Upcoming Conference Tackles: How Can We Get Kids Playing Again?

Hi Folks! This Tues. and Weds. I’m heading to Columbia University here in New York City where they’re hosting Play On — a conference where we’re all supposed to bring our sneakers. That’s because in addition to hearing speakers talk about the importance of play, we’ll also be learning some “street” games and remembering why running around is so important! Remembering with our aching, middle-aged muscles! And guess what? Free-Range Kids readers get a special offer on the tickets — half price! Here’s the official release about the event. Maybe I’ll see you there! (Don’t throw the dodgeball at me!) — L.

Remember kick the can, capture the flag, street hockey, and backyard baseball? Kids who go outside to play today rarely find these. Due to safety concerns, TV and video games, as well as helicopter parenting, we have a generation of kids who’ve never spent  their evenings playing until the street lights went on. Our young ones don’t know the fun games of yesterday and don’t have older children in the neighborhood to teach them. It’s time to change that! Join forces to build a movement for play at the Play On conference October 12-13th in New York City.
The conference is one of the most comprehensive forums on play anywhere, with hundreds of people who are working to bring more play into schools, more play spaces in communities, and more people who understand and value kids opportunities for play.
At Play On, you’ll hear from a terrific lineup of folks who care about kids, play, sports, service and making our comunities healthier and more accessible. Good Morning America’s Juju Chang, AmeriCorps Director John Gomperts, Author of The Hurried Child, Dr. David Elkind, Womens Soccer Champion Julie Foudy, Education Professor Pedro Noguera, Public Health Professor Toni Yancey. White House Chef Sam Kass will address conference attendees at a special dinner Tuesday.
Conference attends will have the chance to learn how to empower a community to build a new playground, how to teach kids yoga, how to create a school wellness policy and reconnect to the outdoors, as well as learning why children need play in school.  There’s still time to register.  The cost is $150 for one day but Free Rangers can pay $150 for BOTH days, by clicking here! (It’s another $50 for the dinner.) Play on!

17 Responses

  1. So excited to have you and Free Rangers at the conference! A link for more information: http://www.playonconference.org/. Oh, and noticed that the link at the bottom isn’t working because it has a period at the end. Thanks!

  2. They forgot to mention marbles, jacks, red rover (which was banned by my kid’s school), dodgeball (may also be banned, I’m not sure) and stickball…

    It’s interesting that kids in days gone by automatically did these on their own, without needing an advocacy group to help them out.

  3. It’s not days gone by any more. Have you been to a recess lately? I went to my kids’ school and was stunned by the number of kids just sitting around doing nothing. If it takes and advocacy group to get them moving in this day and age, I would rather support that than their inevitable medical and hospital bills because they sat around to much. And with bullying on the playground, we need to protect these kids, too.

  4. This is not rocket science. Stop banning games that are “dangerous,” turn off all the screens in your house, get to know your neighbors, and make kids do chores. I’m sure our grandparents are having themselves quite a laugh that we have to have a conference about how to convince our kids to go out and play.

  5. Today I spent all day at the beach with my kids and their school-mates. Every year, the last day of “Ocean Week” is Beach Day! The kids love it… it’s four or five hours of uninterrupted, unstructured free play with their buddies. My daughters friends made up a battle, with spies and intrigue on the sandy dunes. She told me it was the best day ever… no supplies, no planning, just PLAY!!

    The one down side (thank you litigious society) was that groups are no longer allowed to do “Breach Clean-up”… according to the principal we were asked not to do it for liability reasons!! So SAD!!! The fear of a getting sued because a kid steps on something kills the lesson we’re trying to teach about working as a community and taking responsibility for making the world a better place.

  6. I realize this post it mostly about outdoor play, but I thought I would share what I’ve done with my kids for indoor play. When they were babies I started putting them in their playpen for 15 completely alone with me upstairs when they were about a month old. Over the next few months it grew to 30 minutes. As they grew the time gradually extended and the location changed from the playpen to their rooms with the door closed. They continued to have 2 hours of “alone time” everyday until they started kindergarden. It was great for me when they stopped taking naps and I still got my free time in the form of alone time🙂 My kids are now 7 & 8 and have wonderful imaginations, they still make up fabulous fantasy games to play together. I believe that having free play with only basic toys everyday really helped develop their creativity. They do spend a great deal of time outside also, where the games of make believe are carried out throughout our neighborhood. There are very few of the traditional games mentioned, no red rover and the like. They mostly play games where they are animals or chasing games where someone is some type of monster. My daughter also has a fondness for capturing unsuspecting bugs, and they both love to dig and play with plastic animals in the dirt. We are fortunate to live in a neighborhood full of kids. Most of my sons friends are also free range and come and go around with him. My daughters friends are not allowed to come to our house without a preset playdate and being dropped off. This is no problem for me, I just send her to their houses🙂 Their mom’s can have the mess!

  7. I think it’s a sad commentary on American society that there needs to be a special conference on how to teach kids to play.

    In the town in Germany where I used to live, my apartment building was about 200 meters from a US Army housing area. I would pass by that area almost every day. After school or on weekends the American kids would be sitting outside, each playing with a Game Boy or Nintendo. The German kids who lived in the neighborhood were all playing games, running around, riding their bikes, or roller blading in the street or at the playground up the block. The older German kids looked out for the younger ones. My son preferred to play with the German kids because they did more fun things.

  8. […] Upcoming Conference Tackles: How Can We Get Kids Playing Again … […]

  9. @Sue: it IS sad that there has to be a conference to teach kids how to play. It’s just a hard thing overall that our kids just don’t have the opportunity to go and be as free range as many of us would like.

    As I have pointed out, many parents are still leery of letting kids play outside unsupervised (I am, but only because my daughter is almost 7 and is alone — would prefer she be with a buddy and an older kid). No one lets their kids stay home unsupervised — or they’ve been frightened to death. Such is the case with my 11 y.o. niece, who will not stay for an hour with her younger siblings so her parents can go grocery shopping without the whole gang (I had suggested this to them, as I cannot understand why people cannot do routine errands without having the whole family in tow).

    Kids have to have playdates scheduled mainly because these same kids are off at aftercare (if the parents work) or at afterschool activities — you just can’t walk over to someone’s house to knock on the door to play, it seems. Sometimes we have spontanous playdates if we run into my daughter’s friends after an event, but it’s not often that it happens.

    Even the other day, as I was picking up my daughter from a playdate with a new friend, her father said he had to supervise the kids (my daughter and her 6 y.o. friend, plus an 11 y.o. sister), because of there being workers a few houses down (a neighbor was having home renovations), and as usually is the case, the work crew were primarily Latino, probably day laborers — and a lot of negative buzz has been going around about these guys breaking into houses or possibly molesting young girls. (I’m not saying whether or not it’s true, just what others have been saying about these guys.) Never mind that this family, despite living near a busy street, have a nice little cul de sac and less traffic than on my crazy street!

    We also need to foster better relations amongst our neighbors/neighborhoods. I live on a block where, fortunately, I know almost all my neighbors, as does my daughter. We’re even having a block party this afternoon, so there will be lots of free play time for all the kids without any worries of traffic, or having to watch over them every second. (Can’t you tell I’m glad about that?)

    It’s hard, but I’m not giving up hope that eventually, more parents will start to come to their senses.

  10. Sadly I don’t have time to read this article as it’s dinner time and I have to go fetch my almost eight year olds from the park where they’re playing with friends.

  11. This sounds fantastic. Wish I could go!

  12. it is a sad commentary that kids are not out until the darkest hour-what fun we had-but (at a great risk, i realize) i think we can also blame no parents at home-who is going to teach them the joy of marbles, hide and seek on roller skates, baseball in the street ? whose kids are safe without parents hanging out the windows telling them to behave, feeding them lunch, bringing them home when they are naked?

  13. I just came across the concept of FOrest kindergarten and I thought it might be of interest to readers here… especially since it promotes daycare provider to assist in play rather than lead it.

  14. This conference is supposed to be about teaching kids how to play, but the most scary part of the article is the list of what will be taught! Teach kids yoga?! Seriously!? I don’t remember ‘playing yoga’ even once. I think this article is more a reflection on how disconnected our society has become from innocent childhood. You don’t have to ‘teach’ kids how to play. They will do it all on their own as soon as you stop hovering over them and scripting what game they are to play next!

  15. I’m enjoying all the great conversation about creating a culture for kids to get playing. I love being a part of the Free Range community because everyone is already providing opportunities for kids to get outside and play. Our kids know what to do when others get bored, make friends easily, and negotiate well with peers to develop fun and intricate new games.

    The Play On Conference does address teaching kids games especially in large group environments where not all the kids involved are allowed to get outside to play at home. The conference is not just about this, however. The speakers also address creating a community where all members value opportunities for play-by working to create play spaces, school and community play initiatives and advocate for more play opportunities. We hope to see even more free range kids!

  16. Yesterday my older daughter and I were talking about how the kids at the elementary school where my younger daughter goes don’t know many playground games (although they do make up their own, and they do have a lot of fun and come home dirty). She says it’s because recess is segregated by year-group (because the school is so big there isn’t enough room for everyone to have lunch all at once, or fit on the playground all at once). So younger kids can’t learn games from older kids. Now she is at a different, equally big school where recess is still split into two, but not by year-group, she’s been able to learn new games like foursquare from the older kids. So an important part of kids’ play is learning from older kids, which means actually allowing them to come into contact and play with older kids….

  17. Contact with older children is important. I recall the games the older children taught us! (Mind you, we still had our own game, which was based on pure imagination, that we played for about two years! It was a mix of Greek mythology and biblical stories we learnt in school in such a way only a seven year old can combine them!)

    Just now I’m watching my 8year old brother playing out on the street (well, not on the road, but you know what I mean) playing some form of battle game with fellow small children involving sticks. From previous experience I am hazarding a guess they are being invaded by zombies/orcs/Nazis or Spiders. As it is almost dark here I’m watching to see how long it takes him to come in after the street lights come on (If he is late I won’t let him out tomorrow until later, he will have to do extra chores for me instead).

    I love where we live that the small children (from about 3 or 4) are encouraged to get out on the street and play with all the other children. They know they are not allowed to go over the boundary (the area is bordered by two major roads) unless they ask an adult first.

    Sure, we have had the odd broken arm over the years, the occasional bleeding head, but the they are out learning negotiation skills, imagination, manual dexterity, balance, decision making, and empathy. There are children within the group that have disabilities (both mental and physical) and they look out for them.

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