Educational Toys, Imagination Games, Storytelling

Resources: Parenting Articles

Where do the Children Play?

Where Do the  Children  Play? PBS  documentary,  book,  and  outreach  project is a PBS documentary, book, and outreach project about the vital importance of open-ended creative play for the healthy development of children. This kind of play is disappearing from children’s lives because of unsafe neighborhoods that parents’ fear of “stranger danger,” even in safe neighborhoods; the seductiveness of electronic games and entertainment; an increase in teacher-led instruction in preschool and kindergarten that is pushing child-initiated learning and exploration out of the classroom; and children’s diminishing access to woods, fields, vacant lots, parks, and other semi-wild play spaces.

The documentary film was inspired by Elizabeth Goodenough’s book (University of Michigan Press, 2003). Goodenough, a scholar in the emerging field of children’s studies, noted that time outside school was increasingly filled with adult-organized activities and indoor screen time. Children no longer had the space or opportunity to organize their own play or discover their own secret spaces.

Writer and director Christopher Cook and consulting producer Mark Harris are both award-winning filmmakers. Their documentary will be aired widely beginning in May 2008 when American Public Television will distribute the film nationwide to PBS stations. It is now available for public screenings through the Alliance for Childhood or for private purchase from its producer, Michigan Television. Outreach director and film advisor Goodenough has also edited a study guide to the film, with photos, articles, and children’s poetry that evoke the creative but elusive qualities of play. She is also editing a forthcoming anthology,

The outreach project also includes a film in which children’s author Christopher Paul Curtis () returns to his hometown of Flint, Michigan and speaks with schoolchildren about their experiences of play and secret spaces.

Elizabeth Goodenough is a board member of the Alliance for Childhood, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization working to improve children’s health and well-being. In 2007 Goodenough and the Alliance began collaborating on a public awareness campaign using the film project to inspire concern and action for children’s play. The Alliance has been working on restoring open-ended play to children’s lives since 2004, with a special focus on the role of playworkers in creating environments for imaginative and inclusive play. In many European countries, thousands of trained playworkers work in parks, children’s museums, schools, and other spaces to inspire and support children’s play without dominating or directing it. The Alliance is currently working with universities in New York to establish professional programs in playwork and with play advocates across the country to create play coalitions.

Click to order a DVD copy of for $19.95 or call 1-800-343-4499 ext 165.

For information about the film Where Do the Children Play?

Michigan Television
Alliance for Childhood

To reach Elizabeth Goodenough, originator of the film:

To organize a public screening: e-mail or call 301-779-1033.

Books related to Where Do the Children Play?

Where Do the Children Play? Study Guide, Wayne State University Press
Secret Spaces of Childhood is available from the University of Michigan Press
A Place to Play is currently scheduled for publication in 2009.

Experts who appear in the film

• Sara Aesbach, director, Community Education and Recreation, Ann Arbor Public Schools
• Joan Almon, chair, Alliance for Childhood, College Park, Maryland
• Stephen Black, principal, Oliver Wendell Holmes Elementary School, Detroit, Michigan.
• Stuart Brown, M.D., founder, National Institute for Play, Carmel Valley, California
• Robin Means Coleman, professor, Communication Studies and AfroAmerican and African Studies, University of Michigan
• Claire Gallagher, Ed.D., architect and education professor, Georgian Court University, N.J.
• Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D., lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics report “The Importance of Play,”
• Elizabeth Gooodenough, Ph.D., lecturer, Residential College, University of Michigan
• Rowell Huesmann, professor, Communication Studies and Psychology, University of Michigan
• Richard Louv, journalist and author of
• Penny Wilson, inclusive playworker, London adventure playgrounds

Other books about play

• David Elkind,
• Sally Jenkinson,
• Susan Linn, (available May 1, 2008)
• Richard Louv,
• Vivian Gussin Paley,
• Dorothy and Jerome Singer,

Organizations that promote creative play

Alliance for Childhood
American Association for the Child’s Right to Play
Center for Creative Play
Children and Nature Network
Children’s Environments Research Group, City University of New York
Hooked on Nature
National Institute for Play
North Carolina State University Natural Learning Initiative
Play Wales
Sierra Club, Building Bridges to the Outdoors
Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment
Wild Zones

Also see the Alliance resource list (PDF)

Go to top