Who says you need a yard to raise kids?!

Guest post by Deonn Hunt

So much to see!
So much to see!
“But what about a yard?” is the constant response when we tell people that we have ditched our suburban condo in favor of our new downtown digs.

“What will the kids do without a yard?”

We lived in Issaquah (a suburb of Seattle) for two years. We had a little shared lawn that backed onto a greenbelt. It would flood when it rained and by the time the summer sun dried it out fall would be upon us and our soggy, spongy, little yard would turn to veritable swampland complete with swarms of hungry mosquitoes.

The only time we spent any time in our yard was when it froze over last December.

We were excited to share our news and thrilled that we’d found an affordable place in downtown Seattle with fabulous amenities. I was surprised by the negative feedback I received for moving our little family of four downtown.

“What do the kids do without a yard?”

My one year old and I walk to Pike Place Market every day and the vendors have come to know us. They play peek-a-boo with my daughter and give us free samplings of new and interesting foods. She squeals in delight as the pigeons eat the piroshky crumbs she’s dropped.

She lost her favorite toy rat among the hoards of market tourists and the next day one of the produce guys followed after us yelling “We found your rat, there is only one baby I know who chews the face on a rat!”

We get my 7 year old stepson on the weekends and, while he is super excited about the pool, sport court and walk to Gameworks, his favorite activity thus far has been dropping the garbage down the 10th floor garbage shoot.

He chases down pigeons and waves to the Ride the Duck passengers. He proudly announces “They ALWAYS wave back to me”

He likes to play elevator operator and counts the different colored taxis from our deck. We run out to Hammering Man and tell him we hope his rotator cuff gets fixed soon.

Saturday mornings our family runs through the rain to get fresh made donuts at the market. In nicer weather we trek up to Top Pot Doughnuts and watch the monorail go by over our heads.

But no…we don’t have a yard.

The city is our playground.

We live in an apartment, we have children, and we don’t have a yard.

I love it!

Comments on Who says you need a yard to raise kids?!

  1. I moved my son from the burbs to downtown Cleveland and it was the best decision of my life. Instead of spending time driving back and forth, I have more time with my son! We romp around the city, bowling, going to see movies, taking walks on the lake side park- just like any other city dweller… but I have the best company ever. My son!

    • Yeah! Downtown Cleveland! I'm so glad to hear that. That's where we plan to stay and raise our family!

  2. what a great post! cities are great places to raise kids — so much to see, learn, taste, try, and experiment with. glad you're making it work for you.

  3. We're leaving our in-town apartment for a house near the edge of our town (which is only about 7 miles from the downtown area) because our 5yo son does need a yard in which to play. Apartment living has not worked well for him. In fact, the lack of outdoor play space in which to roam has been a detriment to him. We've done all the things (and more) that previous commenters have mentioned — taken him to parks, museums, cafes and coffee shops — but in his case those things have not made up for the fact that he needs (and wants) outdoor space of his own. This isn't the case for every family, but for us, in-town apartment life does not work and we're gladly giving up our proximity to 'everything'.

    And while I understand the who-needs-a-yard argument (one that we made for years), I caution anyone against assuming that one thing or the other (house with a yard or an apartment/condo) will be 'right' for their child if their child is only a baby (or not yet born). There are some things that you just don't know and can't anticipate, so like any other parenting issue, it's best to be flexible.

    • I absolutely hear this! You'll notice that I closed my comment with "For us, for now…" which is my way of recognizing that we have NO IDEA how long it'll work and that a lot of that depends on our son. I think "for us, for now" is kind of my pre-parenting mantra … because what works now may not work later, and what works for us may not work for others.

  4. Funny. I just spent a week in Issaquah, with friends of ours who have a 13 month old. They are planning to move within the next two years because my friend is sick of driving 20 minutes to just run a basic errand. My husband and I personally loved Issaquah but I definitely understand how my friend feels. Where we live now, in the Bronx, I have a lot of things within walking distance but I still have to drive to do other things that are not available in my neighborhood.
    I grew up in the suburbs, with a huge backyard and for a long time, I wanted the same thing for my daughter but now, I'm not so sure… especially in the interest of lowing my carbon footprint!

  5. my husband and i, expecting out first child in april, have made the difficult decision to remain in our small condo within walking distance of "main street". as a couple we love the space and the area – who doesn't love being able to stumble home from the bar at 2:30 am? as parents we thought better. but the economy, our struggle to simply get pre-approved for a mortgage (through no fault of our own, just the new "process") and housing prices that still remain unaffordable in our part of the country have forced us to stay put. seeing that it's not the ideal situation for us, we have started looking at our place in a whole different way – attempting to stay positive by reimagining what it means to live here. now, instead of preparing the condo to sell it, we will be preparing it for a new chapter. and as ariel said, for us for now it really is absolutely worth it.

    • This is a big factor for us as well.

      But part of me feels like parents have been raising children in small urban spaces for hundreds of years. NYC, Tokyo, Paris … it makes me wonder how the suburban vision of family life & home became the default.

  6. Thank you for this article!
    My husband and I are trying to get pregnant now and planning on moving to downtown Denver in about a year.
    We are city people and hopefully our baby will be too. 😉
    I'm glad to see that other families are making it work.

  7. We currently live in a downtown area and only have a small patch of lawn, but I find we're in the ideal spot for the lifestyle we have. We're a ten minute walk from my son's school, a minute walk from bus stops, have a beautiful renovated park and community garden complete with duck pond at the end our street and are fortunate enough to lots of trees and nature surrounding us. Neither my husband nor I drive so we literally walk everywhere and living anywhere else but downtown wouldn't be practical right now. My son and I have lived in various different homes (big house in the suburbs, small apartment with no yard, a flat with a patch of yard, and a 4-plex with a tiny patch of yard) and I found what works for him is getting fresh air (not hard when you have to walk everywhere) going on nature adventures, and letting him bring nature in the house (sticks, leaves, rock collection.) But everybody's different and the most important thing to consider is working with the lifestyle that you have and seeing what works best for you and your family

  8. i love this post! Kristel, who commented earlier, shared the link with me. My husband and I are also planning to move to Denver by 2011 as well. Raising a child in a city with no "yard to their own" does make me a tad bit anxious but then I get back into reality and wonder what child needs their own yard? Especially with all the parks in Denver and with that comes opportunity for a child (and me) to meet lots of people! We do not have any children as of yet but will definitely at some point be raising our children in downtown Denver-and it is exciting!
    I am so glad that your family has embraced city life for your children! And I'm glad your daughter's rat was found : )

  9. Yeah, when we gave up our 3br house a couple years back, our friends who knew we were planning to start a family were like "But why would you give up the yard?"

    My question back is, "Did my yard have a 1 acre playground with a wading pool? Did it have a conservatory or a museum? Were there concerts in my back yard? Was there a family-friendly cafe? Because Volunteer Park [10 blocks from our house] has ALL THOSE THINGS … plus wonderful neighbors."

    Plus, I think being able to walk everywhere with the baby is going to really help with any feelings of post-partum isolation and depression.

    Yes, there are sacrifices with urban living (wait until y'all see our walk-in closet/nursery later today!), but for us for now, it absolutely feels worth it.

  10. Glorious! I live in Seattle, and love to hear it talked about with joy and enthusiasm. I really do think it’s a great city– and my love for Pike Place and Top Pot cannot be rivalled.

  11. OMG! I couldn’t agree more! When we brought our son home a year and a half ago (then 6, so able to play in a yard), we moved from our apartment in Capitol Hill down to the far reaches of the south end and it was miserable. Our son was never in the yard, and preferred trips to Capitol Hill where all the excitement is. After one year, we moved back into an apartment on the hill, and we’re home. There are many, many more exciting things going on just outside our building than there were in our yard down south. Besides, walking to all of them all the time is more healthy for our family than driving to all of them was a year ago.

  12. This makes me miss the city. I’m in a small town now with lots of opportunities for hiking, boating and the like, but I think my kid might be just as well off in the city. There is such a variety of experiences to be had there. Here if I want to go for a walk, it’s dirty sidewalk-less streets and cookie-cutter houses. In the city it’s street performers, farmers market, great parks and art galleries.

  13. I’m so glad you’re making it work! I live in Capitol Hill (Seattle) at the moment, and one thing that struck me when we moved here (from Buffalo, NY) is how few children were in our neighborhood. Finding out that 84% of households in Seattle are childless did not surprise me, and noticing the lack of amenities in our urban locale (changing tables in bathrooms, for instance) in addition to some open hostility towards kids in our neighborhood that I’ve seen… I am so happy for you because it’s not the urban density that has made me rethink living here, or the lack of yard… it is the lack of general accommodation for kids that I’ve been seeing. Reading your article gives me hope.

  14. I love this! Before we found out that our baby was actually a tumor (partial molar pregnancy) we moved into a new apartment to have more space. My husband in particular kept having coworkers respond to him describing our new in-town apartment by saying “Oh, that’s great since you don’t have kids, you can be downtown and near everything!” As if having kids means you automatically must move to the boonies. We live 2 blocks away from the best park in Portland, and within a 10 minute walk of downtown and everything fun there is to do. When we eventually try again, this will be a great place to live for the three of us. Cheers to the city life!

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