This episode of the Sage Family Podcast is an engaging  interview with Peter Gray, Evolutionary Psychologist, blogger and author of the inspiring book Free to Learn. Peter explains why the adult way of looking at childhood can have a negative impact on childhood learning and the consequences of disallowing inoculations of risk. Peter is a research professor of psychology at Boston College and founding board member and president of the alliance for self-directed education.

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Subject Area: Risky Play

Dr Carla Gull of Loose Parts Nature Play, educator and mother to four energetic boys, begins her podcast series with exploration of the Theory of Loose Parts paper by Simon Nicholson, who argued that everyone should have the right to realise their creative potential and inventiveness, not just scientists and artists.  This paper is a foundation piece in the study of loose parts play and nature exploration. With loose parts, there are so may variables in action within an environment that is always changing.

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Length: 31m : 00s

Subject Area: Loose Parts

This article from father of two, David Davis, explains why exploring the wilderness of the sky from your own back yard can be a great way to get more ‘green time’ into your family routine. He shares his humorous tips and tricks for getting started, realistic expectations and suggestions for basic (and affordable) equipment to make the experience a success.

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Tim Gill  is an independent scholar, advocate and consultant on childhood. His website and blog focuses on the changing nature of children’s play and free time, and their evolving relationships with the people and places around them. Tim argues for a balanced, thoughtful approach to risk in childhood: a position set out in his 2007 book No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society  Tim is a longstanding advocate for child-friendly urban planning and design and supporter of the Playing Out movement.

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Subject Area: Risk, urban planning

Hanna Rosin’s excellent and in depth article looks at why a preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery, without actually making it any safer. Rosin notes, most parents today remember their own childhoods as quite different from the way their children are growing up. Aware that she is not adverse to being a constant presence in her own children’s lives, Rosin takes her 5 year old son Gideon to ‘The Land’ – an adventure playground with a difference in North Wales – where children make the rules, parents are nowhere to be seen and fire making is an every day occurrence.

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This fascinating dissertation from well known researcher Roger Hart is almost 40 years old but is as relevant now as ever. It is a beautiful depiction of life not that long ago which seems worlds away from the indoor, screen dominated, car-oriented lives of children today.

Hart spent two years in a small New England town, following and mapping children’s movement and perception of their landscape as they built cubbies, fished at the river, explored, biked and roamed. He became part of the neighbourhood as these children shared their most treasured and tucked away play areas, far from watchful parents. Footage taken of the children at play during this time can still be found on the internet. Thirty years later, Hart returned to the town where some of the children still lived, now grown up with children of their own. He found that despite their rather free-range upbringing, these parents would not dream of letting their children play unsupervised that far from home.

Hart makes some beautiful observations.

– “Small patches of dirt throughout the town are the most intensively used of all children’s places.”

– Children like to find small places, as “places of retreat, to look out upon the world from a place of one’s own, as places for experimenting with how to put things together… In each of these activities a child is probably exploring his or her relationship with the environment, both social and physical.”

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Entertaining and in depth conversation with author Hanna Rosin about modern Western society’s obsession with child safety, which asks whether we have stripped childhood of independence and the joys of discovery.  Discusses why many parents are full of nostalgic memories of their own free range childhoods yet so fixed on the idea that the world is a more dangerous place than it used to be.

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Length: 52m : 18s

Subject Area: Risk, safety

Host Robert Siegel interviews author Hanna Rosin about the downside to parents micro-managing their children’s physical and emotional risks. She discusses the drastic change in parental supervision over a single generation and the effect it is having on children’s ability to grow up into healthy, capable adults. Contains discussion around ‘The Land’ – an adventure playground in Wales where children are allowed to light their own fires and are in full control of the typography without a parent in sight.

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Length: 8m : 09s

Subject Area: Risk, supervision

Numerous studies over the past ten years have noted a trend towards over – protective parenting practices that restrict children’s activities and limit children’s independent mobility and neighbourhood engagement. Through semi – structured interviews with mothers of four and five year old children, this study examines beliefs around children’s outdoor play opportunities and exposure to and management of potential risks in outdoor environments. Whilst the results showed mothers overwhelmingly acknowledged the benefits of risky outdoor play, tension existed between their desire to provide opportunities for this type of play, and their own fears and concerns about their children’s safety.

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Year Level: Early Years

Subject Area: Risk