Returning to the Antipodes

I am heading back to Australia and New Zealand in around three weeks, and am pleased to share some reflections, along with my schedule.

My trip takes in a flying visit to Auckland, followed by a week in Adelaide, before finishing with another week in Queensland. I will be joined in QLD by David Bond (kindred spirit, documentary film-maker, star of Project Wild Thing and self-appointed Marketing Director of Nature). A full itinerary is at the end of this post.

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Save Emdrup Adventure Playground | Love Outdoor Play

I was lucky enough to visit Emdrup – the world’s first adventure playground –  on a study visit to Copenhagen in 2003, and I still remember its relaxed, low-tech, quietly self-assured ambience. It would be tantamount to a crime against children’s culture to stand by and see its spirit die as a result of bureaucratic whim.

Emdrup, 2003. Photo credit: Ben Spencer

Emdrup, 2003. Photo credit: Ben Spencer

Please do what you can. You can support the campaign by writing to Dorthe Rasmussen Kjær at dk@rysensteen.dk. More details are in the reblogged post.

You may want to highlight why it matters for children and young people of widely differing ages to be given the chance to play together. US psychologist Peter Gray has good things to say on this [pdf link].

For more on the adventure playground model and the debt it owes to Emdrup, see this 2014 Guardian article.

Hats off to Play England for sharing news of this campaign. And a hat-tip to Alex Smith at Playgroundology for prompting me to include the contact details here.

Please note the title of the blog post that follows has a typo: the correct Danish word is ‘Skrammellegepladsen’ (translation: junk playground).

Source: Save Skrammelselegepladsen i Emdrup | Love Outdoor Play

Still reared in captivity

I originally wrote this article for the Guardian in 2004, on leaving the Children’s Play Council (now Play England). Last weekend’s Big Garden Birdwatch prompted me to ask how much the picture it painted has changed in the intervening decade or so. First, I will share the article itself, followed by some reflections.

 

Bred in captivity [2004]

This weekend saw the Big Garden Birdwatch, a nationwide survey that has been organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds since 1979. But I can’t help contemplating a survey of a different species: a Big Outdoor Child Watch.

I know only too well what it would find. Chicks are now pretty much extinct, outside their own nest areas and a shrinking number of poorly maintained reserves. Juveniles, common in the 1970s, declined in numbers throughout the 1980s and are now rarely seen away from their parents, except in impoverished areas. And adolescents, though not yet endangered, are seen as pests and controlled accordingly. In sum, children and young people are fast disappearing from the outdoor environment, even though for most this is their preferred habitat.

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What are my six top tips for parents – and why did I even write them?

I am on record as saying that I am no parenting guru, and that there are too many people trying to tell parents how to do their job. So why did I recently agree to give FQ magazine – “the essential dad mag” according to its website – my six top parenting tips? (And no, it wasn’t because they paid me!)

The thread that links all my work is that children want and need to expand their horizons: to have everyday experiences of freedom, adventure, exploration and responsibility as they grow up. It is the core of my vision of what a good childhood looks and feels like.


Most of my work to achieve that vision focuses not on parents, but on all the other people and institutions that influence children’s lives: schools, educators, residents, voluntary organisations, play and leisure services, charities, regulators, designers, planners, campaigners, local and national governments and the media. Yet the simple truth is that for this vision is to become reality, it must resonate with parents. Without their active support, everyone else will lose interest in the topic. The bottom line is this: if parents do not care about their children’s everyday freedoms, why should anyone else? (a point I made in a 2011 post written with UK play advocates in mind).

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Bold move to kickstart an outdoor play renaissance in Canada

Last week the Lawson Foundation, a Canadian family foundation, launched an ambitious outdoor play strategy with the announcement of $2.7 million (£1.3 million; $US 1.9 million) in funding for 14 projects.

Lawson Foundation outdoor play strategy graphic

The strategy has an explicit and exclusive focus on unstructured outdoor play. Tackling risk aversion is a prominent theme, building on the Foundation’s recent support for a groundbreaking consensus position statement [pdf link] whose key message is that the biggest risk is keeping kids indoors.

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Festive cheer from the land of the free

Could the USA be turning a corner in the global fight to defend children’s right to play? A remarkable pair of legal moves certainly makes it look this way. They add further support for the view that the tide is turning fast in a country with a poor reputation for upholding children’s everyday freedoms.

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10 Ways to Build a City for Children • This City Life

A snappy ten-point checklist for a child-friendly city has been pulled together by Vancouver urbanist and writer Jillian Glover. I confess I am cautious about the ‘top tips’ style of writing, which can lead to oversimplification. But this ticked a lot of my boxes.

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