Sunday, 27 January 2013

How kids can reconnect with nature on the playground - The Globe and Mail

You'll have to excuse me if these next few items aren't timely. I save them when I see them and rarely have time to post them.  Regardless of when they were written they're still very pertinent.

A great piece highlighting the naturalistic play movement in Canada. A big hello to all the expatriate Australian  Burkes in Edmonton.

Full article can be read from the link above. 

An earlier generation of kids may have spent all their free time playing in the woods, but in today’s world of helicopter parenting and stranger danger, letting their children do the same is unthinkable for many parents.

Now, park designers and officials as well as school boards are trying to reacquaint kids with nature, not by sending them into the forest, but by creating what are called natural playgrounds. “Connecting to nature is something that’s becoming more and more important everywhere,” says Adam Bienenstock.

.......This week, the Toronto District School Board rejected a plan to sell off playground land to help pay for capital projects, reaffirming the importance of wide-open spaces to children’s development.
The movement to swap swings, slides and monkey bars for boulders, grassy hills and trees is gaining ground across Canada, the United States and other countries. Advocates say natural playgrounds prompt much more imaginative free play, foster social interaction and cut down on bullying, and encourage the sort of risk-taking some experts say overcautious parenting has been unintentionally blocking.
.......With more people than ever now living in urban environments, there is a greater recognition of the importance of connecting kids with nature through play.

......Natural playgrounds typically include five elements, according to Mr. Bienenstock: rolling topography, boulders, logs, pathways and large trees and shrubs. The specifics are usually reflective of local surroundings....Traditional playgrounds decide for kids in advance how they will play: Swings are for swinging; slides are for sliding. But in a natural playground, it is not immediately clear how their elements should be incorporated, so it is up to kids to use their imaginations.

.....Research has also shown that natural playgrounds alter the way children in them relate to one another.
“In a commercial playground, usually what ends up happening is that the most athletically gifted child ends up choosing the game and running the playground,” Mr. Belair says. “With a naturalized playground, kids tend to play more co-operatively. … There’s a wider variety of play elements involved than just who can climb the fastest or the highest.”

Studies have reinforced the idea that these environments reduce bullying, nurture collaborative skills and stimulate social interaction. Researchers at the University of Tennessee last year found that children more than doubled the time they spent playing in natural playgrounds compared with playgrounds with traditional wood and plastic materials.

.......... “There is a thing nature provides for us that is called ‘graduated challenge’ that our current play structures are not doing a very good job of,” Mr. Bienenstock says. “Have you ever seen parents’ behaviour on one of these play structures? They are walking around with their hands out, following these kids from the ground, ready to catch them.”  By comparison, in a natural playground with boulders of different sizes and shapes, the kid big enough to be able to get to the top of the larger boulder is probably big enough to take the fall from it too, Mr. Bienenstock says.

Todd Catchpole, a parks manager at Five Rivers MetroParks in Ohio, which began developing natural play sites several years ago, believes that many of the injuries children suffer on traditional playground equipment are simply the result of boredom. “So what do they do? They try and go up the slide backward or jump off the top of the platform for the slide, using it in ways it wasn’t intended,” he says.

.....Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology in Norway and one of the world’s leading experts on the importance of playground risk-taking, says a natural playground is “the most challenging environment. It has challenges for all children, all ages, all sizes,” she says.
Consider the difference between swinging on monkey bars and climbing a tree, Prof. Sandseter says.
“The bars in climbing equipment have a certain centimetre distance between them and it’s not really challenging. They could be blindfolded and climb it,” she says. “But in a tree, there’s different distances between branches. You have to feel the branches [to know if it will support you]. You have to constantly take a lot of risk decisions and evaluate your environment. … It’s no doubt nature environments are better in every way.”

.....The project under way at the Toronto French School hopes to help students enjoy the quiet repose that only nature can provide, Mr. Godfrey says. But it should also let them test their boundaries, even if that means a few scrapes from a fall off a boulder or a tree branch, he adds. “We’re not doing any good by bubble-wrapping kids.”

Nature, children and play -

You'll have to excuse me if these next few items aren't timely. I save them when I see them and rarely have time to post them.  Regardless of when they were written they're still very pertinent.

A short but informative article reiterating the benefits of the nature and naturalistic learning experiences in early childhood learming environments

Full article can be read from the link above. 

In today’s world, children are very restricted. There is no such thing as ‘free’ play anymore. Children are no longer allowed to play on pavements, streets, alleys and vacant plots. It is no longer safe for children to wander off alone. Many children are no longer allowed to roam their neighbourhoods unless accompanied by adults.

Moreover, some working parents cannot supervise their children after school and, as a result, children have to stay indoors or attend supervised after-school activities. Children’s lives have become structured and scheduled by adults who think they are acting in their children’s best interest. These adults are convinced that sending their children to private lessons after school will make them more successful as adults.

Unfortunately, even schoolyards are not designed to promote a natural playing environment for children. The surplus energy theory, developed by 19th-century psychologist Herbert Spencer, may have contributed to this. According to this theory, the main purpose for children’s play is to get rid of surplus energy. Although the theory was rejected by resear­chers and developmental theorists, it still influenced the design of children’s outdoor school environments.

As a result of Spencer’s theory, schoolyards are seen as areas for physical play during breaks and sporting activities, where children ‘burn off steam’, and not as a means of providing rich educational opportunities, particularly in the area of social skills and environmental learning.

Human nature itself has also contributed to this design paradigm. Our common experiences usually shape what we conceive as conventional and, therefore, the norm by which we operate.

When most adults were children, schoolyards consisted of asphalted areas with fixed playground equipment such as swings and slides, and sports fields, and used solely during breaks. So most adults see this as the appropriate model for a schoolyard.

Research shows that young children who have not yet adapted to the man-made world consistently prefer the natural landscape to built environments. Moreover, studies have revealed various benefits of regular play in nature.

Children that are in contact with nature:
• Score higher on tests of concentration and self-discipline;
• Show more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility, and they are sick less often;
• Are more imaginative and creative;
• Are less stressed;
• Are not generally engaged in bullying;
• Develop powers of observation and creativity and a sense of peace and being at one with the world;
• Are more imaginative and curious;
• Have more positive feelings about each other;
• Are more socially interactive;
• Develop an affinity to, and love of nature, along with a positive environmental ethic.

According to Harvard biologist Edward Wilson, the need to affiliate with other species is built into our genes.
He believes that the need to connect with nature is a reflection of our evolutionary roots. However, in our busy urban lives we increasingly work against our biophilic needs by instilling a biophobia. This describes the condition whereby one develops an adverse reaction to nature and only feels comfortable in a man-made environment.

Children who are constantly removed from nature may develop this condition and may also refuse contact with nature and dislike or fear plants and animals. In contrast to the conventional schools, contact with nature is central to the educational curriculum in alternative schools whereby in the pre-school, kindergarten and primary years, children are encouraged to directly experience nature.

Children play outside, preferably in gardens that mirror the changing seasons through the changing plant life. The classroom furnishings as well as all toys are made from natural materials such as wood, stone, pottery, wool, cotton, silk and linen. The emphasis is on working with the materials of nature through planting and harvesting, craft work and creative play. The commonly used dolls are also made of natural materials and have simple expressions and allow natural postures. The first years are thus years of nature experience.

Nature-based playground coming to life in Concord - Concord, MA - The Concord Journal

You'll have to excuse me if these next few items aren't timely. I save them when I see them and rarely have time to post them.  Regardless of when they were written they're still very pertinent.

In my mind playspaces should always be "open-ended, creative and imaginative".

Full article can be read from the link above. 

The Playscape at Ripley will be a place where people of all ages and abilities can play, relax and interact with their environment.

“It’s about getting people outside,” said Jennifer Saxe, alumni relations and development coordinator for Concord Children’s Center. “We want people to be outside in ways that are open-ended, creative and imaginative. The Playscape will keep things creative for adults and kids.”

The Playscape at Ripley, a play area that will “purposefully connect individuals of all abilities with nature; foster cognitive, social and emotional growth; and encourage young and old alike to get outside,”

....Since before 2008, the Concord Children’s Center, along with other early childhood organizations in Concord, have discussed their concerns about the lack of availability to unstructured nature-based play areas for.......... a 2007 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics warned of the “decline in children’s spontaneous and creative play – a decline which can negatively impact children’s language development, collaborative social skills and motor coordination and balance.”
.....Dan Stimson, assistant director of stewardship at Sudbury Valley Trustees, said Gowing’s Swamp is a pretty special place and added that the Playscape project ties in well with the Trustees’ mission to protect the land and make it available to all who are interested in visiting.“One of the worries amongst conservationists today is that kids aren’t getting outside enough,” Stimson said. “There’s a lack of getting kids into the woods. This type of project acts as a bridge and gets more of the community out there.”

Recess Is as Important as Class Time, Pediatricians Say |

You'll have to excuse me if these next few items aren't timely. I save them when I see them and rarely have time to post them.  Regardless of when they were written they're still very pertinent.

Their are a lot of different venues for children to learn. Reducing, removing or institutionalising what happens during recesses destroys social development and an integral opportunity for knowledge consolidation.
Full article can be read from the link above. 

Playtime can be as important as class time for helping students perform their best.

Recess is most children’s favorite period, and parents and teachers should encourage that trend, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Recess can be a critical time for development and social interaction, and in a new policy statement published in the journal Pediatrics, pediatricians from the AAP support the importance of having a scheduled break in the school day. “Children need to have downtime between complex cognitive challenges,” says Dr. Robert Murray, a pediatrician and professor of human nutrition at the Ohio State University who is a co-author of the statement. “They tend to be less able to process information the longer they are held to a task. It’s not enough to just switch from math to English. You actually have to take a break.”

The AAP committee that developed the statement began its research in 2007, expecting to discover that recess is important as a physical outlet for children. What they found, however, was that playtime’s benefits extend beyond the physical. “We came to the realization that it really affects social, emotional and cognitive development in a much deeper way than we’d expected,” she says. “It helps children practice conflict resolution if we allow them unstructured play, and it lets them come back to class more ready to learn and less fidgety.”

The policy could be a lifeline for the dwindling role recess plays in the school day as districts trim budgets and hours of instruction, and squeeze more academic subjects into existing or even fewer school days, often sacrificing recess in the process.

......It’s also important to distinguish recess from physical education, says Ramstetter. While gym class offers kids a chance to stretch their legs and get their heart rate up, it is still considered instructional time, with very different goals from those of the unstructured downtime of recess. Likewise, it’s important to let kids play what they want — that means playground monitors shouldn’t organize kids to play kickball or soccer. “When it’s structured, it’s not a break in the day,” she says.
...... That understanding reflects a growing body of research documenting the power of some time off for improving concentration and even creativity. 

Education | Back to Nature Network

You'll have to excuse me if these next few items aren't timely. I save them when I see them and rarely have time to post them.  Regardless of when they were written they're still very pertinent.

A great guide and tool for educators intent on introducing nature and naturalistic learning opportunities to their curriculum. Regardless of where you are the experiences and outcomes are adaptable.

Full article can be read from the link above. 

The Back to Nature Network teacher’s guide, Into Nature, is a unique teachers’ guide that enables the teaching of all Ontario school curriculum subjects outdoors in nature on a regular basis. Content of the guide includes logistics, resources and learning experiences for teaching in nature. All learning experiences are linked to Ontario curriculum documents and include: Nature 101, a series of five phases to move from the indoor classroom to the outdoor learning space; fifty Nature2Go activities; and full lessons that last one class period or more.

Download the English-language version of Into Nature.

Cover Story — December 2012 | San Diego Metro Magazine

You'll have to excuse me if these next few items aren't timely. I save them when I see them and rarely have time to post them.  Regardless of when they were written they're still very pertinent.

A very pertinent article reiterating the need for natural public spaces within the urban environment and what happens to the population when  they are removed or commercialised

Full article can be read from the link above. 

The end of November marked the beginning of construction of a new public plaza in Downtown San Diego.........This and other recent examples point to our recent re-understanding of parks, plazas and open spaces as critical components of our urban environment. The San Diego Union editorialized: “Park improvement is among the most important undertakings now before the city. It should have the cordial co-operation of all.”

...... More recently, a column in the San Diego Union-Tribune asked, “What, then, is the measure of a great city or region? Its education systems? Its arts? Its business inventiveness? All of the above, but the most overlooked measure is a city’s dedication to public space.” 

......There is also a growing awareness that the quality of the public realm is a critical element in quality economic development. People want to be in places where they can feel comfortable and enjoy. These spaces can be parks, plazas, and our canyons and even pleasant sidewalks. And they want these things nearby to where they live and work........ Richard M. Daley, the former mayor of Chicago, put it this way: “Having a place to relax, play, take part in community events and participate in sports and recreational activities is truly key to an individuals well-being and the overall health of a community.”
......The addition to Horton Plaza is an example of a very different approach — a park replacing a not-so-old department store in an active, vibrant shopping center. Another example is the recent action by the San Diego City Council to dedicate more than 6,000 acres of open space under the auspices of Sen. Christine Kehoe’s Senate Bill 323, and the advocacy of the Canyonlands Organization. The goal of the Canyonlands group is to connect our canyons to our neighborhoods.

Preservation of our canyons and hillsides is a long-standing and continuing initiative of the region. Perhaps why we do it can best be summed up by the following from the 2006 report by the group San Diego Civic Solutions, “Canyonlands, The Creation of a San Diego Regional Canyonlands Park”: “Our canyons bring us nourishment, maintain our health and ventilate our lives. They are our lungs and bronchial tubes.” And the canyons define our neighborhoods and provide us with nearby nature.......

Cornell Launches Archive of 150,000 Bird Calls and Animal Sounds, with Recordings Going Back to 1929 | Open Culture

Cornell Launches Archive of 150,000 Bird Calls and Animal Sounds, with Recordings Going Back to 1929 | Open Culture

You'll have to excuse me if these next few items aren't timely. I save them when I see them and rarely have time to post them.  Regardless of when they were written they're still very pertinent.

What a marvellous trove of material, ideas and information to bring into the classroom.

Full article can be read from the link above. 

Ornithologists and bird watchers rejoice. After a dozen years, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library has fully digitized its nearly 150,000 audio recordings (a total running time of 7,513 hours), representing close to 9,000 different species, such as the very unsettling-sounding Barred Owl (above). While the collection also includes the sounds of whales, elephants, frogs, primates, and other animals, the primary emphasis here is on birds (it is a Lab of Ornithology, after all), and there is an incredible range of calls. Cornell recommends some of the highlights below:

Earliest recording: Cornell Lab founder Arthur Allen was a pioneer in sound recording. On a spring day in 1929 he recorded this Song Sparrow sounding much as they do today
Youngest bird: This clip from 1966 records the sounds of an Ostrich chick while it is still inside the egg – and the researchers as they watch

Liveliest wake-up call: A dawn chorus in tropical Queensland, Australia is bursting at the seams with warbles, squeals, whistles, booms and hoots

Best candidate to appear on a John Coltrane record: The indri, a lemur with a voice that is part moan, part jazz clarinet

Most spines tingled: The incomparable voice of a Common Loonon an Adirondacks lake in 1992

Most erratic construction project: the staccato hammering sounds of a walrus under water

Most likely to be mistaken for aliens arriving: Birds-of-paradise make some amazing sounds – here’s the UFO-sound of a Curl-crested Manucode in New Guinea

Whether you’re an enthusiastic birder, practicing scientist, or sound-sample hunter, you’ll find something to blow your mind at the extensive collections of the Macaulay Library. Both amateur and professional naturalists, for example, can acquire, visualize, measure, and analyze animal sounds with a free version of the Cornell Lab’s proprietary interactive sound analysis software, Raven.

If children lose contact with nature they won't fight for it | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian

If children lose contact with nature they won't fight for it | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian

You'll have to excuse me if these next few items aren't timely. I save them when I see them and rarely have time to post them.  Regardless of when they were written they're still very pertinent.

Nature disconnection, screen substitution, who will be the future stewards....if there is anything left. Love Monbiots' articles.

Full article can be read from the link above. 

With half of their time spent at screens, the next generation will be poorly equipped to defend the natural world from harm.'One woe doth tread upon another's heel, So fast they follow". That radical green pressure group PriceWaterhouseCoopers warns that even if the present rate of global decarbonisation were to double, we would still be on course for 6C of warming by the end of the century. Confining the rise to 2C requires a sixfold reduction in carbon intensity: far beyond the scope of current policies.
‘The great indoors has become a far more dangerous
 place than the diminished world beyond.'
 Illustration by Daniel Pudles
.......A new report shows that the UK has lost 20% of its breeding birds since 1966: once common species such as willow tits, lesser spotted woodpeckers and turtle doves have all but collapsed; even house sparrows have fallen by two thirds. Ash dieback is just one of many terrifying plant diseases, mostly spread by trade. They now threaten our oaks, pines and chestnuts.

So where are the marches, the occupations, the urgent demands for change? While the surveys show that the great majority would like to see the living planet protected, few are prepared to take action. This, I think, reflects a second environmental crisis: the removal of children from the natural world. The young people we might have expected to lead the defence of nature have less and less to do with it.......

There are several reasons for this collapse: parents' irrational fear of strangers and rational fear of traffic, the destruction of the fortifying commons where previous generations played, the quality of indoor entertainment, the structuring of children's time, the criminalisation of natural play. The great indoors, as a result, has become a far more dangerous place than the diminished world beyond. The rise of obesity, rickets and asthma and the decline in cardio-respiratory fitness are well documented. 

NAPLAN: is the pain worth it?

NAPLAN: is the pain worth it?

You'll have to excuse me if these next few items aren't timely. I save them when I see them and rarely have time to post them.  Regardless of when they were written they're still very pertinent.

Read the article and decide for yourself. Personally I'm exceptionally anti- Naplan (for a number of reasons discussed elsewhere in this Blog)

Full article can be read from the link above. 

CHILDREN are suffering stress-related vomiting and sleeplessness as some teachers drill them for months prior to the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), according to the first national study into the impact of the high-stakes testing regime.

The University of Melbourne survey of 8353 teachers and principals raises significant concerns about the ''unintended side-effects'' of NAPLAN, including teaching to the test, a reduction in time devoted to other subjects and a negative impact on student health and staff morale.Almost half of teachers said they held practice NAPLAN tests at least once a week for five months before the tests every May.

About 90 per cent of those surveyed said some students felt stressed before NAPLAN tests, with symptoms including crying, sleeplessness, vomiting and absenteeism.......The study's researchers have called for a national debate into whether there are other ways the data could be collected without the negative impacts revealed in their findings.

''We are narrowing the curriculum in order to test children,'' said lead researcher Nicky Dulfer. ''There are ways we can support numeracy and literacy learning without limiting children's access to other subjects like music, languages and art.'................

Gender-neutral toy catalogues leave the boy holding the baby

Gender-neutral toy catalogues leave the boy holding the baby

You'll have to excuse me if these next few items aren't timely. I save them when I see them and rarely have time to post them.  Regardless of when they were written they're still very pertinent.

Good on you Toy's R US. I note you still have the blue and pink strollers, however it's still a step in the right direction (even if it is just tapping in to current developmental thought to shift product)

Full article can be read from the link above. 

SWEDEN'S largest toy chain has pictured boys holding baby dolls and girls playing with swords and guns in its Christmas catalogue.

''For several years, we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we … have had to adjust,'' said Jan Nyberg, director of sales at Top Toy, the franchise-holder for Toys 'R' Us.

The country's advertising watchdog reprimanded the company for gender discrimination three years ago following complaints over outdated gender roles in the 2008 Christmas catalogue, which featured boys dressed as superheroes and girls playing princess.

A comparison between this year's Toys 'R' Us catalogues in Sweden and Denmark, where Top Toy is also the franchisee, showed that a boy wielding a toy machinegun in the Danish edition had been replaced by a girl in Sweden.

Elsewhere in the catalogue, a girl was deleted from the page depicting Hello Kitty items, a girl holding a baby doll was replaced by a boy, and in sister chain BR's catalogue, a young girl's pink T-shirt was turned light blue.

Top Toy, Sweden's largest toy retailer by number of stores, said it had received ''training and guidance'' from the Swedish advertising watchdog, which is a self-regulatory agency.

''We have produced the catalogues for both BR and Toys 'R' Us in a completely different way this year,'' Mr Nyberg said. ''With the new gender thinking, there is nothing that is right or wrong. It's not a boy or a girl thing, it's a toy for children.''

Friday, 18 January 2013

Photos of two new finished 2012 projects.

With a busy work schedule I've only recently had the chance to get out and take photos of two projects that were finished in late 2012. Both were built by J M Landscapes and I'm told by the centres both new playspaces have been enthusiastically embraced. More photos can be found in Previous Projects.

The first,  MECIS, or the Macarthur Early Childhood Intervention Service in Leumeah is an early childhood intervention program for children from birth to school-entry age with developmental delays and disabilities, and their families. Whilst their playspace is much smaller than most it is no less important.  * Note: MECIS is not bound by the Education and Care Services National Regulations

The design brief for this project was to,
* Remove the fixed play equipment that dominated the playspace and create a natural sensory playspace   
   that provided universal access for children with restricted mobility,
* Provide inclusive, stable, activity venues, of optimal height, that can be utilised for multiple activities for 
   children who may have problems with Sensory Integration (SI). For example the perspex table can be  
   used to extend sand play from the sand pit, ball play or sensory art activities. The music panel can be 
   seeded with traditional and home-made musical instruments, or toys that make sounds, as a means to 
   introduce sound, music and song or to facilitate and augment sensory story telling. 


The second project was the St Andrews Kindergarten, in AbbotsfordSydney who now have a groovy new tank fed sand and water play area, a see through perspex worm farm and A multi-purpose mound for running, climbing, rolling and sitting. 

The fenced apex of the mound can be utilized by children as private areas for the individual or group. The mound also doubles as makeshift seating for small group work. A set of hooks embedded in the wooden apex of the mound allows educators to change the rope ladder for two knotted climbing ropes,  a thick cargo rope, a section of cargo net, etc.

The large mound encompasses a tunnel that whilst giving the children the impression of being a secret , private space is still easily supervisedA perspex panel built into the apex deck allows light and communication between those children outside the tunnel and those within.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

independent gardening ltd: How on earth....

independent gardening ltd: How on earth....

An interesting piece from " Independent Gardening", all I can say is Ditto.  It's interesting that this disease last seen in the 17/18th century, has only been "reported"  as making a resurgence in the UK since 2007. Note "reported" and UK. It could be in other similar climates for longer but has only "existed" since it was formerly reported.

From PubMed Health
Rickets is a disorder caused by a lack of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate. It leads to softening and weakening of the bones.

Causes, incidence, and risk factorsVitamin D helps the body control calcium and phosphate levels. If the blood levels of these minerals become too low, the body may produce hormones that cause calcium and phosphate to be released from the bones. This leads to weak and soft bones.

Vitamin D is absorbed from food or produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight. Lack of vitamin D production by the skin may occur in people who  live in climates with little exposure to sunlight, must stay indoors, work indoors during the daylight hours

Cases have been reported in Britain in recent years[10] of rickets in children of many social backgrounds caused by insufficient production in the body of vitamin D because the sun's ultraviolet light was not reaching the skin due to use of strong sunblock, too much "covering up" in sunlight, or not getting out into the sun. Other cases have been reported among the children of some ethnic groups in which mothers avoid exposure to the sun for religious or cultural reasons, leading to a maternal shortage of vitamin D;[11][12] and people with darker skins need more sunlight to maintain vitamin D levels. The British Medical Journal reported in 2010 that doctors in Newcastle on Tyne saw 20 cases of rickets per year.

Two other interesting articles debating causes and cures Fortifying foods and Calls for food additives suggest diet plays an equally important part in the resurgence. 

Full article can be read from the link above.

"Okay I am going to have a rant....... How on earth in today's age can we have allowed Rickets to resurface again in children within the UK? Technically Rickets is caused by severe malnutrition (do you remember the pictures of the famine in Biafra with children with bloated stomachs and bent legs?) or a lack of Vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D comes from sunshine and is vital for the absorption of calcium. Ergo we need sun on our skins - too much sunscreen, and you block it - but first of all of course you need to get outside!!!! Are we so far gone as parents that we need to keep our children safe inside on computers, tablets and Iphones? Have we become so lazy that we have lost the ability to play; to take our children for walks? Have we become so obsessed with technology, with the internet, with 'e-games' that we have forgotten that our children need to interact with people and nature - not a wretched screen on a computer (she says as she types this on the internet). I find this fact deeply, deeply shocking. I get scared for our future as human beings. We have a responsibility to ourselves, our children, our neighbours and the environment. Technology is brilliant but it has a place. It does not teach us how to interact with real people; it does not teach us how to have conversations; nor how to behave. It most certainly does not teach us the consequences of our actions on other people. I dare say I will be shot down in flames for this blog, but I constantly thank God, or the universe, for the fact that I am lucky enough to live in the countryside; to know and to be able to observe the changes in the season. To know that the universe, our planet and nature are unimaginably huge, wonderful, terrifying, awe inspiring and often side splittingly funny. Even in cities it is still possible to look at the sky, walk in the sun and feel the fresh (ish) air on our faces. Sitting inside makes us smaller, somehow less, in ourselves. We lose the wonder of nature in all its magnificence. Sir David Attenborough brings much into our living rooms, but you cannot replace the intricacies and fun of observing our own particular take on nature in our gardens with a quick visit to the Galapagos Islands via TV. I still think that one of the most wonderful sounds on the planet is the sound of a small child laughing as they play. There is an all encompassing, gut wrenching, side splitting one hundred per cent joy in that sound, an innocence and wisdom beyond their age. I hope that we get to hear it more often and not less."

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Free Range Kids » A Playground Accident and the Instinct to Blame

Free Range Kids » A Playground Accident and the Instinct to Blame

I read Free Range Kids each day. Some of the posts are pertinent to what I do, most dovetail with my philosophies. I have a number of other posts from different sources that I "bank" and then multi-post when I get the time, however as soon as I read this one it got shunted to the top of the pile.

 As a designer I work within the constraints of Federal, State and Local legislation and expectation, experience as an educator and designer and common sense.  Therefore when I design a playspace I create projects that provide a measured challenge and usually have in build (and required) safeguards to prevent accident or injury. Regardless of this, in my time as an educator I have been party to some children's accidents that could never have been foreseen, let alone prevented, by the playspace designer, the builder, educators supervising the area or the person or body in charge of the centre.  Children are so full of energy and VROOM, but frequently so short on sensory focus and fine and gross motor control.

I agree sometimes accidents just happen, regardless what we do. What is important is our reaction to them. What tacit messages are we conveying to children about perceived and real dangers, risk taking and personal responsibility?

Full article can be read from the link above.

Hey Readers — Here’s a note about insurance issues, and modern-day instincts, that I really appreciate. It comes to us from Ann, a mom of three girls who blogs at . (What a great blog name! ) – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: Yesterday, my 11 year old fell off a piece of playground equipment at school (she called it a “spinny thing”) and broke her ankle. When I picked her up at school, I didn’t question what happened, when the playground equipment was last inspected, or who was supervising. I just took her to urgent care with the understanding that these things happen.

While we were there, my daughter sobbed, “I’m never getting on that spinny thing ever again!” — an understandable sentiment given her level of pain and anxiety at that moment. I said to her, “You know what, accidents happen. They just do. You’ve probably played on that thing a million times without ever getting hurt. Today was just an accident. At least you were having fun! Can you imagine if you broke your ankle while taking out the trash? That wouldn’t be worth it at all. I bet when it happened though, you were having fun, laughing with your friends.”

And that’s when it hit me: Her immediate, instinctive response of “I’m never getting on that again!” is the response we’re seeing from parents and schools when accidents like this happen. I could have stormed into that school, demanded to have that piece of playground equipment removed and contacted the media about the dangers of all “spinny things” on playgrounds. I think her response of never wanting to get on there again was reasonable for her age, her maturity, and her view of how this injury is impacting her world. As adults though, we need to take a step back and figure out what is really a true danger, and what is just an accident. It is as though people have forgotten the phrase, “accidents happen.”

Thanks for opening my eyes to Free-Range thinking. — Ann

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The MaxiBox by David Reed on Pozible

In an effort to keep himself from going insane whilst recovering from CFS My husband David has created an eco pet product and is in the process of getting it manufactured. Check it out below and feel free to share to any pet loving friends..

The MaxiBox by David Reed on Pozible