Category Archives: The Guardian

2019 Media Perspectives on Play – An Even Dozen

Reporting on children and play is becoming more of a thing. First and foremost, this is wonderful for kids. It means greater public prominence given to play related issues and successes. News publications, broadcasters and online media sources are reporting on the needs, trends, shortfalls and benefits of play. Here’s a dozen stories from the past year selected from Australia, Canada, The Republic of Ireland, UK and USA.

Thanks to the journalists who are helping to shine a light on all the work that is left to be done and for lending a voice that informs parents, policy makers, planners, educators and others who make critical decisions that impact children’s play.

The GuardianBy mollycoddling our children, we’re fuelling mental illness in teenagers. By Jonathan Haidt and Pamela Paresky – January 2019.

“…free play in which kids work out their own rules of engagement, take small risks, and learn to master small dangers (such as having a snowball fight) turns out to be crucial for the development of adult social and even physical competence.”

CBC – The Current Anna Maria Tremonti with guests Paul McKay, Mariana Brussoni, Tracy Vaillalncourt. Why experts say schools shouldn’t shy away from a little physicality during recess – February 2019.

“Educators have been reimagining recess lately from introducing more of it to inviting a bit more recklessness into it. In Quebec, a handful of schools are introducing sanctioned roughhousing zones on snowy school yards. It’s a spot where the kids can get a bit my hands on.”

The GuardianToo poor to play: children in social housing blocked from communal playground. By Harriet Grant – March 2019.

“Dinah Bornat, an architect and expert on child-friendly design who advises planners, local authorities and the mayor of London, called the development “segregation” and said she has raised it with senior planners at the Greater London Authority.”

The London Free Press School board’s safety crackdown triggers playground ‘play-in’ protest. By Heather Rivers – April 2019.

“Recently, there have been a lot of safety rules that are unfair — like not being allowed to pick up snow with your hands or feet. Now, we’re not allowed to play on the climber anymore,” said Julie Ryan’s daughter, Lily, 14. 

The New York TimesMaking Playgrounds a Little More Dangerous. By Richard Schiffman – May 2019.

“The Yard, for kids 6 through 13, lacks the usual monkey bars, slides and swings. It is, however, well-stocked with dismembered store mannequins, wooden packing crates, tires, mattresses, an old piano and assorted other detritus of the modern world.”

The Irish TimesWhat happens when you ask children to design their own playground? By Sara Keating – June 2019

“Ask a child about their perfect playground and their answers may surprise you. Swings and roundabouts and slides are not as important as freedom: to experiment, take risks, become invisible, invent the landscape as they move through it.”

The Globe and MailDesigning for fun – How to make a better playground. By Alex Bozikovic – July 2019.

“Play is an essential part of children’s psychological development and so is risk. Learning to assess risk and to get back up when we fall is part of growing up”

The Toronto StarReclaim the streets for play. By the Editorial Board – August 2019.

“But with street play, kids activity isn’t curtailed by the hours available at the arena or on the soccer field. They simply step outside their homes and play for as long as they want with kids in their own neighbourhood.”

FatherlyEat, Play, Love: The Science of Play and its Impact on Childhood Development. By Virginia Pelley. September 2019.

“Parents should want kids to play. A lot. But before they can start encouraging play behaviors, they need to understand what they are. What does play look like? It starts with eye contact — we’re talking weeks out of the womb — and catalyzes quickly from there.”

ABC NewsLetting kids play with discarded objects is great for their bodies and minds, and not as risky as you might think. By Dr. Shirley Wyver – October 2019.

“Teachers are often concerned they will be seen as neglecting their duty of care if they allow children to take risks, so they restrict play that they know is beneficial for children.”

BBC News‘Global epidemic’ of childhood inactivity. By James Gallagher – November 2019.

“The World Health Organization says children’s health is being damaged as well as their brain development and social skills. It says failing to take the recommended hour a day of exercise is a universal problem in rich and poor countries.”

BBC ScotlandThe children learning to love being outdoors. By David Alliston – December 2019

“The philosophy of getting pre-school children out and about and playing in the mud and rain is fairly common in Scandinavia and Germany – and it is catching on in Scotland.”

If you have a favourite media story on play that you would like to share, please post it here as a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

Bouquets for play reporting in The Guardian

Hi Ashifa,

Hope you’re well today. I want you to know that The Guardian is one of my favourite publications. I’ll be renewing my annual subscription when it comes up in November. Also I am thrilled that the paper has deemed Canada of sufficient interest that we have a Canadian correspondent – you.

As you’ve discovered, we have news and stories galore to share with your readership around the world. Today I just read your piece on the west coast play brouhaha that was posted on the 12th – Canadian neighbourhood declares ‘war on fun’ with ban on outdoor play.

I understand why these stories are hard to resist. They make great copy. Indignant, or incredulous readers (myself included) can tsk, tsk, or titter, titter at decisions that have lost touch with common sense and situations that seem to emanate from some bizarro 5th dimension. As one twitter friend opined about this story – ‘stop the insanity’.

These narratives from the margins surface every now and then in countries around the world. It’s hard to be sympathetic to the protagonists of such ill conceived incursions into kids’ play.  Their actions seem to indicate a certain detachment from reality.

How about the Toronto principal a few years back that banned bringing balls to school… Or, what about those schools that had a no contact policy? Kids were not allowed to touch each other at recess or throughout the day. Put a crimp on a lot of outdoor games!

In Nova Scotia earlier this month, there was public outcry because many new primary students will not be able to play on schoolyard playgrounds when they enter school for the first time in September. Due to a change in government policy kids are entering a year earlier. The fixed playground equipment is rated for ages 5 through 12. During the school day, kids younger than that are persona non grate.

Invariably the arguments put forward purport a safety link of some sort and a desire to reduce risk and danger. More often than not they are a handy excuse to trot out and achieve stated objectives – no road play, no play on equipment that is not age appropriate, no play in undesignated play spaces, etc.

The Artisan Gardens story on Vancouver Island has gone the rounds – Global News, CBC, CTV, Times Colonist, BBC and The Guardian. Each of these stories would have been stronger had there been some mention of play’s changing dynamics in Canada. It would have raised the bar from good copy about a quirky subject to helping create greater awareness of the bigger picture.

Builders and designers, municipal leaders and recreation planners, educators and researchers are coming to similar evidence-based conclusions. Risk and resilience are closely linked and this understanding is helping to lead a renaissance of play.

Today we visited Kentville on Canada’s east coast. There was a festival where roads in the community’s downtown were cordoned off so kids and adults could chalk the streets. This is an example – and there are many more – of some of the great things that are happening in Canadian communities.

Source: Town of Wolfville Facebook Page

It’s encouraging when assignment editors dispatch reporters to get stories on play, or when reporters themselves pitch these stories to their editors. If these ‘gotcha, good copy’ stories could provide just a little more context on some of the exciting developments taking place across the country like Calgary’s itinerant loose parts, Coquitlam’s new adventure playground, the proliferation of natural playgrounds, or the important work being supported by The Lawson Foundation… Well us play people would be jumping for joy.

Oakdene Park, Kentville, Nova Scotia

Ashifa – if you ever make it down our way to Nova Scotia, Canada’s Ocean Playground, give us a shout and we’ll be happy to introduce you to some great play stories.

Speaking of which here are some more fine stories from The Guardian on play.