First Lady Michelle Obama is engaged in a vigorous campaign called “Let’s Move” to help children in America. Her primary target is childhood obesity, and for solutions, she’s advocating better diets and more exercise for children.
So, does she advocate free play for children? On this topic, she’s been silent. Check out the Let’s Move page on “physical activity.” Everything there is about adult-supervised exercise.
The Alliance for Childhood issued a press release entitled, “Free Play is the Missing Link in Anti-Obesity Campaign.” Other pro-play groups concur that this omission is notable and disappointing.
Worse yet, she made a statement today at a news conference that indicates that she’s given up on neighborhoods as a place for many kids to play. She said, “And no matter what you say, in some neighborhoods you can’t tell parents, ‘Just let your kids go out and play,’ because it isn’t safe.”Certainly, many neighborhoods are very unsafe, but that’s no reason to give up on them. Even in a neighborhood in the South Bronx, arguably the poorest and least safe place in America, a dedicated citizen named Hetty Fox has worked very hard for the last 33 years to provide kids a safe and fun place to play every day in the summer.
Aside from the poorest, most unsafe neighborhoods, crime statistics show that the majority of neighborhoods in America are safer than they were decades ago.
Does Michelle Obama advocate that the majority of American kids who live in these neighborhoods play outside? Nope. Nada.
By advocating that kids “Move” without advocating that they do it freely, in their neighborhoods, she’s done a disservice to the movement for neighborhood play. This is tremendously disappointing. It’s a big opportunity lost.