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

30 Oct

I am reblogging this because I think that much of it is relevant to so many people with children and grandchildren. While I am sure that most of my friends would sign up to this without question, it is still comforting to know that others have similar views!

Rethinking Childhood

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…

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

  1. Mark Gladwin October 31, 2016 at 12:01 pm #

    Thanks for re-blogging this piece by Tim Gill, Robin, since it does deserve to be widely read. As a relatively privileged parent and now grandparent, and also as a (retired) play development worker, I can see the case for both Lanza and his critics. Yes, it’s true that children would be much happier and healthier, and the world would be a much better place, if all adults gave as much thought and energy as Lanza does to extending children’s play freedoms in their own neighbourhoods. And Lanza can’t be blamed for starting in his own notably well-heeled community. But it’s also true that well-intentioned advice from the comfortably affluent can be profoundly annoying (to put it no more strongly) to parents who are struggling with far fewer resources in challenging surroundings. I don’t know enough about the Playborhood campaign to say whether Lanza walks the walk in deprived inner-city communities as well as he talks the talk. But if he doesn’t, it’s not surprising if he arouses in some people feelings akin to those inspired by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow when they preach the latest diet fad to people who can’t afford fresh fruit and veg. Tim Gill is spot on when he compares the Lanza controversy to the dilemma over the Street Play movement in the UK. (Declaration of interest: I’m a director of Play England, which has been delighted to run, with our partners, a national Street Play evaluation project to which Tim has contributed). Play streets are a great idea, but they work best in neighbourhoods that already possess a degree of social capital. The challenge, for us and Playborhood alike, is what to do about neighbourhoods lacking in social capital. Children there have play rights, too.

  2. grumpysutcliffe October 31, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

    Mark, thanks for this. I do agree. This seems to be symptomatic of the entire Government approach to key social issues, of which play is just one part. Did you see Ken Loach going apoplectic on Question time when one of the panellists said how lovely his film was and full of hope to see people responding so generously to each others needs!
    It is particularly clear comparing Swanage, which does have it’s own enclaves of deprivation with Yorkshire, which only has a few enclaves of middle class resource!

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