Category Archives: Parenting

What’s so bad about a father trying to make the world a more play-friendly place?

This weekend’s New York Times has a major feature and profile on Mike Lanza and his Playborhood campaign to make neighbourhoods more play-friendly. And it’s whipping up a storm. In this piece, I give my take on the campaign and my response to the key criticisms.

First, some background. Lanza’s rallying cry is “turn your neighborhood into a place for play” – a goal he has been pursuing for at least nine years. His book and blog are first and foremost a set of practical advice, ideas and case studies for achieving that goal.

Lanza first got into the issue because of his concerns as a dad bringing up three children. What drives him is, in large part, the contrast between his own typically free-range 70s childhood and the highly constrained lives of most children today. I share his view that this change marks a profound loss.

Lanza’s campaign is aimed squarely at parents. He has three big messages for them: you should care about your kids’ play and everyday freedoms, you can and should take steps to expand them, and you should start with your own home and neighbourhood. The youtube video below introduces Lanza and his Playborhood idea.

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Pope Francis to Parents: Thou Shalt Free-Range | Free Range Kids

Pope FrancisHere’s a quote from Pope Francis’ Statement on the Family, published a couple of weeks ago and highlighted yesterday on Lenore Skenazy’s website:

Obsession, however, is not education. We cannot control every situation that a child may experience… If parents are obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements, they will seek only to dominate space. But this is no way to educate, strengthen and prepare their children to face challenges. What is most important is the ability lovingly to help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy.

I am a non-believer myself. Even so, this is well worthy of a reblog. Full credit to the Pope for giving such a clear statement on the need for parents to give children some space and time to make their own journey to becoming responsible, confident, competent and resilient people. It speaks directly to the value of everyday freedoms in childhood. And hats off to Lenore for spotting and sharing.

Source: Pope Francis to Parents: Thou Shalt Free-Range | Free Range Kids

Sir Ken Robinson speaks on outdoor play

Screengrab of Sir Ken RobinsonEducationalist Sir Ken Robinson, known to millions for his work on creativity in schools, yesterday shared his thoughts on outdoor play.

The 20-minute talk, in a video recorded as part of the Dirt is Good campaign sponsored by Persil (in the UK) and Omo (in many other countries), gives some powerful messages to parents about why play matters for children’s development and learning. This post shares some edited highlights from the talk. You can stream the full talk at the end of the post.

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The Mary Poppins playground kit

This post shares an idea from a parent who was frustrated that her kids were finding it hard to have much fun in their local playgrounds. I’ve called it the Mary Poppins playground kit, for reasons that should become obvious.

2 bags of play items

At the end of this post, I will say more about why I like the Mary Poppins playground kit so much. First, the idea itself, in the words of the parent herself (whose chosen name is Djindjer): Continue reading

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 this 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.

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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Hurt, blame, stupidity: when being a free-range parent does not go to plan

In this weekend’s Guardian, columnist Tim Lott writes about how his seven-year-old daughter ended up in hospital with a nasty injury after a cycling accident that was entirely his fault. He had been giving her a lift on the back of his bike, and her foot got horribly caught up in the wheel.

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Why would you want to let your child play out in the street?

Boy in streetEven a generation ago, most parents would have greeted this question with blank faces. Playing out was just what kids did – why would you need a reason? Of course, things are different today – for all sorts of reasons. In almost all neighbourhoods, parents need to take a stand, and to resist the norm of parenting that says being a good parent means rearing your child in captivity.

For parents who come together to set up Playing Out road closure projects, taking this stand means extra commitments: talking to neighbours, liaising with the Council, setting up rotas, and maybe spending a couple of hours a week out in the street. So, to rework my opening question: why do parents get involved in organising road closures for play?

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