anthropology · behavior · brain · children · community · education · environment · family · learning · mental health · psychology

Let the children play outside, darn it!

English: Children in Khorixas, Namibia Deutsch...
Why aren’t American kids allowed to play outside anymore; Children in Khorixas, Namibia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

While summer may just be getting into full swing in my neck of the woods, it’s almost over for most everyone else (*sob!*). It seems everyone is trying to take advantage of a few last weekends of summer before school starts back up. But for some kids, that is a lot harder than it sounds. Free Range Kids recently posted about separate instances of a mom and a dad getting in trouble for letting their kids play outside unattended.

 

The mom’s story:

 

Today the police visited my home after one of my neighbors called in about my children being outside alone…in our yard with a home on two sides and six foot fence on the other two sides. The officer said, “Don’t have me called back out.” So now, do I have to go outside with my children every time they go out? I have a chronic illness and sitting outside all day sucks for me. They love being outside. They come in for bathroom breaks, they come in to tattle, they come in to say “I Love You”… they are in and out every 5-10 minutes. I check on them anytime I pass the door, and I lay or sit next to an open window. If I call for them, they come to the door/window and answer as a “check in.” They will literally stay outside from wake up to 9 pm, when I force them to come in, with breaks for the above and for food. They were perfectly safe. I don’t know what to do.

 

The dad’s story:

 

Dear Lenore: A neighbor of mine called the Texas CPS (Child Protective Services) and the Police on my wife and I because we allow our children, ages 6 and 8, to play in the courtyard directly in front of our apartment. CPS has been investigating my family since April 4th 2012, it is now August 12 2012, and all they have come up with is the one report to Police about my 6-year-old being outside in front of his home. Now we are dealing with the courts in a “Negligent Supervision” case, which makes absolutely no sense because my child wasn’t hurt or asking anyone for help. I was outside with my son when the Police arrived, but the CPS caseworker insists that I take drug tests and parenting classes. People are not neighbors anymore, they are just @$$holes. – A Texas Dad

 

Unfortunately the Free Range Kids blog has waaaay too many examples of this kind of reaction from authorities.

 

I find this really concerning, since we’re basically telling children they can’t be responsible for themselves when parents are trying to teach their children independence and responsibility, we’re not allowing them unstructured play time which is crucial for learning and brain development, that it is a way more dangerous world out there than it really is, AND it discourages them from exploring and getting exposure to nature and natural sunlight, both things that are crucial for growing bodies.

 

Why are children no longer allowed to play in their own front yards? I’m sorry if this comes off as a rant, but I feel not letting children play outside and learn on their own is a serious problem if we are simultaneously so concerned about “winning” the education race against other nations.

Aside from yelling at CPS and the police, what can we do as concerned citizens, either with children or without, to encourage and enable children to play outside and allow parents to let their children roam a little bit freer and get the unstructured, unsupervised play time they need in order to develop normally? Ideas welcome in the comments below.

 

 

 

behavior · community · culture · environment · happiness · psychology

The Psychological Importance of Home

English: Clayton H. Delano House, Ticonderoga,...
Our sense of place, and particularly our home, can be very intricately woven into our identities. Image via Wikipedia

As the weekend, approaches, many of us are making plans to go out to events in our local cities, or work around the house, or just sleep in our own beds after several weeks of visiting and traveling. The psychology of home is very important to us humans, and was captured really well in an article by Julie Beck in The Atlantic:

Susan Clayton, an environmental psychologist at the College of Wooster, says that for many people, their home is part of their self-definition, which is why we do things like decorate our houses and take care of our lawns. These large patches of vegetation serve little real purpose, but they are part of a public face people put on, displaying their home as an extension of themselves. It’s hardly rare, though, in our mobile modern society, to accumulate several different homes over the course of a lifetime. So how does that affect our conception of ourselves?

When you visit a place you used to live, these cues can cause you to revert back to the person you were when you lived there.

For better or worse, the place where we grew up usually retains an iconic status, Clayton says. But while it’s human nature to want to have a place to belong, we also want to be special, and defining yourself as someone who once lived somewhere more interesting than the suburbs of Michigan is one way to do that. “You might choose to identify as a person who used to live somewhere else, because it makes you distinctive,” Clayton says. I know full well that living in Paris for three months doesn’t make me a Parisian, but that doesn’t mean there’s not an Eiffel Tower on my shower curtain anyway.

We may use our homes to help distinguish ourselves, but the dominant Western viewpoint is that regardless of location, the individual remains unchanged. It wasn’t until I stumbled across the following notion, mentioned in passing in a book about a Hindu pilgrimage by William S. Sax, that I began to question that idea: “People and the places where they reside are engaged in a continuing set of exchanges; they have determinate, mutual effects upon each other because they are part of a single, interactive system.”

Read the full article here.

I definitely feel like I have a connection and identify with every place that I’ve lived, although some have felt more like home and have shaped me more than others. A lot of that has been due to how safe or at peace I feel in a place, and how much I have bonded with the people around me.

I also think one thing that was so traumatic about the housing bubble was that sense of losing your home. Not just a piece of property you owned, but this landmark of who you were, the space where you kept all of your memories and built new ones, your safe house, literally.

What is your experience with home? What makes a place “home” for you?

behavior · brain · children · environment · family · learning · psychology

How To Help Your Child’s Brain Grow Up Strong : NPR

A lot of parents freak out about how to provide enriching environments for their children and help them grow, from music lessons to early reading to math flash cards.

In one of those “well duh” books, two neuroscientists, Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang remind us it doesn’t take all that much…

Babies may look helpless, but as soon as they come into the world, they’re able to do a number of important things. They can recognize faces and moving objects. They’re attracted to language. And from very early on, they can differentiate their mother from other humans.

“They really come equipped to learn about the world in a way that wasn’t appreciated until recently,” says neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt. “It took scientists a long time to realize that their brains are doing some very complicated things.”

Aamodt and fellow neuroscientist Sam Wang explain how the human brain develops from infancy to adolescence in their new book, Welcome to Your Child’s Brain. The two researchers also offer tips for parents to help their children eat their spinach, learn their ABCs and navigate elementary school.

more via How To Help Your Child’s Brain Grow Up Strong : NPR, on Fresh Air.

They talk with Terry Gross about complicated concepts like self control, abstract thought, and things that are even hard for some grown-ups, and how to create an environment that makes kids want to practice these things.

community · design · family · health

Granny Pods Keep Elderly Close, At Safe Distance : NPR

His idea might seem strange, but “granny pods” are catching on.The granny pods real name is the MEDCottage, and its basically a mini mobile home that rents for about $2,000 a month. You park one in the backyard, hook it up to your water and electricity, and it becomes a free-standing spare room for Grandma and Grandpa.The concept is catching on all over the country, but nowhere more so than Virginia, where the state government has eased zoning restrictions on these high-tech hideaways, which go on the market early next year.The MEDCottage is homey on the outside, with taupe vinyl siding and white trim around French doors. Inside, it looks like a nice hotel suite, complete with kitchen and bathroom — and security cameras.

more via Granny Pods Keep Elderly Close, At Safe Distance : NPR.

Nature

10 Easy Steps for Becoming a Radical Homemaker by Shannon Hayes

A small vegetable garden in May outside of Aus...
Image via Wikipedia

So often people want an easy answer about how to make their lives better, and help the environment, and in some ways it is easy, but just having a grocery list of “stuff to do to make the environment better” seems shallow and sort of missing the point. So I’m pleased that Shannon Hayes was reluctant to provide us with an easy out; From 10 Easy Steps for Becoming a Radical Homemaker by Shannon Hayes:

I didn’t see a to-do list as a viable route to a dramatic shift in thinking, beliefs, and behaviors. But since the objective of such a list was smoother discussion and communication of Radical Homemaking ideas with the public, I did it.

I came up with the simplest things I could imagine—like committing to hanging laundry out to dry, dedicating a portion of the lawn to a vegetable garden, making an effort to get to know neighbors to enable greater cooperation and reduce resource consumption.

Thank you, Shannon Hayes, for making such a list. While it may seem shallow, providing a list like this is a way for us easy-answer people to dive in and expand from there.

read the 10 Easy Steps for Becoming a Radical Homemaker by Shannon Hayes.

Social · writing

Mary Catherine Bateson on Domesticity – NYTimes.com

garden art at Dr. Bateson's New Hampshire farm

A nicely written article in the August 25th edition of the New York Times on anthropologist Dr. Mary Catherine Bateson (Margaret Mead‘s and Gregory Bateson‘s daughter) on her latest book which looks at domesticity, homemaking, and what it means to be part of a couple.

In Dr. Bateson’s parlance, homemaking is … a metaphor for community, for the design of an environment — professional or domestic or societal — that challenges and supports its inhabitants, an ideal closer to the arrangement of a Samoan village than a perfectly appointed living room. “It’s critical that home not just be a place that you use whatever is there, but that it be a place you are truly responsible for,” she said. “It’s not just your home and you get to mess it up.”

Homemaking, she added, is also a metaphor for longevity, a way of looking at the second stage of adulthood that precedes old age — what she calls “adulthood II” — which is the subject of her new book.

Yes, it’s a sequel to her 1990 meditation on the stop-and-start nature of women’s lives, except that this time she has invited men into the conversation.

more at At Home With Mary Catherine Bateson – Mary Catherine Bateson on Domesticity – NYTimes.com.

architecture · Nature

Gardens that grow on walls

I have seen this done in a couple of places, but always love to see it done, and often in different ways. This was featured in the New York Times a couple of months ago, but like I said I’ve been storing these ideas for a couple of months now.

From the NYT article, “Vertical Gardens, Grown on Walls” by Kristina Shevory:

Mr. Riley, a former commodities trader turned plant expert who went on to become assistant director of the Horticultural Society of New York, was eager to move beyond potted plants in a way that hadn’t yet occurred to many others. It took a number of expeditions, a lot of research and more than a decade and a half, but by 2003 he had figured out how to grow a wall of plants inside his Upper West Side apartment. …

Vertical gardens — which began as an experiment in 1988 by Patrick Blanc, a French botanist intent on creating a garden without dirt — are becoming increasingly popular at home. Avid and aspiring gardeners, frustrated with little outdoor space, are taking another look at their walls and noticing something new: more space. And a number of companies are selling ready-made systems and all-in-one kits for gardeners like Mr. Riley who want to do it themselves.

Matthew McGregor-Mento put 400 plants in his vertical garden in Manhattan.

These were originally developed by artist Patrick Blanc almost 30 years ago. The NYT article features garden walls in New York, for obvious reasons, but they are also sprouting up in Tacoma, WA, London, Singapore, and other cities.

antigravity forest, London
Maximum Garden
Maximum Garden House, Singapore. Credit: Jeremy San