Newsroom: Project Areas

 

Restoring Childhood Play

Unstructured childhood play is endangered. The Alliance works with organizations and individuals from many disciplines to promote public awareness of the importance of play to children’s healthy development—and to the joy of living at any age. The project’s goals are to restore play and hands-on learning in kindergarten and preschool; to introduce playwork to park and recreation programs, children’s museums, zoos, and other play spaces; to promote unprogramed free play in nature; and to work for inclusive play so that children of all abilities can fully partake of its multiple benefits.

 

Resources and links:

Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School

“Where Do the Children Play?”: PBS documentary and companion volumes

Play in the Early Years: a guide for parents and educators on play and learning

Play Resource List

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Technology and Childhood

Fool’s Gold: A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood, published by the Alliance in 2000, sparked a national debate that is still going on. Parents, educators, and policymakers around the world have used Fool’s Gold and the Alliance’s 2004 follow-up report, Tech Tonic: Towards a New Literacy of Technology, to ask searching questions about the potential dangers of a high-tech childhood. Our goal is more balanced and reasoned public discourse about the stunning changes that technology has created in modern childhood.

 

Resources and links:

Call to Action: Children and Computers, September 12, 2000

“The Dot.com Kids and the Demise of Frustration Tolerance,” by Alliance partner Marilyn B. Benoit, M.D.  

NetFuture: online newsletter on technology and human responsibility, written by Alliance partner Steve Talbott. 

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Commercialization of Childhood

Marketing to children has proliferated wildly since it was deregulated by Congress in the 1980s. Approximately $15 billion is spent each year marketing toys, food, and entertainment to children. Children under 19 themselves spend $200 billion per year; children under 12 influence another $500 billion per year in family spending. No longer limited to TV ads, marketers now continually bombard children with ploys in their homes, neighborhoods, and schools. The Alliance partners with 25 other organizations in the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

 

Resources and links:

Marketing and Advertising: Harmful to Children's Health,” The Lancet, September 28, 2002.

Selling to—and Selling out—Children,” editorial from The Lancet, September 28, 2002.

Research on Materialism and Well-Being, Tim Kasser, Ph.D.

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High-Stakes Testing

Public schools have seen a dramatic increase in standardized testing as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and, more generally, public acceptance of testing as an equitable way to make schools "accountable." The new tests invariably carry high stakes—that is, the results are linked to serious consequences for students, teachers, and schools. Most Americans believe that linking test results to rewards and punishments is an effective way to force schools to improve, even though research indicates that using tests in this way has the opposite effect, worsening academic performance and increasing dropout rates.

NCLB currently requires tests starting in third grade. But the latest research (see Crisis in the Kindergarten, below) indicates that standardized testing has become a major activity in the earliest grades, including kindergarten, in spite of serious doubts about its validity. The Alliance for Childhood has called for a rethinking of the current emphasis on standardized testing in a statement signed by, among others, four of the country's leading child psychiatrists -- Robert Coles and Alvin Poussaint of Harvard Medical School; Marilyn Benoit, past president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; and Stanley Greenspan.

 

Resources and links:

See chapter 4, "Out-of-Control Testing," in Crisis in the Kindergarten  

Alliance position statement on high-stakes testing

FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing

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Educating for Peace

In the months following September 11, 2001 the Alliance created several resources about educating children for peace, including a list of ten simple but effective actions that families and schools can take. Educating for Peace has been reprinted in many publications.

 

Resources and links:

In a Time of Tragedy: Helping Children Understand Good and Evil, by Joan Almon, September 2001

Teaching Peace in Fearful Times

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Childhood Obesity 

In May 2003 the Alliance hosted a briefing on childhood obesity for the U.S. Senate at the request of Senator Mary Landrieu. Presenters included Dr. David Ludwig of Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Boston, a school chef from Vermont, and representatives from the Urban Nutrition Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, which teaches nutrition and gardening in inner-city schools in Philadelphia.

In its work on restoring childhood play, the Alliance notes evidence that children burn far more calories during active play, especially outdoors, than in sedentary activities. There is also evidence that strongly links time spent in front of TV and computer screens with increased risk of obesity.