more a neighbourly request that they’re more likely to respond to.

    Of course, you can be as nice as you want and they still may refuse to help you out. Do you rent? Is there some kind of neighbourhood association group or anything? If the polite route fails, you may have to go to the landlord or someone similar.

  6. We have the same issue in our new neighborhood. We live on a low-traffic street, and our neighbors across the street have a basketball hoop — so kids are basically playing in front of our house all day long. It makes my husband nuts. Me, I like it; it’s a huge improvement over our old neighborhood, where the noise was passing cars, shouting drunk college kids, and fighting couples.

    Our solution to the relatively pleasant noise of children playing? Blasting our own loud (but mellow) music. You’d be surprised how much some high-volume jazz can make you forget about other ambient noise.

  7. This was my move after 10 years of lifeguarding and summer camp work (for my sanity and for the parents and infants around):

    “Whoa! Is everyone okay out here? …Oh, I thought someone was hurt or in danger because of the screaming! Try to save the screaming for when you need help.”

    You might need to do it two or three times the first week, but they’ll get the picture- and you’ll be passing on a Life Lesson!

    *I realize this might not work due to language barriers, but it’s worth a shot!

  8. Here’s another idea — is there anything you can do to your office to absorb or muffle the noise?

    I design corporate offices, and sound is always a HUGE problem. Here are some tricks of the trade to help keep things quieter:

    1. Soft Materials absorb noise. Thick carpets, wall-hung tapestries, curtains, comfy furnishings, fabric artwork — all these things can help quiet things down.

    2. Mix up your layout. Instead of facing the window, keep your back to it; or, place your desk as far away from the window as possible (sounds dumb, but it can help).

    3. How much space do you have outside your window? Trees and bushes can help absorb sound (and, if you have a lot of space, can act as a barrier).

    Talk to the kids about the screaming, since little will block that out… but these things can help reduce how much ‘general playing’ you hear. Plus, it’s a fun excuse to decorate and spruce things up (which can be pretty *and* good for productivity! :D)

  9. Our apartment is right across from an elementary school, so during recess we get the same thing. I just deal with it since it’s only for a few hours a day, but it would drive me crazy if it happened all the time. The general playing noise doesn’t bother me (actually, it’s kind of sweet) but the screaming… WHY do they always have to scream?!? I don’t have any advice, unfortunately, just sympathy.

  10. Yeah….. my siblings and I were the ones who were always getting yelled at by our elderly neighbors. It’s not like it really harmed us, but I can tell you that once we grew up, there was a lot of animosity in the neighborhood. I think its okay to say, ‘Please don’t scream like that, it makes me think that you’re hurt.’ But otherwise, I’d recommend simplynoise.com or noise cancelling headphones.

  11. Agree with the other comments that suggest white noise machine, library, coffee shop, noise reduction headphones. If you dont live in buttfuckistan middle of nowhere, you have to expect, tolerate, and deal with ambient city noises such as kids, loud car stereos, barking dogs, leaf blowers, garbage trucks, lawn mowers, etc. Unless its before like, 8 am or after, say 10pm, noises will just be something you have to put up with. You can always ask your neighbors. My parents told me not to scream unless it was an emergency. But those parents are probably so glad their kids are out of their hair and getting their wildness out, outside of their house that they will probably just tell you that they can try, but I doubt they will actually enforce it.

    You could see about paying them a few bucks to shut up, though. That might work.

  12. But I would like to add also that I hate fucking ice cream trucks and wish they were illegal.

  13. I love hearing and seeing children play outside but its hard to get work done sometimes. We live in a downstairs apartment with 4 kids upstairs. I wouldnt mind the children so much but they are rude. They have thrown pop bottles on our deck spit gum on our steps. Since the moved in we have had a problem with garbage. They throw it on the ground and their parents dont care. Ive spoken to them a few times but nothing has ever happened.

    When I need to get work done I go to the local library. Its always quiet and cool. But if its not to hot outside I go to some of the parks and sit away from everyone in the shade. Occasionally work at the coffee shop. Sometimes it takes time to find the right solution! I hope everyones advice has helped:)

  14. No one was asking them not to play. They are asking them not to behave like little, inconsiderate monsters. Screaming is also dangerous because if a pedophile snatches one of these kids, no one would know because of their constant screaming. Everyone would just assume they were playing.

    That is the issue the parents should be worried about. The screaming actually endangers the children because if the children call out for help they will certainly be ignored.

      • No, I fully agree with you too.Just had a conflict with a neighbour who asked me not to mow the lawn at 9.30 I never do this usually) I told her that she could than take care not to have her kids and all their friends scream their lungs out in the swimming pool 6 hours a day .its madness.

  15. Hi, I have children playing for a bout 12 hours a day during to summer, I have tried noise cancelling headphone, ear plugs turning to tv up but nothing helps, I won’t to move but have no-where else to move to. Any suggestions gratefully received.

  16. Boy does this hit home. I’m in a complex now with 120 units each one of which seems to have one or more of these demented little Chuckie dolls running around screaming, screaming, screaming. I’m actually revolted by the apologists who advise you to cave in. YOU are NOT the one with the problem – you’re not. The kids should go to a playground or designated area where they do not annoy others. Don’t be forced to leave your home, buy earplugs, and -dear God – be forced to install noise-stifling bushes. And where will you hold your conference calls. These apologists need to see the other side of parenting. BYW there is a “Childfree” website that can give you lots of help. You are not alone.

    • haha this is the best answer, beautiful I fully agree with you haha chucky dolls….they are awful!

  17. I love children and I am a mom! I am at the other side also a woman that is disabled and can not work a job outside of my home. This means that I work from home, and my home office HAS to be similar to a professional office outside my home. While working, I can NOT be disturbed by my own family, I have to put my own dogs away and this includes my service dogs since the dog may bark to alert me. Since Christmas day, I have a problem. My neighbor, who lives in the apartment across mine, bought for his 4 children as a gift a huge trampoline. They do NOT have a private backyard where the trampoline could fit in, but they placed it in the community front yard. My microphone is so sensitive, that it records all the noise from the outside playing children. It is just a matter of time, for me to get my first warning, and/or find myself fired! This is heartbreaking, I do not want to be THAT woman that spoiled the fun of this children! Still, I can not understand, how parents did NOT choose something different to give.

  18. I used to work 3rd shift, and our upstairs neighbors (no u) I swear used to jump off of their bunk beds and scream like they were getting ax murdered. I went upstairs, brought some cookies, and met them. Lovely people, they just didn’t realize their two kids (and evidently off-balance dryer) were like, right over my bed and the ceiling/floor combo was less than ideal. We came up with a good solution that worked for both of us, in my situation some decently placed sound proofing and adjusted sleep hours and their assurances of no kiddo shenanigans right when I was coming home/going to bed. So yes, it’s reasonable for you to talk to them (ask the kids first if they are old enough, parents second if there’s no changes in the blood curdling murder cries), but you might have to also come up with some concessions as well.

  19. I didn’t read all the comments (they got weird) so I apologise of this has been suggested but for $150-250 you could have BOSS noise canceling headphones with which to listen to music/podcasts or a window AC unit. To me, particularly if your a long term neighbor and they are too the cost would be worth it to avoid making a nasty neighbor situation.

  20. The kids are back in school now, but here’s something to keep in mind for next summer: Why are there so many kids at one house every day? Are they running an unauthorized daycare center? If the parent is paid to watch 10 or so of these kids, they probably need a permit, inspections and maybe to live in an area zoned for daycare/business. Maybe the kids should rotate houses. It’s not fair to you to have to leave your home every day because of these screaming kids. There’s a difference between SCREAMING children and children playing. They can play without screaming. Are they violating any noise ordinances? Where I live there’s a code thay states you cannot disrupt the peaceful enjoyment of another’s home. You can download a decibal meter to your phone and see how loud they actually are if the code in your area states below a certain decibal level. You shouldn’t have your work life damaged so someone else can profit with their unauthorized daycare center at your expense, which is possibly what’s going on. If it’s just friends playing every day at the same house, they need to keep it down/stop screaming or find somewhere else to scream, around someone who doesn’t mind, wich is you, if you don’t say anything. Maybe they’ve moved houses each time someone complained and your neighbour thinks you must not mind because you’re not complaining. I think the adults are either oblivious or taking advantage of your niceness.

  21. You people are pathetic to think kids screaming, yelling, basketball bouncing, big wheels roaring, and loud crying is acceptable. It reeks of inconsiderate, enabling parents of chaos. I live in a condo community that has echoing alleyways, where rows of garage doors sit 20 ft across ea other, where cars enter and exit from. My doors and windows, and balcony sit 30 ft away. The problem really isn’t w/ the kids, it’s the parents; they are entitled, and inconsiderate. Rather than taking their kids 300 yards to the community playground, they opt to infringe on other residents, letting their kids go noise crazy at our expense. It’s maddening to think that adult posters here think leaving your home, getting head phones or any other tactic is a solution; you people are ridiculous. If your hypocritical neighbors don’t like it when you cut your grass at 9:30am, then they have issues beyond managing their screaming kids.

    I have told my association about this and so far nothing doing; the community CC&R’s have a nuisance clause too. The noise from the echo gives me a pounding headache, and I’m not going to accept these kids and their narcissistic parents dictating abnormal noise levels in my home. I have asked the parents to go to the playground, but nothing doing, remember, their entitled. My solution is to combat noise for noise; I blast heavy metal devil music from my boom box, from my balcony, facing the alleyway, which floods them out, scares them away–oh, the consternation. Think it’s mean; well, chuck you farley, my sanity is more important. Whenever it gets noisy and the sound of entitlement is in the air, I blast away w/ out a care. You want noise, you got it.

  22. I can REALLY relate to this frustration. What I’m about to share is coming from the perspective of a mom of two kids who is a former elementary school teacher. Basically, children are typically willing to obey whatever rules their parents (or adults in authority) provide for them. When I was a classroom teacher and I took my class of 20+ kids to the playground, they could run and laugh and play and just be kids. The sounds of their laughter was a joy to me because I knew they were using their imaginations and having fun! If they started to scream out of control just for the heck of it, I usually gave them a polite reminder that other kids were still inside the school building trying to work and could they please keep the noise level down — and they almost always complied. They had a good time and they were respectful at the same time.

    In many neighborhoods, kids are not given appropriate boundaries by their parents/caregivers. I am currently experiencing this same problem at my house. We live on a cul-de-sac and some neighbors across the street are providing some kind of daycare service during the school closure for the virus. The kids are indoors most of the day for virtual school but once 3:15 rolls around, they come running outside and scream and yell at the top of their lungs. While it’s probably very refreshing for them to be outside, they are VERY loud and obnoxious. Clearly, no adult in the home has bothered to tell them to keep their voices down a little bit more so they won’t disturb their neighbors. And I’m not surprised; the parents themselves can be a bit noisy and loud at times.

    It frustrates me most to see situations like this because it really isn’t the children’s fault, but rather a failure of the adults in their lives who don’t bother to teach them simple respect for others. Yes, get out and be a kid and have fun, but you can do it without yelling at the top of your lungs and causing other people to wonder if you’re being attacked or you’re safe. To give an idea of how loud these particular neighbor kids are, I’d say the decibels of their noise is equivalent to my classroom of 20+ kids on a playground (but there are just 3 of them). My own kids (ages 8 and 4) get annoyed, and these are kids whom I’ve taught repeatedly in their younger years NOT to annoy their neighbors by screaming. It is very frustrating that I’ve spent my energies trying to teach my own children proper manners and other parents don’t bother to do the same. Really frustrating!! I would tell my kids that they should save screaming and yelling for EMERGENCIES (ie. someone is trying to kidnap you!) and not for just simple playing. My kids aren’t perfect, either, but the fact that these neighbor kids distract them and annoy them is definitely an indicator as to how bad it is.

    I’m not a confrontational person, and although I HATE the noise level every afternoon, I figure it’s better to do nothing for the time being. I doubt these kids’ caregivers will be understanding since they themselves can be loud. And it’s only for maybe 1-2 hours a day, and these kids do (eventually) go inside after that (I have no idea when their parents pick them up for the day… to be honest, I have no idea whether these kids are temporarily living there or going home every night — I just know they weren’t there when the family first moved in). I figure that eventually, schools will reopen and these kids will be gone. So I figure we all just have to tough it out until they go back to school…. and then hopefully things will be peaceful again. (FYI, my kids have always been homeschooled, so that is yet another reason why they find these noisy neighbor kids a distraction… we miss our QUIET neighborhood during the school year!). Ugh. I miss the old neighbors who used to live in that house — no kids but very friendly and NEVER noisy and always kind and respectful to others!

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