Guest Blogger Marlene Byrne: Paving the Way for Backyard Play

Guest Blogger Marlene Byrne: Paving the Way for Backyard Play

Do you remember when you couldn’t walk by a neighborhood park without seeing kids running the bases or taking turns at bat?

I’m not talking about a school-affiliated baseball game. I’m talking about a group of kids playing “running bases,” “pitcher’s hand out” or “500 baseball.” Just kids playing with their friends, modifying the rules as they go, and enjoying the game.

Freely. Without adult supervision, pressure from coaches or screaming parents.

Chances are, unless there’s an organized sports game in progress, your parks and neighborhoods are often quiet. Where have all the children gone?

Unstructured playtime is becoming endangered. The carefree days of our youth have been replaced by a childhood that ends in the blink of an eye. Instead of gathering with the neighborhood children for a game of “kick the can” or “follow the leader,” children are busy with organized sports, school programs, and extra-curricular activities.

Or they’re busy playing electronic games like Wii or Guitar Hero.

And while these things are great, I question their precedence over simple, backyard playtime. Our children are growing up in a generation in which parents, teachers, and coaches tell them how, where, and when to do everything. Add electronic games and you’ve got children who play by the rules and use repetition to achieve the next level.

But I believe creativity is learned over time and eventually spills over into adulthood.

Although our culture tends to place the most value on academic achievement or athletic success, unstructured playtime is crucial to a child’s cognitive development. The world will always be desperate for innovative ideas, thoughtful problem solving skills, and courageous leadership. Unlike organized sports or video games, unstructured play allows children to use their imagination and creativity while they negotiate with their friends.

Our job as parents is to make backyard playtime a priority and really foster play that demands creative thinking, imagination and negotiation among their peers.

About the author:

Marlene F. Byrne is the founder and author of Project Play,, a movement that uses a series of children’s books to teach backyard games and get kids out in the backyard, where creativity is born. The books inspire young readers to round up their friends and use their imagination to organize their own games and negotiate their own rules. The first three books in the series, Treasure Hunt, Follow the Leader and Just a Baseball Game, debuted in 2008. This year, Byrne will release two more: Kick the Can in the summer and Ghosts in the Graveyard in the fall.


Can we win any of her books?
PUULEESE??!!! You need to do a giveaway! :)
Supermom said…
Good Idea!! I'll email and see what I can do for you!!!

Michelle :)
Carolee said…
This article is dead-on.

And Supermom, if she does do a give-away, have her list it on my blog, Bloggers Connect.

From now until June 15th, we are featuring blog give-aways!

So guys, head on over now and check back often. I'll be adding my give-away later today, and will add new ones when I get them.
I was trying to comment on your most recent post but I couldn't find the Post a comment link. Sorry.

Anyway--I am sorry someone made you so irritated and bitter on Facebook. I actually had that happened to me a couple of months ago. The person still doesn't talk to me. Not much anyway. And YES, I knew him from high school. And name-calling went on. On his end anyway. Some people just never grew up from high school. It is a sad story but so true. However MOST of my friends I add now are either blogging or are in my ward. (And since I am moving in a couple of months, having people that are in my ward as my FB friends is a good thing I think. Thank you for checking back on that giveaway thing! I would totally talk up your giveaway too! Also probably about a million others would too. You are an amazing blogger and probably an even more amazing friend.
I'm glad I am getting to "know" you.
It's all cool.
Have a good day!