play

The child as an indicator species for cities: reflections on Philadelphia

An interesting version of “the canary in the coal mine”, and I’m using that analogy intentionally as an indication of the severity and seriousness of the topic.

Rethinking Childhood

This post starts by sharing an op-ed piece of mine published in the Philadelphia Enquirer last week to coincide with my trip to the city. It is followed by a postscript with reflections on the visit. I’ve also inserted images of some of the parks I saw.

Spruce Street Harbor Park Spruce Street Harbor Park

Imagine you take a time machine trip to 2037. You step out and start to explore your city. What sights and sounds would convince you that the Philly of the future was thriving?

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play

Designing Streets for Play – Research and Observation – Playing Out

Creating friendly streets is vital for proper child development, physical health and well-being for all, and safer communities

Rethinking Childhood

cover of Helen Forman literature review on residential street design published by Playing OutThis is a quick share of a very useful report pulling together key research and other material on designing streets for play. The report was written for the campaigning group Playing Out by Helen Forman, an architect in the housing field and volunteer activator for the group.

I have long argued that making residential streets more child-friendly is crucial to expanding their everyday freedoms. This literature review is an essential resource for anyone who shares this view. Just click here to download a copy.

Helen’s blog post on the report is below.

There’s a house on a corner near where I live in suburban Leeds that makes me happy nearly every time I pass it. Not because it’s anything special architecturally, but because there are almost always children playing in the street outside. Further into town there’s a Victorian terrace, where cycling past once I smiled as I …

Source: Designing…

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behavior · brain · community · health · mental health · Nature

Vermont Physicians Will be Prescribing Day Passes to State Parks – Champlain Valley News

Healthcare providers already recommend this in Japan and Korea, so glad to see it getting picked up in North America too.

vt20gov20council20photo201_1496178303788_22174713_ver1-0_640_360
Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine writes a prescription for exercise for a patient at Northwestern Medical Center. Photo: Vermont Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports

This summer, Vermont physicians will be prescribing active play in Vermont State Parks to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent chronic health issues.

The Vermont Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports along with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation gave doctors free day passes to state parks to give to patients.

These “prescriptions” follow the principles of Exercise in Medicine (EiM), a global health initiative to promote physical activity.

In some ways this is just a promotion for Vermont’s state parks, but so what?! In an era when we are taking less vacation, park budgets are being slashed and use is being restricted in other ways, including parks potentially being shut down permanently, this is a great way to encourage people to get out into nature and just breathe fresh air, stretch their bodies, and move!

“Studies have demonstrated that outdoor exercise is associated with increased energy and revitalization and decreased depression and tension,” said Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine, a physician at Northwestern Medical Center and a member of the VT Governor’s Council.

“The sun also helps to create through your skin Vitamin D3, which is important for bone health and metabolic function,” Dr. Fontaine continued.

In addition to handing out state park pass prescriptions, the VT Governor’s Council is also encouraging doctors to talk with patients about the importance of exercise.

“The Park Prescription program is a perfect way to highlight the connection between outdoor recreation and personal health. Spending time outdoors, connecting with nature and being active all help keep us strong in both body and spirit,” said Director of Vermont State Parks Craig Whipple.

“And state parks offer the ideal settings for valuable outdoor time,” Whipple added.

For more information, visit www.vtstateparks.com.

behavior · creativity · culture · environment · happiness · play

Karyn Lu: People & Places of Play – Creative Mornings Talk

This is an older talk, from 2013, but I loved seeing Karyn’s talk for Creative Mornings that discussed the value of adult play, providing some examples and play/art projects I hadn’t seen before, and especially in the Q&A section providing tips on how to become a play advocate in your 9-5 corporate job.

Check it out here:

Thank you to Creative Mornings for capturing this talk and sharing it publicly for everyone.

behavior · community · creativity · environment · happiness · health · play · Social

The 30-Day Tree Climbing Challenge is on!

I don’t normally promote my husband Rafe Kelley’s work with Evolve Move Play all that much, but this challenge is too good to pass up.

Starting on Arbor Day (but you can really start any time), Rafe is inviting people to climb a tree for 30 days, and tag their friends to climb three trees or donate to the Arbor Day Foundation, or plant a tree! Use the hashtag #treeclimb30 to tag your posts.

Rafe is doing this for many reasons, including…

  1. Promote outdoor physical play and movement,
  2. Foster a love of trees and the outdoors,
  3. Get people playing in their local communities,
  4. Remind people that it’s okay to climb trees, and
  5. To have fun!

This is an international push, bringing in participants from Europe as well, including certified Evolve Move Play (EMP) coach Ben Medder, based just outside of London (UK).

He is also trying to motivate participating with prizes, so stay tuned to his channels for more details:

So get out there, climb a tree (or plant a tree), tag a friend, and get moving!

play

A rare glimpse into a messy oasis of adventure play

Great couple of showcases about playing outside and letting kids explore with various materials, their bodies, and just letting them get messy. 🙂

Rethinking Childhood

Adventure play is enjoying a moment. And at the centre of this is The Land, an adventure playground in Wrexham, North Wales. So it is great to see a 14-minute documentary feature on The Land – from US filmmaker Erin Davis – being made freely available online. Click on the image below to watch it.

The Land video screengrab

It was Hanna Rosin’s 2014 Atlantic magazine cover story ‘The Overprotected Kid’ that thrust The Land into the public eye. It also features prominently in the new book Messy by Tim Harford, writer and self-styled ‘undercover economist’ (and front man for one of my favourite BBC Radio 4 shows, More or Less). Harford’s take is revealing:

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community · creativity · culture · design · learning · technology

Electric Sky Art Camp hosts artists, hackers, and nature lovers alike

I promise these guys are not paying me to promote this event. It just sounded cool and I thought I would share with other art, nature, and science lovers.

tubular lamp hanging from tree

Electric Sky is an art and tech weekend campathon June 8-11th 2017, bringing together artists, technologists, designers, hackers, makers, and friends to collaboratively engage with the environment in new and exciting ways. Electric Sky is a cross between an artists’ retreat and a hackathon, where you’ll spend several days in the woods, on the river, in our outdoor creativity lab, making stuff with people like you. You may arrive with well-developed ideas and half-finished projects, or you may arrive with no idea what you want to do but are game to jump in on a collaborative project.

This is a community-oriented event, and there’s plenty of space for camping, with lots to do in the area. In addition, we will have workshops appropriate for kids, so they too may experience the joys of creating with technology in the woods.

If you are excited by the idea of creating an individual or collaborative project around our theme the Wondering Woods, we invite you to apply to be a supported participating artist or creative technologist, to receive free tickets and funds to support your project.

They are taking applications for projects until May 1. Hosted in Skykomish in Western Washington. Check out the event page to learn more.

health · learning · mental health · Social

How the cost of daycare and ineffective regulations are bad for businesses

Preface to anyone who has children in a corporate-owned daycare that could be encompassed in the below description: I in no way mean to critique you or your child-rearing decisions, I am criticizing the system that has built up around these behemoth corporations that are more interested in making money rather than caring for kids.

Kids play outside with a throwable computer
In Washington State, small in-home day-cares are getting pushed out of business.

The push for large corporate, academics-based daycare and preschools in the U.S. to monopolize the industry and childhood development practices has gone too far!

My daycare provider this month had to bump up her prices 150% due to new regulations passed by legislators that were pushed through by big daycare corporations; supported with the sole intention of driving smaller in-home daycares like my provider’s out of business.

This kind of “pay to play” legislation is not only unethical, this particular one is supporting a system of large, low-personalization, academics-driven style of daycare that is not only inappropriate for children but downright HARMFUL to their development. Eight-month-olds do not need to be studying the alphabet! They need to be playing blocks with their friends and learning colors and counting through unstructured play time, not forced circle time and flash cards!

It is better for children to have smaller groups of kids to play together, with regular, consistent caretakers that can provide personal touch and unstructured play time.

This kind of system is also a HUGE burden on working parents. This kind of price increase – $100’s of dollars in my daycare’s case – is unmanageable for so many working families, and the high prices of childcare means that it pushes hundreds of thousands of well-educated, highly motivated parents out of the workforce during their prime working years. In-home daycares are also more flexible on hours and more understanding if a parent is 5 minutes late with pick-up.

This is also incredibly anti-small business; my daycare provider is strongly considering retirement after this last batch of legislation and required price increases, not to mention potential loss of revenue due to parents pulling their kids out of her daycare because they can’t afford it. I can only imagine other daycare providers are struggling with the same dilemma.

I support paying higher prices for higher quality child care, but this price increase is purely due to new legislations, fees, and bureaucracy that can be absorbed by larger corporations but not smaller businesses. I support safety and regulations of childcare, but not to the point where businesses are required to feed children  only cow or soy milk (yes, that is a rule in Washington State).

If the government is really interested in creating a strong, resilient, competitive workforce, AND/OR is really interested in supporting small businesses, this is NOT the way to do it!

As soon as I figure out which congress person to write to I will do it and share it here! If there is specific regulations you are aware of that are impacting costs or food options, or even play time, please comment and post them below, so when we write our emails, postcards, or angry YouTube video rants we’ll know exactly which regulations to call out as unjust.

In the meantime, please give your daycare provider a hug, no matter who they are, and let them know we care.

play

March Mammal Madness 2017: School Science Classes Watch Their Brackets | NPR

This. Is. Awesome! Students are tapping into the playful aspects of science and learning.

This is March Mammal Madness. It’s a competition that has been playing out online and in hundreds of classrooms over the past month. Real animals wage fictional battles, while students use science — a lot of it — to try to predict the winner.March Mammal Madness was created five years ago by Katie Hinde, an evolutionary biologist at Arizona State University, though now, she says, the competition depends on a whole team of volunteer scientists and conservationists: biologists, animal behaviorists, paleoanthropologists, marine biologists.Hinde’s team meets every year for a Selection Sunday of its own. Team members pick the animals that will compete and even decide who will win, though they keep it a secret. That’s because a whole lot of research has to be done.Each scientist is assigned a specific battle, then studies up and writes a battle story based on facts.

“Then the battles are live-tweeted as a dynamic, play-by-play story, much like someone would watch a basketball game,” Hinde says.

Those tweets link to scientific articles, videos, photos, fossil records — whatever the team can use to drop knowledge into the story. That’s why so many teachers, including Michelle Harris, have begun using the brackets in class.

Playing with ideas is the whole point of learning! This is absolutely something I’ve seen PhD’s do sitting around having a pint together, chatting about animal life and death scenarios. It pulls on so many skills – critical thinking, learning and retaining knowledge about science, creativity, telling a story, collaboration, and more, all under the guise of play!

My money is on the slow loris. 😉

Source: March Mammal Madness 2017: School Science Classes Watch Their Brackets : NPR Ed : NPR

behavior · emotion · mental health · Nature · psychology

Trees are like friends

My husband recently posted an ode to one of his favorite trees that sadly caught a root fungus and finally died after 4 years and was cut down slowly this winter.

He was not the only one moved by the loss of the tree. Neighbors of the park, visitors, and other movers also expressed their sadness over the loss of the tree.

It seems strange at first of mourning a tree, but this phenomenon of bonding with and becoming fond of a tree, or multiple trees, is very common, and very human. Trees provide humans food, shelter from the elements, landmarks during travel, and safety from (most) animals. But they also provide us a level of consistency and reliability in our world – that tree doesn’t go anywhere – while also marking the changing of the seasons and change over time. It provides enjoyment whether you are climbing the tree or just resting at its base. Being in or near nature, even a single tree, has profound, positive effects on our physical and mental states.

In Melbourne, Australia, a few years ago people started using the park system’s email alert system to express their fondness for some of their favorite trees.

At my daughter’s  outdoor preschool the kids have slowly been naming the trees in the park during their daily hikes – grandfather tree, silly tree, spaceship tree, and others. These names help the kids orient where they are in the park, but they also represent a kinship with the tree, a familiarity and reliability that provides consistency and joy for the kids.

When a tree dies or is cut down, we feel its loss and we mourn. It is only human.