Open Voices Blog

Archives for posts tagged as "children"

Find Your Secret Garden, Down the Block

09/13/16 | View Comments

“Play is something done for its own sake… It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.” – Dr. Stuart Brown, National Institute for Play

Play comes in as many forms as there are people in a city. While we typically associate play with children, there are numerous ways adults bring play into their daily lives. Although there could be innumerable ways to classify play, or not classify at all, a framework helps us imagine the kinds of urban places where community inclusive play might occur. If we were to list forms of play, we might include:

– Children’s play
– Structured and Group Activities, including light activities like tai-chi and yoga
– Individual Athletics
– Informal/Unstructured Activities
– Passive Recreation
– Grass Roots/Ad Hoc Events

Where can play happen?

Parks are the most versatile form of public space when it comes to accommodating a host of activities. American cities have historically consigned play to parks and ignored potential for it to happen elsewhere. By treating play as a kind of exercise, we have missed opportunities to make it an integrated part of our daily lives. Blurring the boundary between streets and parks can make play more accessible and commonplace.

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Youth Health and Nature

07/05/16 | View Comments

This month consists of an exciting repertoire of respected scientists casting their vote in favor of nature engagement.

In an increasingly urbanized planet, close and consistent connection to nature has become rare in many places. Millions of people spend hours working indoors, driving or riding public transportation. In order to minimize unsustainable urban sprawl, cities have become increasingly dense, with living and working spaces layered on top of each other and encroaching on parks and other green spaces.

 “We want to reimagine cities as places of nature. There is already so much nature in cities – trees, birds, parks, aquatic habitats – but there is a lot more we can do to understand, protect and care about that.” – Tim Beatley, University of Virginia.
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ADHD, medication and nature: An interview with an emerging scholar

09/22/15 | View Comments

This month as we examine the cognitive benefits from being in nature we talked with Matt Stevenson of the University of Copenhagen. Stevenson is a PhD fellow in the Forest and Landscape College and one of many emerging, dynamic projects developing out of the Centre for Outdoor Life and Nature. Stevenson represents many new scholars around the globe contributing in new ways to health and nature research.


Nature Sacred: How do you like living in Copenhagen? What kinds of parks and outdoor activities are there?

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Are Children Choosing Technology over Nature?

07/30/15 | View Comments

Research shows that exposure to nature is an important part of childhood development. Along with the stress reducing properties of nature, play in nature offers the opportunity to explore, develop social relationships, experiment and learn in a way that urban environments do not. According to a recent poll by the Nature Conservancy however, only 10 percent of the children surveyed spend time outside on a daily basis.

In a commercial released this past month (above), Nature Valley Canada highlighted this dwindling connection to nature by asking three generations the question, “When you were a kid, what did you do for fun.” Grandparents and parents in the commercial talked about their adventures gardening, building forts, fishing and picking blueberries while the children interviewed shared their love for video games, texting and watching television. The children actually brag about how much time they spend indoors in front of a video screen and how they would “die” without their tablet. (Flash to teary eyed mother realizing the implications of her son’s description of fun.)

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Healthy Minds in 2015

01/13/15 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. As you resolve to make your 2015 a spectacular year, we encourage you to spend more time outside for you and your family’s mental health and well-being.


The mental and physical health of the children in your life is likely a top priority. When we talk about children and green spaces, we tend to think of planning and design for children as opportunities for running, jumping, swinging and climbing. Such gross motor activities are important to the physical health of children, but our mental health develops throughout childhood and life in subtler ways. Pause and think about when you were a child. Where did you play? How did you play? Do you remember picking up a small stick and discovering a world of tiny insects going about their day? Or spending an afternoon with your friends absorbed in a fantasy world built from imagination, found objects, and tall grass? Increasingly, child development researchers and playground designers are considering the interactions of natural objects and space, fine motor skills, and mental health. 1

Children in a Sensory Garden

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    We are a private nonprofit that supports, informs, and inspires the creation of publicly accessible urban green spaces. We believe that every city resident needs nearby green space to provide opportunities for mindfulness, respite, and renewal. The Foundation has issued its final grants to build five Open Spaces Sacred Places and research the impacts on a variety of users with the hope that the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing will be scientifically proven.

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