Author Archives: Mike Lanza

“I can build that!”

That’s what my son Nico (5) said last Saturday when he saw a wooden table and bench outside a restaurant. “But I’d make it better. I’d use different screws, and I wouldn’t make the benches so wide.” He really meant this. He can build a bench like that, thanks to a remarkable summer camp he attended the week before called “Tinkering School” in San Francisco. In one incredible week, he and a few other kids built two ladders and bridges … Continue reading

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Freedom + No Screens => Physically Fit Kids

I was stunned when I first saw it. My son Marco, age 8, just won a 5K race at 22:45, averaging less than 7-1/2 minute miles for three miles.  That’s better than most adults I know, including me! You see, he’s not a runner, per se. He has no running shoes or clothes, and his only real running training was three 1-1/2 to 2 mile runs in the weeks before this race. What he is is a kid who has … Continue reading

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Informal Playspaces, Right Under Our Noses

Last weekend, I took my boys to a creek in my sister’s residential neighborhood in suburban Pittsburgh, and they had an absolutely fabulous time for hours. And no one else was there. I sense a pattern. I wrote this article a few years ago about the creek down the street from my house. It’s one of my kids’ favorite playspaces in the world, and yet, despite the fact that thousands of kids live within a few blocks of it, very … Continue reading

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Choosing the Familiar Over the Optimal

Parents? Yawn. Relatives? Double-yawn. Neighbors? Pullllease!!! I remember very well thinking that way as an adolescent and young adult. I became critical of all the people I had been surrounded by throughout my childhood. That was mostly my parents, but it was also other relatives and neighbors. Instead, I resolved to choose who I spent time with. I discovered that I had very little in common with my parents, relatives, and neighbors. So, they became a low priority for me, … Continue reading

Posted in Bright Spots, Neighborhood | Comment(s)

Leaving Your Kids at the Park: A Good Idea for the 1%

Do your young kids live within one block of a park? My guess is that somewhere around 99% of kids don’t. The best data on this comes from the Centers for Disease Control, which claims that 80% of kids don’t live within a half mile of a park. The problem is, kids hardly roam anymore. Again, I don’t have precise data, but my anecdotal research indicates that the vast majority of kids in preschool aren’t allowed to roam on their … Continue reading

Posted in Neighborhood, Solutions | Comment(s)

Precocious Talents

What do you do when parents show off their children’s precocious talents? Just this past weekend, I sat with my three kids and a few dozen other parents and kids to watch a five-year-old boy play two classical pieces on piano, then a girl around the same age play two violin tunes. I squirmed. I thought about how I really don’t have anything comparable to show off about my kids. They do have some interesting talents, which I’ll mention later, … Continue reading

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Play Skills and Siblings

My wife and I walked our three boys over to a big fallen tree this morning to sit and grab a drink of water during a hike. “I’ll do the brakes,” my son Nico (5) said as he ran toward one end of the tree. “OK, I’ll be the engineer,” replied Leo (3-1/2), and he ran to the opposite end of the tree. Nico and Leo waste no time. They play every chance they get. They’re superstar “players.” Really… We … Continue reading

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Kids Are Constantly Distracted at Home and at School

At home, children are bombarding themselves with digital media – eight hours a day, according to a prominent study. Most older kids do their homework while “multitasking” with Facebook or texting on a nearby screen and music blaring in their ears. “In terms of sheer quantity of time, I’m not sure that kids spend any more time on homework than we did,” says Janis Whitlock, Director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior in Adolescence and Young Adults. “But … Continue reading

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Vacations Versus Everyday Home Life

Do your kids absolutely crave vacations away from home? Are they sad to come home? If that’s true, there are two possible explanations. One is that you plan absolutely off-the-charts, world-class vacations. The other is that your kids’ home life is drab and boring. For your sake, let’s hope it’s the former. Our family just took a vacation to Hawaii for spring break, and although we had some amazing moments, at other moments, our kids said they wanted to go … Continue reading

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Doing is the Path to Both Inner Fulfillment and Worldly Success

Doing has always been an important way to reach inner fulfillment. Now, it’s also the most important path to worldly success. It’s good for the inside and for the outside. It’s a win-win. I’m talking about taking action, but I’m not talking about doing as you’re told. I’m talking about looking inside yourself and doing things that you think will make the world a better place. And repeat. Over and over.

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