Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer Hiatus

Will be back posting as soon as I can.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Healing Landscapes

Found this great website via the ASLA. A resource for "gardens and landscapes that promote health and well-being".

In an ideal world all gardens and landscapes should do that...... but sadly they don't.

(The photo above is of my recent field trip to the Poppy Fields in Lancaster, CA.)

Richard Louv is doing the rounds in the UK

Two great articles concerning connecting our children to nature. The Telegraph and The Guardian.

Great to see the subject (and Richard Louv) getting such coverage.....

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Free Range Kids

Over at the Times, Lenore Skenazy (the lady who let her 9 year old son go on the New York subway on his own as she believes in "common sense parenting in uncommonly overprotective times") has had a live chat with interesting comments. Also, her blog Free Range Kids has some really mindblowing stories.

Great stuff.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Philip K Howard

I saw this talk over at TED by the founder of Common Good, (whose subheading on the website "Restoring common sense to America" immediately got my vote).

Really interesting.

The war on children's playgrounds

Great article on Salon, via Common Good, about when adults make kid's spaces safe and risk-free maybe we take the fun out of them.

I think the above image would be heaven for my kids, rather than the sterile, homogenous play structure that my local park has to offer.

(Photo of St. John's Wood Adventure Playground, London in 1963)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Children and Risk

Found via Children and Nature Network, here's a project from Berlin, where children build their own playgrounds. There's a great article with photos over at Public Workshop.

Also some good links about risk and play in the text worth checking out.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I needed a Ken Robinson fix

Nuff said.

Warwick Cairns

I'm a big fan. Over at the Beat Magazine, Warwick Cairns has a regular column. This one I particularly liked.

Don't do that to your kids..... let them quit if they hate it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Idle Parent, now available in the US

Tom Hodgkinson, author of "The Idle Parent", has had his book published in America. I want one....

Seven Generations Charter School

"The Seven Generations Charter School is one in which students from every grade level engage in activities focused on sustainable living, environmental stewardship, and respect for our planet and all living things. We believe that a school with excellent academic standards can also be a place where students learn citizenship and develop the skills to succeed as they improve the overall quality of life in their communities."


Found via Good.

Dan Tapscott

Nice to hear a positive view on children and technology. Still think they should get outside as well but maybe computers are not so bad after all.

Found here. Check out Hans Rosling's as well.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Seed bombs

I bought one of these from a gumball dispenser outside my local cafe. Fantastic idea. Now I just need to decide where to set it off for maximum effect......

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vanishing of the bees

Honeybees are vanishing at an alarming rate across the planet. "Vanishing of the Bees" is a documentary examining their disappearance. It's being released in August across America.

Time to pull up some of your lawn and plant a wildflower garden. Get your kids involved, they will love to help and it will be exciting to see bees stopping by for dinner. A win win situation.

Found via Swissmiss.

PS22 Chorus

Another case of "I've been living in a cave" as I only just heard about them..... These kids are amazing and it's heartwarming to see how music can uplift and transform.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Errr, duh!

Article at the Beeb about how too much TV is bad for toddlers....... Sometimes studies only prove what we know deep down already.

Monday, May 3, 2010

How Urban Planning Can Improve Public Health

Who wouldn't like a park, shops, schools, transit within walking/cycling distance of their home? Here's an interesting article over at Miller-McCune about this, found via Good. It's about time these things were addressed and public policy needs to lead the way.

It's not like there aren't enough great examples of walkable communities to use as examples. Through public policy Copenhagen is now one of the most pedestrianized city in the world.

(There I go mentioning Denmark....... again.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Race to Nowhere

Race to Nowhere is a "documentary film examining the pressures faced by youth, teachers and parents in our achievement obsessed education system and culture."

When did it become so hard to be a kid?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ideas for getting your kids outside

It's a challenge but here are two great blogs to help.

Do it now, while they still listen to you.......

Green Exercise

At the University of Essex in the UK, Dr Jo Barton has been carrying out research for the Green Exercise program, analysing the health benefits of participating in physical activities whilst being exposed to nature and greenspace.

Their research shows that there are three broad health outcomes:
  1. Improvement of psychological well-being (by enhancing mood and self-esteem, whilst reducing feelings of anger, confusion, depression and tension);
  1. Generation of physical health benefits (by reducing blood pressure and burning calories);
  1. Facilitation of social networking and connectivity (by enhancing social capital).
They are now looking at the effect green exercise has on children during a school day.....

Yay Richard Louv

The man who started it all, with his book "Last Child in the Woods", for me anyway.... is down under. On SlowTV there's a great talk featuring Richard Louv, Stephen Coleman and Mardie Townsend.

Great question and answer section at the end as well.

Time to chase those butterflies

Great article over at the Independent about our disconnect with nature.

"To seek an example of how this alienation from nature is subtly encouraged, you need look no further than the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Designed to meet the needs of seven-to-nine-year-olds, the latest edition of the dictionary includes such modish words as blog, bullet point, biodegradable, Xbox, chatroom and MP3 player, all of which are deemed to play an important part in the lives of children today. But to make room for them, the editor has excised many of the most familiar objects of the countryside, words such as acorn, conker, dandelion, minnow and magpie."

Read it and then get outside and let your kids touch everything.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Teens Turning Green

Inspiring to hear.... teenagers are leading a movement called Teens Turning Green, to educate and advocate environmentally and socially responsible choices for individuals, schools and communities.

The next generation are taking matters into their own hands already...... wonderful.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Daniel Pink

I have blogged about him before but the RSA have a great new feature on their blog where they have animated certain speeches, the one above being one of them.

Fascinating stuff. I'm going to try it out on my kids.......

Risk and Childhood

The Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) in the UK hosted a talk by Tim Gill, author of the book "No Fear: Growing up in a Risk Averse Society", called Risk and Childhood.

It's over at, so check it out. It's 54 minutes long but Tim's speech covers the first 25 minutes and it's well worth it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hector and the Search for Happiness

We all want our children to be happy. Francois Lelord, a leading French psychiatrist is now the foremost happiness guru, thanks to the success of his book "Hector and the Search for Happiness". I haven't read the book yet but there's an interesting interview over at the Times where he talks about happiness and how to achieve it. Here's an excerpt where he mentions children:

“Some people are gifted for happiness, you can see it even in babies. But your upbringing, life events and education are influences, too. It is like being good at maths, music or sport — you are born with happiness abilities but after that your family has to encourage it; you need to practise it.”

So it’s all your parents’ fault if you don’t reach your happiness potential? “It’s not about trying to do everything to ensure that your child is happy. It’s much more important to teach your child how to be happy even in adverse circumstances. This isn’t about buying children computers, clothes or holidays but about showing them how to make the best of it, how to manage to be happy.”

But in the West parents are convinced that their children will be happy only if they are at the top of their class. “It’s not just the West. In Asia, too, parents push their children very hard. After 40 years of seeing clients I must stress that you shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations of your child — think of their positive psychology, not yours. It’s more important for them to learn how to adapt to situations, how to relate to people and take responsibility for their lives, than how to pass their maths exam."

Monday, April 19, 2010

The World Outside the Classroom

Learning through Landscapes are hosting an international conference called "The World Outside the Classroom" on the 29th, 30th June and 1st of July, offering a unique opportunity to visit schools that encourage lessons outdoors, gain hands-on practical experiences and share best practice with school grounds professionals from around the world.

Above is a video from The Coombes Primary School in Berkshire.

Time to throw away the twinkly and grab a glass of milk

Nina Planck, author of Real Food: What to Eat and Why, talks about why traditional food versus industrial food is so much better for you.

Another great video from Big Think.

Golf or Cows?

I'd go for the cows myself but then I don't play golf. Here's an article over at Good discussing rethinking development and planning suburban communities around farming rather than golf courses.

Kids would love it..... I'm in.

Australian article "Where the wild things went"

Read this article. I insist. Wonderful, funny and true.

Excerpt: "Something happens to you in the wild, in nature. It is as if a skin is peeled off, an extra lid slides off your eyes, and you feel, inexplicably, smaller yet part of something big all at once."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Howard Gardner

Here's a really thought provoking interview with Howard Gardner, Professor from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, from the Big Think website. He is best known in educational circles for his theory of multiple intelligences.

It's 29 minutes long, by the way, but sincerely worth watching....

(At around the 12-13 minute mark, one thought came to my mind, time to move to Denmark.....)

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Antipodeans are revolting

And by that I mean there is change afoot down under. In a good way.

The Antipodeans are revolting

And by that I mean there is change afoot down under. In a good way. Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods", has posted on the Children and Nature Network about the movement to connect children and nature in Australia. He states:

"That sense of aloneness, without kinship in the natural world, is central to the argument that many of us are making these days; that is, if we deny children direct experience with nature, we deny them access to a fundamental part of their humanity.

In Last Child in the Woods, I coined the term nature-deficit disorder to serve as a descriptor of the human costs of alienation from nature, not as a medical diagnosis."

(The kangaroo's a cheap shot I know, but cute...)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jamie Oliver

I know I posted his speech on TED recently, but there is a great interview on the Times website, here. Also, please check out his Food Revolution and sign the petition.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The wonder of the arts

Good posted a video about this fantastic arts program in an inner city area of Los Angeles called Inner City Arts.

"Students who participate in the arts are 4x more likely to excel in academics."

(Here's hoping the type is loud enough for everyone to hear....)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Shameless self promotion

The ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) has a professional practice network for Children's Outdoor Environments and their latest newsletter contains two articles I wrote. They focus on projects in the children, nature, play theme.

If you're interested, follow the link and check out "A Different Kind of Park" and "Alhambra Unified School Districts Elementary Schools". Check out the other articles as well.

The wonderful Finns.

Here's a great article and video on the BBC website about why the schools in Finland have the best results and yet the kids spend the least amount of time at school than any other developed nation.

Why is it so hard for other countries to learn from this and make changes?

Friday, April 2, 2010


I can't have a blog about children without posting this video by Adora Svitak, over at TED. She is 12 years old and in 8 minutes said more profound things than most adults do..... ever.....

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Manifesto for Children's Play

As the UK head towards election day (on or before June 3rd) Play England have put together a manifesto to call on the next government to make play a priority.

"The manifesto is calling for all political parties to make three simple pledges, so that all children and young people can have the freedom and space to play enjoyed by previous generations:

1. To make all residential neighbourhoods child-friendly places where children can play outside

2. To give all children the time and opportunity to play throughout childhood

3. To give all children somewhere to play - in freedom and safety - after school and in the holidays"

Please sign up to endorse it. Here.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Found this amazing video over at Kickcan & Conkers. She also has a link to a great article about children and art by Anna Castagnoli.

Get Outside Day!

This week, Children and Nature Network are empowering the nations youth by calling for "Natural Leaders" to get outside and encourage others to follow suit.

So, what are you waiting for, get outside.

Recess and David Elkind

David Elkind, of the "Power of Play" book I have blogged about, has a new and fascinating article over at the New York Times.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Modern parenting is rubbish; let's change it

That's the heading for an article on the Times website, where it states that children are arriving at school lonelier, less able to share, to respect and to wait; due to being over indulged by their parents.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL (UK's Association of Teachers and Lecturers) has solutions to this modern dilemma;

What is her best piece of advice for parents? “As a parent you are not your child’s best friend. They will grow up and make their own best friends. As a parent your job is much more serious than that. Your job is to show by example and through the exercise of proper authority how to grow up.”

“Parents are under tremendous pressure to provide for their children. Resisting that can be very wearing, I know myself. I understand, I’m guilty of it myself. The sulks, the rages, the tantrums; it is very hard.

“But we have gone too far in the belief that if a child asks for something they must need it, and if they demand something they must have it. That all rules are negotiable and that children know what’s best for themselves in the long run.

“Some children arrive at school unable to realise that they may sometimes have to do things they don’t want to do. One of the most important skills parents can teach children is the deferral of gratification.”

Check out the article, it's fascinating.

Monday, March 29, 2010

To be idle

Via Swissmiss, I found a post on Scott Berkun's blog about the cult of busy, here's an excerpt:

"The phrase “I don’t have time for” should never be said. We all get the same amount of time every day. If you can’t do something it’s not about the quantity of time. It’s really about how important the task is to you. I’m sure if you were having a heart attack, you’d magically find time to go to the hospital. That time would come from something else you’d planned to do, but now seems less important. This is how time works all the time. What people really mean when they say “I don’t have time” is this thing is not important enough to earn my time. It’s a polite way to tell people they’re not worth your time."

It reminded me of how children never say they are too busy to do something, they either don't want to do it and say so or they go ahead and do it..... There's a lot we can learn from watching our kids.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Children and Art

So, I haven't been to many museums with my kids recently, and the last time we went the younger one pointed at a Rodin sculpture and said, "look at his penis...." very loudly. But, after watching this video I will ride through my embarrassment and take them more often.

It was exciting to hear teenagers discussing art with such thought and feeling......

The Tate website also has some really interesting videos, check it out.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shockingly good

This commercial seems to be creating quite a stir. Britain's independent watchdog agency, the Advertising Standards Association, thinks it is too scary for TV.

The British government diasgrees... The Guardian newspaper has the full story here.

Anything that gets grownups talking about climate change and saving the planet for our children is a good thing, isn't it?

Natural England is disappearing

Not to be a drama queen about it, but the organization Natural England have published findings of their first audit of all of England's lost and declining native species.

The report is called Lost Life: England's Lost and Threatened Species and can be found following the link. Apparently,

"habitat loss, inappropriate management, environmental pollution and pressure from non-native species have all played a part in the erosion of England’s biodiversity."

Is this scenario any different in other countries? I doubt it......

(Image above is a poster available from present and correct.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama is on a mission and I wholeheartedly applaud her. Let's Move is her campaign to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity.

Here's an excerpt below from an article she wrote, but check out the full column in Newsweek.

"And let's be honest with ourselves: our kids didn't do this to themselves. Our kids don't decide what's served in the school cafeteria or whether there's time for gym class or recess. Our kids don't choose to make food products with tons of sugar and sodium in supersize portions, and then have those products marketed to them everywhere they turn. And no matter how much they beg for fast food and candy, our kids shouldn't be the ones calling the shots at dinnertime. We're in charge. We make these decisions."

I heart ladybugs/ladybirds

Even though one pooed on my hand when I was 9.....

It's National Wildlife Week. What do you love? Tell your kids. Find out what animal is their favourite. Inspire.

A humbling experience

I look at what my kids have and then I see this video..... nuff said.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I don't want to just post a load of TED talks (even though they are fascinating) but I watched this speech by Srikumar Rao last week and debated on whether to post it or not.

But, it reminded me to enjoy the "process" more with my own children, rather than worry about not having enough time to do other things because my kids need my love and time. All too soon they'll be forging ahead with their own lives and then I'll have more time than I know what to do with.

A School for Everyone

Found this over at Good. Bruce Dixon is an Australian educator, director of Ideaslab and founder of Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation.

I don't know whether it's just the australian accent, but he lends a certain gravitas to the subject. Wonderful stuff.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


And I don't mean the Jacques Tati movie, but really.... time to play. Play England, Skills Active and LGA (Local Government Association) hosted a four nations symposium on the 4th March (the four nations being England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) called "Playing the long game."

The focus was on how to sustain and broaden the investment in play critical to tackling the rise in anti-social behaviour. Providing public spaces to children to engage in positive activities was also discussed.

"The conclusion drawn from the symposium is that the four nations will call for a UK-wide commission on play, by bringing together evidence from across the nations and ensuring that play is a serious part of policy making. The symposium resulted in a commitment by the nations to keep play at the heart of the policy making that affects children’s lives."


(The photo is a still from the Playtime movie, worth watching if you've never seen it...)

Alfie Kohn

My kids school is co-sponsoring a talk next month by Alfie Kohn. Having read one of his books a while ago, Unconditional Parenting, I am keen to go.

It's called "The Schools Our Children Deserve". Here's the blurb:

"Our knowledge of how children learn - and how schools can help - has come a long way in the past few decades. Unfortunately, most schools have not: They're still more about memorizing facts and practicing isolated skills than understanding ideas from the inside out; they still exclude students from any meaningful decision-making role; and they still rely on grades, tests, homework, lectures, worksheets, competition, punishments and rewards. Alfie kohn explores the alternatives to each of these conventional practices, explaining why progressive education isn't just a realistic alternative but oe that is far more likely to help kids become critical thinkers and lifelong learners."

Excellent stuff, check out his website and maybe he will be speaking near you soon.

Survey of children

Emotional health of children

Satisfaction of parks and play areas

The Department for Children, Schools and Families in the UK have derived data from a survey of children with the following subjects:

- Emotional health and wellbeing - children and young people user perception
- Percentage of children who have experienced bullying
- More participation in positive activities
- Reduce the proportion of young people frequently using illicit drugs, alcohol or volatile substances
- Satisfaction with parks and play areas

For each topic they produced a map, see two of them above.

Interesting results. If these two were overlaid would it indicate that where kids are happiest they have the best parks? No......

However, if you download the summary for the questionnaire, on page 8 children were asked if there were three things that would make their lives better and "more places where I can go to spend time with my friends" ranked the highest at 42%.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Growing IN Place

I saw this on the Children & Nature Network website. A symposium on March 5th called Growing IN Place, presented by the Natural Learning Initiative, discussing how planners and designers can meet the challenge of enhancing the wellbeing of urban families everywhere.

Their website has tons of interesting links as well. It's time designers and planners took the baton with regards to livable, walkable communities.

Sir Ken Robinson

I've been very patient, waiting for his new talk on TED to appear on their website..... with on avail. Must be saving the best until last. So in the meantime, check out his newly designed website with lots of new stuff, radio and TV interviews.

Some days it's just what you need.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Nolan's cheese

Is this completely off topic? My kids absolutely love it (children), it's about mice (nature) and creativity and play go hand in hand...... Plus, it is fantastic. Hats off to John Nolan.

I first saw it posted over here. (And I appreciated her spoiler otherwise I might not have watched it all, the mouse doesn't die.)

The unfinished......

I started reading "The Power of Play" and do mean to finish it but other things intervened. So far it is a wonderful, thought-provoking book. To get a quick fix I checked out David Elkind's blog on the Just Ask Baby website.

The post on working mum's got my attention, for obvious reasons. I work and I'm a mum..... cutting to the chase, the punchline of the column is,

"Overall, it appears that maternal employment need not be a significant factor in a child’s long term emotional, social and intellectual development."

Interesting stuff, read it anyway.....

Rubber mulch

Many people have used rubber mulch in playgrounds with the best of intentions, thinking that it is the safest option, but today I read "The Myth of Rubberized Landscapes" by Linda Chalker-Scott of Washington State Univeristy and want you all to get rid of it NOW and trade it in for wood chips.

I know splinters are a worry............ but that's nothing in comparison to "Rubber mulch is highly flammable and difficult to extinguish once it is burning" just for starters.......


Kids? Noisy?

The Fairplay for Children charity in the UK write that Berlin have amended their city's noise pollution law so that it is "fundamentally and socially tolerable" for members of the younger generation to make noise.

How they could ever have morally upheld a law to say children shouldn't make noise is beyond me.... but if you check out the article, you'll find not all people think like that and I quote: "Some day-care facilities have even been forced to close after local residents have gone to court in search of a quiet life."


Anyone for Denmark? and Sweden.....

Free Play Network have posted about an International play study tour of parks, adventure playgrounds, schools and kindergartens in Sweden, Denmark and Berlin this summer. And all travel between sites will be by bike. (Berlin is a separate tour, I don't think they are expecting you to cycle from Berlin to Copenhagen.)

Just from the photo above (Valbyparken designed by Helle Nebelong), my kids would love it......

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Idle Parent

I haven't posted about Tom Hodgkinson from the The Idler for a while but here's the link to his latest column for The Daily Telegraph UK.

As always, brilliant stuff.

"I would like to see a world where the government’s pedestrian and unromantic vision of a nation of “hard-working families” is replaced by a country filled with “good living families”, families whose members are enjoying themselves rather than over-working and over-spending as they chase the ever-elusive satisfaction promised by the commercial world."

Read the column and the photo of D.H. Lawrence will make sense.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Playable communities:priorities for a new decade

Play England are having their national conference: Playable communities:priorities for a new decade, next month at the British Museum in London. If I lived in the UK I'd be there in a heartbeat.


The day will include high profile speakers on key themes for the future of all aspects of playable communities, including sustainability and partnership working, schools, and aspects of play provision including adventure and nature play."

This is where I need my tardis.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What idiot decided to do away with music in schools?

Because according to a new study, music training may also improve language-processing abilities (along with improving pitch perception, visual and motor skills)-" a finding that lends support to the effectiveness of teaching letters and words to kids through songs, as TV programs like Sesame Street have done for years," to quote the article.

Above is one of my favorites......

Hurrah for 16 year olds

This particular 16 year old, Pritesh Raichura from North London, wrote an excellent column over at the Times, on the state of education in the UK. Here's the link.

As well as writing about how to get kids involved in politics, he also going into depth about teaching in general;

"A teacher’s role is not giving out information so that the pupils can pass exams. A teacher’s role is to encourage independent thinking, to inspire and make the student wonder about their subject. Teachers should recognise, that different pupils learn in different ways and that if they are made to think for themselves, then not only will they get more enjoyment from lessons and school, but a genuine thirst for knowledge and a spark of curiosity will be generated."

Wonderful stuff.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Map reading and mud

Here's another article about children not getting out in nature enough. The Telegraph UK mentions a study done by the good people at The Hertfordshire University showing that children were open to the idea of rambling but it was their mothers that were not confident in the great outdoors.......

Well, as a mother, I will take note and make sure I don't "mollycoddle" my kids.... I promise.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Poorer children a year behind at start of school

The Sutton Trust in the UK have found, after extensive research, that "children growing up today in the poorest fifth of families are already nearly a year behind those children from middle income families in vocabulary tests by the time they are five...."

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: "It is a tragic indictment on modern society that our children's future life prospects depend so much on their family background, not their individual talents. These findings are at once both shocking and encouraging - revealing the stark educational disadvantage experienced by children from poorer homes before they have even stepped into the school classroom, but also the potential for good parenting to overcome some of the negative impacts that poverty can have on children's early development."

The article is here, follow the link. Also, the full report is here.

Robert Kennedy

I watched this speech by David Cameron on TED and was struck by the final quote he read out, from a Robert Kennedy speech, here it is......

"... the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile."

And that was said in 1968. Amazing. The full speech is here.

(oh, and the TED talk above was interesting too.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

A sign of the times

Headline: Outlook grim for cash-strapped schools..... article from The Boston Globe.

"More districts are expected to look like Vallejo City Unified School District, which has laid off most of its middle school guidance counselors and no longer offers music or art in elementary school. Last year it laid off 60 of its 860 teachers and raised K-3 class sizes from 20 to 28 students, and officials are considering more layoffs and even bigger class sizes this year, said Christal Watts, who heads the teachers union."

Very sad indeed.

(Photo and graph courtesy of here.)