‘Uncage your kids and let them discover the world’

image:  Mike Lanza, founder of the Playborhood movement, at New Farm Park in Brisbane yesterday. Picture: Glenn Hunt Source: News Corp Australia


Cooped-up children need more adult-free fun time playing with neighbourhood children and taking risks, the founder of a global “Playborhood” movement says.

Mike Lanza, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur who once ­developed web video technology, is now championing the power of screen-free play.

Children need to spend time ­together devising games and sorting out their own disputes, he says, or setting up private clubs with ­secret rules.

“There’s a lot of value in play,’’ Mr Lanza said yesterday.

“Kids learn leadership skills, ­social skills, they learn about social justice, they make rules and they adjudicate disputes.

“But for so many kids, childhood is not very joyful these days — it isn’t nearly as much fun as it used to be.’’

Mr Lanza blames overprotective parents and fenced backyards for the demise of neighbourhood play.

“Neighbourhoods are pretty boring these days,’’ he said. “Kids go outside, look around and think, ‘Nothing’s going on’.

“So when you can, go into the front yard, say hello to people, and walk to the grocery store rather than drive.

“It matters what our neighbours do — do they let their kids stay inside and play video games, or drive them around everywhere, or do they let them out to play?’’

Mr Lanza will be the keynote speaker at the Nature Play Kids Outdoor conference on the Gold Coast tomorrow.

Brisbane clinical psychologist Judith Locke will tell the symposium on Sunday that “over-parenting’’ is creating a generation of stressed and dependent young adults with “learned helplessness’’.

“I’m noticing a lot of them ­expect things to go well all the time and are shocked, and fall down quite hard, when things don’t go the way they want,’’ she said.

“They expect someone else to fix every problem.’’

Dr Locke said today’s parents were overly anxious, and too quick and willing to intervene to help their children.

“It looks like uncaring parenting if you’re not constantly solving their issues and making them feel better,’’ she said. “But when parents are constantly protecting a child from the outside world they give them a sense the world is dangerous.

“When a parent is solving all the problems, the child doesn’t need to solve any.’’

Mr Lanza has transformed his own backyard into a children’s playground, replacing the flower beds with an in-ground trampoline and a double-storey cubby house that crawls with neighbourhood children.

He lets his three boys, aged six to 10, ride their bikes alone to school in the Californian suburb of Menlo Park.

“On weekends my 10-year-old boy Marco gets on his bike and we don’t know where he is — he ­usually comes home for lunch and he’s off again,’’ he said.

“We feel like that’s a great ­accomplishment.’’



Source:  The Australian.  

Published:  25 June 2015.

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