Tag Archives: Childhood

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12 Fun Family Activities for Screen Free Week

When I speak to families about slowing down and enjoying family time, one of the things that comes up over and over is screen time. Screens dominate many of our lives, often to a greater degree than we wish. While many of us parents can attest to the addictive nature of technology, we struggle with ways to reduce it in our children’s lives.

It is perhaps a bonus, then, that the wonderful Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has proclaimed April 29 – May 5 to be Screen-Free Week. Sometimes this kind of added incentive is all we need to inspire us to action. More than once, parents have told me that their children’s favorite memories include episodes of family game nights by fire- or candlelight during power outages. You can create your own “power outage” by participating in Screen-Free Week. And, even if you don’t go completely screen-free, you might want to pledge an hour or so a day or night to have some good screen-free fun. Who knows? That fun might just become a habit or your own favorite family memory.

Here are 12 ways to celebrate Screen Free Week:

Make a Paper Boat and sail it in a creek, pond or bathtub.

Make a Bird Feeder. Our local birds have gone nuts for ours and we plan to make more.

Make easy Wreaths, Crowns and Baskets to celebrate May Day.

Enjoy Loom and Finger Weaving. You can do this anywhere!

Keep a Moon Diary as a way of observing the night sky.

Slow your pace and have a Cloud Race.

Get a jump on summer by making S’Mores. Camp under the stars if it’s warm enough.

Start a Backyard Garden.

Bake your own Soft Pretzels. These are really easy and fun.

Play a different fun board game every night. We like Boggle, Sorry, Taboo, Pictionary, Scrabble, Mancala, Masterpiece, Monopoly and Hi-Ho Cherry O.

Discover The Joy of Quiet.

And, if you’re really missing your screen? Make your own Shoebox TV!

You’ll need:

Shoebox or a square-shaped box and lid
Cardboard tubes, from paper towels, foil or plastic wrap, or wooden dowels
4-10 pieces of printer paper (8 ½ x 11”)
Drawing materials
Scissors, craft knife and tape

Cut a large opening for the TV screen into the bottom of the box, leaving an even border of 1” or more all around.

Holding the box horizontally, cut two holes on the top, each about 2” the side and 2” back from the cut-out section. Your dowels or cardboard tubes should fit into the holes.

Cut two bottom holes that line up with the top ones.

Cut the cardboard tubes, if necessary, so that about ½ “ sticks out on the bottom and 1-2” on top.

Decide on a story you want to tell that primarily uses pictures.

Place the paper horizontally (cutting, if necessary, to fit the tube length) and draw one picture on each page, adding words, if desired. Leave at least 1” on each paper edge and at least 2” on the left edge of the first picture and the right edge of the last picture.

Lay the pictures out, left to right, in the order they will appear. Turn them over and, keeping the order, run a piece of tape down each back seam where two pictures come together.

Tape each end of the paper story scroll around a tube or dowel and roll  on the back sides of the scroll, so that the paper image is at the front of the tubes and the paper is tight and sized to the box.

Place the tubes into the holes and place the lid on the back. Decorate the front of the TV, if desired.

Gently turn the tubes to make the pictures move.

Slow Tip: You can also use images from magazines or comic-books to create your story.

You can make multiple story scrolls and change them through the back of the box. In doing so, you’ll join nearly every ancient civilization in telling stories using scrolls, starting with the Egyptians, who created them on papyrus.

The Shoebox TV craft is adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more ways to enjoy screen-free family fun.

 Related posts from Slow Family Online:

Eight Fun Things to Do While It’s Still Summer

Six Fun Family Activities to Enjoy This Weekend

Hooray for Low-Tech Toys

Graphic: Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

American Academy of Pediatrics Advocates Recess for Kids: try these games!

Even as some parents and schools try to schedule as many academics and extracurriculars into their children’s lives as possible, at times to the detriment of even the briefest school recess, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a policy statement that recognizes the value of recess to every aspect of children’s lives. The AAP wrote:

Recess during school offers children cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits they don’t get through academics alone.

According to the AAP:

  • Recess is “a necessary break in the day” and “should not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons.”
  • Recess offers important breaks from concentrated classroom work, which allow children to be “more attentive and more productive in the classroom.”
  • Recess “promotes social and emotional learning and development” through “peer interactions in which they practice and role play essential social skills.” Children learn negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem solving, as well as coping skills, such as perseverance and self-control.
  • Recess offers benefits that are “unique from, and a complement to, physical education — not a substitute for it.”
  • Recess can help offset risks to childhood obesity.

The AAP also noted that some schools cite safety issues as a barrier to recess and free play and offers steps to protect children while offering free and unstructured  play.

The AAP statement provides a large boost to those who have been advocating for recess and free play, in the face of calls for more academic and scheduled time for children. Last year, an important study published by the AAP revealed that pre-school children are far too sedentary for their physical and psychological health. The recent policy statement notes that “even minor movement during recess counterbalances sedentary time at school and at home.”

Read the complete AAP Policy Statement on The Crucial Role of Recess in School.

Many of us grew up with free play and recess games, some of which were made up on the spot, and some of which we learned from others. Here are a few games that kids (and even parents and teachers) may not know, which can add to recess and other fun and play. Many more playground and other game instructions can be found in my book, Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World.

Playground Games

These fun, easy games require little or no equipment and have been creating memories for generations.

Duck, Duck, Goose

South Asians know it as Kho Kho, Ghanaians as Antoakyire. German children play a version called Plumpsack, which involves dropping a handkerchief at one player’s spot. Young children play this timeless game around the world.

Players sit in a circle, facing each other. Choose a player to be It. It walks around the outside of the circle, tapping each person on the head and saying, for each tap, “duck”, “duck”, “duck”. Finally, It taps a person on the head and says, “goose” and begins to run around the outside of the circle. The person who is tapped as a goose gets up and chases It around the circle. If the goose is able to tap It before he or she sits down in the goose’s spot, then that person is It again. If the goose does not tag It, then the goose becomes the new “it”.

Red Light, Green Light

Another game played around the world, Red Light, Green Light has many charming variations. In the Czech Republic, it’s called, Cukr, káva, limonáda, čaj, rum, bum! (“Sugar, coffee, lemonade, tea, rum, boom!”)

One player is chosen to be the stoplight. That person turns his or her back to the group, which forms a line approximately 30–90′  away (depending on the ages of players). The stoplight calls out, “Green light!” and the players advance toward the player who is the stoplight as quickly as they can. When the stoplight wishes, he or she calls out, “Red light!” while turning around to see the runners. The runners must stop immediately. Any player caught moving after a call of “red light” has to go back to the starting line. “Green lights” and “red lights” are repeated until the first player reaches and tags the stoplight and is declared the winner. If all the players are out before they reach the stoplight, then the stoplight wins that round. The winner becomes the new stoplight.

Four Square

Not sure what to do with that four-square court painted on your school playground? This classic game couldn’t be easier or more inclusive. If you don’t have a four-square court, you can easily draw your own with chalk.

You’ll need:

A standard-size rubber playground ball
A court, or chalk to draw one

If there isn’t a court, draw a large square, approximately 16′ × 16′. Divide that into four squares, each 8′ × 8′. Letter the squares clockwise, from A to D. The player in the A square begins by bouncing the ball once in his or her own square, then hitting it underhand so it bounces into the D square. The receiving player then hits the ball into another square, with play continuing until the ball bounces more than once or goes out of bounds. When that happens, the player who didn’t hit the ball in time, or hit it out of bounds, moves to the D square, and the other players move up in the alphabet. If there are more than four players, a waiting player in line replaces the one who would have moved into the D square, and that player goes to the back of the line. Play continues without anyone having to permanently leave the game.

Blob Tag

There are so many fun tag games, you needn’t limit yourself to basic tag. Try this fun variation:

Once a player is tagged by the person who is It, the two join arms and become a blob, which chases players together to try to tag them. Other players who are tagged also join arms and become part of the blob. Some play a version in which, when the blob reaches four people, two split off to become a new blob. The last person standing alone becomes the new “it.”

Jump-Rope Games

Jumping rope has gone in and out of fashion since ancient Egypt, when both men and women jumped over vines. It wasn’t until the 20th century that jumpers incorporated singsong games and rhymes. Many of these are passed down through the generations like oral history, with different regions using different chants. I learned many of these from my mom and passed them down to my daughter.

You’ll need:

One regular jump rope for one person, or a longer jump rope for two turners to turn while a jumper (or more) jumps.

The jumper jumps over the rope each time it hits the ground. Jumpers can jump in one jump each turn or take one big jump followed by one smaller jump each turn. A turn ends when the jumper fails to jump over the turning rope. The following are classic, easy jump-rope games. They don’t have tunes so much as chants, so they are especially easy to pick up.

A, My Name Is Alice

This is a fun add-on game that also calls for a little creativity and is different every time.

The first jumper starts with the letter A and fills in the blanks in the following sentence, however he or she chooses:

A my name is ____ and my husband’s name is ____ and we live in ____ and we sell ____.

For example: A my name is Alice and my husband’s name is Al and we live in Albuquerque and we sell apples.

If the jumper hasn’t tripped up, he or she moves on to the letter B: B my name is Betty and my husband’s name is Bob and we live in Boise and we sell beans.

Jumpers move through the alphabet as long as their turns last. New jumpers usually start with A, which makes it easy to compare how far each jumper gets, and choose new names.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

This jump-rope game is a little more advanced, as it requires players to pantomime the activity they are singing about (to the best of their abilities) as they jump.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, touch the ground.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, tie your shoe.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, that will do!
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, go upstairs.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say your prayers.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn out the lights.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say good-night!

Apples, Peaches, Pears, and Plums

Apples, peaches, pears, and plums.
Tell me when your birthday comes.
January, February, March…

Count one month for each turn of the rope successfully jumped.

I hope you all take the AAP recommendations to heart and enjoy recess and play!

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, Let the Children Play

For more information see:

Resources about Play and Slowing
News about Play and Slowing

You might also like:

How to Prepare Kids for Kindergarten? Let Them Play
Slow News: Let the Kids Play
Pre-school and Kindergarten Graduations: Too Much Too Fast?
Movement to Restore Free Play Gains Momentum
Children Opt for the Box Over the Toy
Babies Learn By Playing
New Childrens Book Reminds Us to Play

 

New Book: Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood into a Place for Play

Parent and play advocate Mike Lanza is not one to move into a new neighborhood and hope for the best for his kids. The author of the new book Playborhood describes in great detail his philosophy and the elbow-grease steps he undertook to create a life for his kids, and those who live in proximity, that more closely mirrors the kind of playful, neighborhood-based childhood kids had 30-40 years ago than the sedentary, living-room-based one that many have today.

Lanza accomplishes this with great humor and plenty of vivid examples of people reclaiming their community spaces for play and gathering, from inner city Bronx, to an apartment-complex courtyard in CA, to a formerly faceless intersection in Portland, OR. As such, his can-do spirit is not only infectious, but is backed up with specific how-tos, so a reader could turn a driveway into a giant game board, or a yard into a nature or other playscape where kids will want to come play. A self-proclaimed neighborhood play evangelist, Lanza and his wife and three sons are walking the walk (and playing the play), and clearly influencing others to come along and have fun.

Playborhood also explores the larger issues of what makes a community work, from home and neighborhood design (think front porches and calm streets, for starters) to human behavior, such as having block parties and community dinners, and giving kids a little room to roam.

Lanza has created a terrific and heartfelt blueprint that should result in safer neighborhoods, more joyous and cohesive families and communities and, ultimately, more kids getting out to play.

Photos: Playborhood

Slow News: Slow Family Movement Featured in USA Today

Slow Parenting is in the news again, as more and more parents are discovering that dialing back the amount of organized and scheduled activities for kids can lead to more family time and the sense of fun and calm that accompany it.

USA Today just featured the slow family movement, in an article that originally appeared in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, and features my compatriots at Slow Family Living, Bernadette Noll and Carrie Contey, whose workshops, workbooks and wisdom have been helping families slow down.

The article shares the ways in which some families have chosen to slow down and their creative solutions for making family time fun, meaningful and a source of memories and bonding.

Much current research backs up the need for the kinds of free play and family togetherness that doesn’t happen when children are constantly engaged in organized activities. Some of this thinking comes from Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, author of Building Resilience in Children and Teens, who assures us, “There are no more valuable means of promoting success and happiness in children than the tried, trusted, and traditional methods of play and family togetherness.”

Perhaps that’s something to think about as we enter the busy holiday season.

You might also be interested in:

Back to School: How to Tame Fall Frenzy
Coming Next Spring: Fed Up With Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World
Slow News: Movement to Restore Free Play Gains Momentum

A great source of research is:

The Children & Nature Network

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

New Childrens Book Reminds us to Play

Ernestine Buckmeister, the heroine of a delightful new children’s book, written by Linda Ravin Lodding and illustrated by Suzanne Beaky, doesn’t have time for childhood. This is so “…because her busy, well-meaning parents had packed her after-school schedule.” Mondays are for clay sculpting, Tuesdays for water ballet, Wednesdays for knitting and Thursdays for tuba playing. The week is rounded out with yodeling, karate and yoga.

Sound familiar? Though slightly exaggerated, Ernestine’s schedule gently acts as a mirror of over-scheduled children whose anxious parents are afraid that childhood is limited and convinced that children are in need of efficient delivery of experiences and skills.

But something happens to Ernestine. She discovers the joy of unstructured play and friends to play with, and influences her parents (and nanny, in a nice touch) to seek a little balance in the process.

The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister is completely charming. Its message is delivered in a gentle, funny way, with cute plays on words and illustrations that are cheerful, colorful and winning. The repetition and order of words and of Ernestine’s routine would appeal to young children. It’s quite easy to imagine this book becoming a favorite of children and parents as well as a wonderful, sly reminder of the importance of slowing down for childhood and for play.

You might also like:

Movement to Restore Free Play Gains Momentum
Enjoy the Ancient Art of Cloud Watching
Babies Learn by Playing
How to Tame Fall Frenzy
Children Opt for the Box Over the Toy

New Research Links Time in Nature with Children’s Health

An important new paper has just been released that links children’s time in nature to their overall health. Using Nature and Outdoor Activity to Improve Children’s Health was published in the journal, Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care.

According to the forward, “Within just one generation, the definition of ‘play’ has changed dramatically among children in industrialized countries.” Before the 1980s, most children were encouraged to play outside, and much of that play was unsupervised. In January, 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that children ages 8- 18 spend an average of more than 7.5 hours per day using some sort of electronic screen.

These same children, the paper cites, may be the first generation at risk for having shorter lifespans than their parents and a variety of chronic conditions in childhood, such as childhood obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, vitamin D deficiency, ADHD, and depression.

The good news? Outdoor activity in natural environments may directly benefit children’s health in such areas as: Building and maintaining healthy bones and muscles; reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease; reducing feelings of depression and anxiety; and promoting psychological well-being.

I wrote more about the paper for the Children & Nature Network. That group also puts out a lot of excellent research about the many benefits of nature for children.

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

Slow Parenting Gaining Steam: It’s About Time

As people, especially parents, become busier than ever — perhaps driven by increasing economic and social pressures — we’re hearing about the counter movement of “Slow” more than ever, too.

ABC News recently ran a piece on Slow Parenting, which featured, among others, the wonderful Slow Family Living folks, who I have featured on my blog.

Most children are over-scheduled — psychologists, teachers and parents in the piece agreed. And that’s resulting in a generation of stressed-out kids, and parents. Said Bernadette Noll, Slow Family Living co-founder:

I think there’s the feeling of being frazzled. Kind of high anxiety on both the parents’ part and the kids’ part.

Slow Family Living co-founder and parenting coach Carrie Contey, and others in the piece, advocate clearing the schedules, adding more free time and play time, and letting go of the notion that, as parents, we have to be perfect.

Perfectionism truly can be the enemy of freedom and play. Writer Anne Lamott addresses this in a wonderful, funny and wise piece that appears in Sunset magazine.

We all hunger for creative expression in some form, Anne Lamott writes:

Creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.

The trick, though, she notes, is making the time to have this in our lives.

That’s really what’s been at the heart of the Slow Movement for me and many others — finding the time, making the time, to connect with family and friends and that part of ourselves that yearns for beauty, peace and community, in whatever form it takes for us personally. We only get 24 hours each day. Deciding what we really want and then what to let go of is a huge step off the treadmill and onto a different path for many of us.

The great news is that more individuals and even groups are embracing this philosophy. No-Homework policies are popping up in school districts. The documentary film Race to Nowhere, which stemmed from director Vicki Abeles’ own parenting experiences, may be behind some of this. The film, which has been playing to sold-out audiences of parents and others across America, attempts to illuminate “the unintended consequences of the achievement-obsessed way of life that permeates American education and culture.”

There is a Race to Nowhere Facebook page, where people are sharing ideas. Slow Parenting is gaining steam, and, in more ways than one, it’s about time.

I hope that this blog will continue to provide inspiration about slowing down with your family; appreciating beauty, nature, and seasons; and fun things to do with all that new-found free time. :) My Slow Family Resources page highlights lots of other great people, resources and ideas.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Mom’s Gifts of Nature

Today would have been my mom, Bunnie’s, 77th birthday. She died four years ago after a long illness. We were close but our relationship was not without rocky patches. Since I began working for Children & Nature Network a couple of months ago, I can say without hesitation that my appreciation for her has grown. There hasn’t been a day when I haven’t thought about her influence on my enjoyment of nature and the gifts she gave me in that regard.

The gift of walking. My mom didn’t drive. In L.A., a place built especially for transportation by car. As a result, we walked everywhere when I was little. She walked with my brother and me to different parks and playgrounds, talking to us the whole time. We ran errands on foot (and then by bike when we were older), so that we had a sense of our place on the earth and in our community. We knew neighbors and shopkeepers and had a different kind of life than the kids who were driven places.

It helped that my parents had settled in Santa Monica, which they chose because it was (and is) a very walkable, livable place, with real streets that feature neighbor-serving businesses and good public transportation. I rode the bus by myself at age 9. Pretty much everyone walked, biked, or bussed to and from school. I only recall a couple of rides to school ever, and those would have been early mornings in high school, when my dad would take me before he and Mom went to work.

I love to walk to this day. I enjoy the activity in itself, and a pace that allows you to engage with your surroundings and neighbors.

The gift of splashing in puddles. We didn’t have snow in Southern California, but we did get rain. My mom was not one to let the weather impede any plans. Dressed appropriately, in raincoats and boots, we were encouraged not only to walk in the rain but to enjoy it and to splash in the puddles. Her attitude was, “Who’s afraid of a little rain?” and I adapted it in junior high when I secretly looked down on my peers for using umbrellas. This seems a bit guerrilla now, but the spirit holds. To little kids, especially, rain is something to be enjoyed, not avoided. And children’s bodies and clothes are meant for play.

The gift of summer camp. My mom was a Brooklyn, N.Y., girl, but her childhood memories from upstate New York’s Camp Guilford and Oxford had deeply imprinted on her. She talked lovingly of classic camp activities like archery and color wars. My parents worked summers; there were not a lot of family vacations. But what my brother and I did have was camp. I got to go to camp for nine summers, seven of them at Tumbleweed Day Camp, beginning incredibly enough when I was four.

I loved everything about Tumbleweed. It was in a gorgeous, special spot in the Santa Monica Mountains. Days began and ended by sitting by group in an amphitheater made of logs, singing folk songs. (I can still sing the camp and other songs.) I learned to swim there, and ride horses, and jump on a trampoline. We had cookouts and sleepouts and dress-up days. In the 70s we did modern dance to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida while the boys played caroms. There were nature hikes. (I learned about poison oak and bee stings and the glorious smell of sycamore trees.) We cared for goats and made lanyards and macaroni-and-paint-covered cigar boxes. There was one camp craft I loved so much that we started doing it at home, too — gathering items from nature and placing them in a paper cup, pouring resin over the items so that the whole hardened into a medallion, and then drilling a hole and stringing it to make a necklace.

Because I loved camp so much (can you tell?), I sent my own daughter to camp and sought the most classic, outdoor-oriented ones I could find. So far she has attended five years of JCC Day Camp and three years at Mountain Meadow Ranch in California’s Lassen County, and I believe her experiences have been formative.

The gift of independent exploration. There is no doubt some personality trait involved, but I got on that camp bus by myself at age 4, and it wasn’t even an issue. I also, from about age 5, I regularly took my own “adventure walks” around our neighborhood — with age-appropriate limits, like working up to crossing streets. My mom championed and encouraged these. She understood the power of exploring on ones own, the serendipity of what might transpire. That I called these “adventure walks”, even though they took place in a neighborhood of suburban apartment buildings, speaks volumes. Any walk can be an adventure, given the right spirit and desire to find something new. To this day, I enjoy being in a new place, whether it’s an exotic location or somewhere a bit more close-by and mundane. I like to have a map and resources, to consult if need be, but I’ll also let curiosity take me someplace if I’m pretty certain I can find my way back. (Warning: This does not always fit others’ comfort levels.)

The gift of quiet and observation in nature. I believe I inherited my mom’s mix of gregariousness and solitude. On the solitude end of the scale, she loved any walk in nature, in various seasons, usually with her twin-lens Rolleiflex camera. (A camera case is visible in the above picture of her, which was taken among cherry blossoms in Japan.) She would slowly stroll, pausing often to aim her camera and look down into its viewfinder to compose her shots. She took great pictures — in New England falls, of the plants in the park near our house, in the Japanese gardens she loved. As it does with me, I believe nature provided her a kind of meditation. The photography was a fun activity, as well as a way to harness and focus observation. On my early walks, I took a notebook. I now often carry a notebook and a camera. And, if my family is any indication, I can take just as long as Mom did to compose and take a shot.

The gift of appreciation of nature. My mom’s appreciation for the beauty of nature was apparent in her photos, and also in our home. She had a beautiful rose garden, which she lovingly tended. Once a week, she’d pick roses from it and arrange them in vases that would be placed around our house. She seemed to spend hours arranging them to please her aesthetic eye. I have memories of the lovely rose smells, the snipped stems on our kitchen counter, and also of her being lost in the activity, as her slender fingers repositioned the open roses in their vases. Here, I believe I have her eye but lack some of her patience.

I do especially enjoy taking pictures of wildflowers. Appearing each year, as a fresh surprise, wildflowers embody so many of the gifts available in nature: serendipity and discovery, wonder and delight, rejuvenation, quiet enjoyment, and sheer beauty of form.

For all these gifts of and in nature, Thank You, Mom!

Happy Mother’s Day!


Inspired by Grass Stain Guru: The Joys of Being a Free Range Kid

One of my favorite bloggers, Bethe Almeras, the Grass Stain Guru, has a consistent and wonderful gift for capturing the joys of childhood and the outdoors. She has posted often about simple pleasures, outdoor creatures, and all kinds of activities and play.

Recently she posted a short reminiscence called Free Range Guru about her childhood in which she enjoyed the freedom to wander, explore and play in nature. She also regularly accessed her imagination — so much so that she actually talked to sticks. It’s a lovely post and it sparked the memories of readers, including me.

What it brought up for me was this:

“I also talked to sticks! And ants and bees and rocks and marguerite daisies and tiny flowers that grew on bushes in Southern CA that had a distinctly wonderful smell. I lived in an apartment until age 9 and, while I loved moving into a house with a big backyard and a perfect climbing tree, the apartment neighborhood also offered wonderful opportunities for exploration.

I lived in walking distance of two lovely parks and my walking mom took advantage of them. But I also found plenty to observe in the (sometimes green) spaces between and around buildings, and at 6 or 7 I would announce that I was taking an adventure walk and would do just that. People of all generations (well, mostly seniors and kids) seemed to be around and, except for crossing streets, which I was allowed to do one by one, it was not particularly exceptional to do this.

I also had media and school and activities, but there did seem to be a space for exploration and imagination that many kids don’t have today. I know I have a certain sense of the natural world, of neighborhood and community, as well as a delight in being by myself, as a result of these childhood experiences.”

Does this sound like a child you might know today? Perhaps, but more likely not. They don’t often find the same stretches of time available for play, the same parental spirit that lets a child  – in age-appropriate fashion — wander a bit. As a result, children miss out on opportunities for play, as well as development, friendships, and the ability to order and navigate their surroundings. As witnessed by Bethe, me, and so many others (including Lenore Skenazy, who writes the Free Range Kids blog), these skills and experiences can color our whole lives.

I also use my own experience to note that one needn’t grow up in a rural area to experience nearby nature. Nature and its value can be found in a park, or any wild or green space, even a small one and even one between apartment buildings.

I’m very excited about the work the Children and Nature Network is doing to inspire and educate people about ways to connect children to nature. So much so that I host their discussion forum. You might want to come along!

Following is a sample of the nearby nature where I grew up. As a kid, even the smallest (the better for secrets?), local, and not always particularly special looking, spaces fed imagination and play.

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

Time Magazine Cover Story: Can These Parents be Saved?

Just out today, it’s already making the rounds as Time magazine’s most e-mailed story, its new cover piece: Can These Parents be Saved?

” … We just wanted what was best for our kids”, Nancy Gibbs’ piece begins, before detailing the ways in which extreme, fear-based safety practices, and efficiency models best left at the corporation door began infecting childhood. She writes:

We were so obsessed with our kids’ success that parenting turned into a form of product development.

The backlash against overparenting has come, she says, in part driven by changes in the economy:

…  a third of parents have cut their kids’ extracurricular activities. They downsized, downshifted and simplified because they had to — and often found, much to their surprise, that they liked it.

The article is a fascinating snapshot of the conundrums many parents face. We want to protect our children and give them opportunities, yet for some this has come with the dawning realization that many children are overcoddled, over-directed, and robbed of down time, free play, exploration, and the confidence and mastery that can come with making ones own discoveries and mistakes. In short, it’s the realization that, for all the attention, we are not doing our kids any favors.

Gibbs quotes Slow Movement pioneers Carl Honore and the Slow Family Living workshop folks, whom I have blogged about at length, as well as Lenore Skenazy, whose book, Free-Range Kids, is a tome of common-sense parenting in an often hysterical age.

Last weekend, I attended a lecture by Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, author of A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens, which I highly recommend, as it walks parents through the set of tools children need to grow and prosper. Ginsburg cautioned against the perfectionistic streak in many parents who unwittingly add stress to their children’s lives by trying to professionalize their activities, and by being involved in harmful, rather than fruitful, guiding ways — including attempting to eliminate stress, rather than teach children ways to cope with inevitable stress.

I was struck, too, when Ginsburg said that creativity was a component many young adults now lacked. This was exhibiting itself in an inflexibility in the workplace and in relationships, no matter the field. How to foster creativity in the young? Play with them, encourage them to play on their own or direct the play (if you’re involved). In short, have fun and get out of the way.

For more Slow Family Online pieces about children, slow (joyful) parenting and play, see:

Gopnick: Babies Learn by Playing

Why Can’t She Walk to School?

An End to Overparenting?

Huffington Post Book Club Pick: In Praise of Slowness

About Slow Family Online

Photos: Miika Silfverberg, Susan Sachs Lipman

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