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Where Do the Children Play?

Rescheduled to: Wednesday, February 4 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM

Wdcp-ImageThere is a growing concern among pediatricians, mental health experts, educators and environmentalists that more and more children are growing up today with little or no opportunity for unstructured play, especially outdoors. A new documentary film, Where Do the Children Play? examines this issue. Providence Children’s Museum joins Lincoln School and Southside Community Landtrust to present a free public screening of this film on Wednesday, January 28. An audience discussion about the ideas explored in the film will follow.

Where Do the Children Play? grew out of Elizabeth Goodenough’s work on “secret spaces of childhood” at the University of Michigan. The film was written and directed by Christopher Cook and produced by Michigan Television.

“Children need free time every day to discover their own abilities, desires, and limitations,” says Goodenough, who also edited the film’s companion volume, A Place for Play. “Open-ended exploration and play in woods, fields, vacant lots, or other semi-wild spaces enhances curiosity and confidence throughout life.”

A marked decline in children’s spontaneous and creative play is a key factor in their increasing mental health problems, according to a recent statement from an international group of educators and children’s advocates. They called for “a wide-ranging and informed public dialogue about the intrinsic nature and value of play in children’s healthy development.”

Their letter echoed a recent warning from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): children have far too little time for unstructured play, which leads to increased stress in their lives. Causes of the demise of play cited by the group include parental fears of “stranger danger” and the explosion of electronic entertainment–to the point of addiction for some–in the lives of today’s children. These and other issues are explored in the film.

The lead author of the AAP report, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, appears in the documentary, along with Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, British “playworker” Penny Wilson, and other experts in child development, psychology, and urban planning.

Most striking, however, are the scenes of children themselves engaged in the rapt state of self-directed play and then talking about the importance of time and opportunity for free play in their increasingly hectic lives.

The Details:
Where Do the Children Play?
Location: Lincoln School’s Ebner, Elson, Hart Music Center – 301 Butler Avenue, Providence, RI
When: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 from 6:30 – 8:30 PM
RESCHEDULED: Wednesday, February 4 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM
Cost: Free
For more information about the screening, contact Giovonne Calenda at gcalenda@lincolnschool.org.

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Image Credit: From the film, Where Do the Children Play?

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