We all know that where we live has a huge impact on how we live. Proximity to friends and family, availability of public transit, the average price of gas and groceries, noise levels, dog parks…these things all add up to a total lived experience that influences how you feel about (and behave within) your neighbourhood. But did you know that your neighbourhood can also influence how your child learns? It's true! Highly "walkability" scores and high academic performance are co-related. This does not mean that a walkable neighbourhood guarantees high academic test scores or good performance in school, but certain factors associated with walkable neighbourhoods are also associated with academic performance: high household income, established neighbourhoods, and healthy groceries readily available. So when you're thinking of moving, how can your move best benefit your child and her academic performance? First, give her opportunities for regular exercise. This can mean living near a park, or within walking distance of school, or making time for her to participate in team activities like sports, dance, or martial arts at the local community centre. According to the New York Times:
“a growing body of evidence” suggests children who are more active are better able to focus their attention, are quicker to perform simple tasks, and have better working memories and problem solving skills than less-active children. They also perform better on standardized academic tests.
Second, make sure that library services are easily accessible. You may feel fine driving your toddler that extra distance to a nearby library for story time, but you won't be so keen on it when your munchkin hits middle school. Thinking ahead and buying near a library ensures that your child will always have a place to study and professionals to help him with research. It also ensures that your kids will have neutral places to meet classmates and get homework or projects done without the distractions of video games, Netflix, pets, siblings, or too many snacks. Further, cultivating and making space for a home library is important -- especially for that last minute work or forgotten assignment. So don't skimp on those built-ins; you're investing in your child's future. If walking sounds central to these ideas, that's because it is. It's tempting to check out homes and neighbourhoods on services like Google Earth, where everything seems instantly visible, but neighbourhoods are about more than what they look like on a map. You may not have a true sense of distance or scale until you've walked around the area. So, when attending open houses, make sure to walk around them and see what you can find. Include your kids. Imagine how much time would be spent outside, and how much in the car. Would you feel safe letting your kids bike to and from school? Would they? Take the time to discuss it. Remember: buying a home also means investing in a neighbourhood. This doesn't mean the entire neighbourhood should be perfect before you buy there -- if it were, the owners wouldn't be putting their property up for sale -- but a beautiful kitchen can't always compensate for a long commute to and from school.