Stuart Brown says play makes kids happier, healthier, and better students, but how can parents make that happen in a stressed-out, overscheduled world? I talked with Brown earlier this week about his new book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (Avery, $24.95). Since then, readers have weighed in with resources that can help parents bring more play into their children's lives at school, at home, and in the neighborhood. (I just checked on efforts to mandate more recess time, and it's clearly not getting much traction. Lawmakers in Maine are pondering at least two unstructured recess periods for elementary students, but they're in the minority.) Here are a few sites worth checking out:
- Sports4Kids.org, a nonprofit in Oakland, Calif., trains recess supervisors who teach kids how to play four square and other active games rather than spend playground time gossiping or bullying. The organization has programs in 170 schools across the country.
- Mike Lanza created Playborhood.com to help parents explore how they can use their whole neighborhood as a play zone. "How do we make neighborhood play happen?" Lanza, a dad of two preschool boys in Menlo Park, Calif., asks me. "Go out, walk the neighborhood, find out what's there, and appreciate it." He's changing his front yard to make it a social hangout for the neighborhood, with a whiteboard along the fence, a fountain, a sandbox, projected photos and videos, and a basketball hoop. (Check out his inspiring photos of Mark Lakeman's "Share-It Square" program in Portland, Ore.)
- The Alliance for Childhood promotes "adventure playgrounds," in which kids make their own play spaces with simple materials such as sticks, ropes, and boxes. Its website includes a nifty fact sheet on healthy play that includes listings of adventure playgrounds around the country.
- The No Child Left Inside Coalition lobbies Congress for increased funding for environmental education programs.
- Play doesn't need a playground. The Children and Nature Network was founded by Richard Louv, whose book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder argues that children's lack of contact with nature is making them fat, depressed, and miserable. The network's site includes a parents' kit for launching a local nature club, which could be as simple as getting moms out with strollers in a woodsy park.
Do you know other ways people are working to bring play back into children's lives? Please let me know!
- Here's my 10 reasons why play can make you happier, healthier, and more productive (grown-ups included).