Category Archives: Bright Spots

Waiting for Marco to “Figure it Out”

My oldest son Marco (9), has never been one of the more responsible kids for his age. He hardly ever cleans up after himself, so his room is a total mess, and his things are strewn randomly around our house. He hardly ever helps his younger brothers without prodding. He very frequently loses things. He hardly ever says “please” or “thank you.” Other adults who have observed Marco’s behavior have blamed my wife and me for poor parenting, either explicitly, … Continue reading

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Making Summer Vacation Worthwhile

Our neighbor Tommy (5) didn’t come to our house to play with my boys yesterday afternoon because he was doing homework for his summer camp. Oh, brother… If you think childhood is all about school, then of course, you think summer vacation is a waste. Why spend three months goofing off? You might as well attend a “summer camp” that simulates school. On the other hand, I’m a big believer in summer vacation. I happen to believe that it can, … Continue reading

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Signmaking at Camp Yale

At the fifth annual Camp Yale neighborhood summer camp, each kid created a nice memento – a wooden sign with their name carved into it and painted. The kids were thrilled. They put a lot of creativity into them, and they’re proud of the way they look.

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Huntopoly 3.0: A Technology-Aided Treasure Hunt

Some advocates of children’s outdoor play would have you believe that technology is the enemy. Kids who attended my fifth annual Camp Yale two weeks ago would vehemently disagree. They played Huntopoly 3.0 (here are articles on Huntopoly 2.0 and 1.0), which featured treasure boxes with some nifty electronics. Each team of kids got a “Quest Box,” that has a small LCD screen and button on the outside, and treasures and hunt instructions on the inside. Also on the inside, … Continue reading

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“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

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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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Science Fairs for Elementary School Kids

Am I blowing it? I let my second grader, Marco, decide on his own whether he would participate in his school’s science fair. “I don’t want to give up any recess,” he told me. That means “no.” Participating in the science fair requires meetings during recess. Sometimes I think I’m blowing it. A friend of mine with kids at the same school has a very different point of view. “They’re participating,” he told me. “They don’t have a choice.” My … Continue reading

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