What Happened to Summertime Play?

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Summertime play — Playworks

Photo courtesy of Playworks

Children spend much less time in unstructured play than they used to, according to historians of play, and many schools no longer offer recess. The nonprofit Playworks, founded in Oakland, Calif., hopes to change that by managing recess for schools and by offering playground coaches to youth organizations.

Cynthia Gentry, founder of the Atlanta Task Force on Play, remembers the summers of her childhood: She’d leave home in the morning and spend all day playing with neighborhood kids.

“You’d ride your bike and build forts,” she said.

She’d have lunch at someone else’s house, where the kids might stage a play or carnival in the backyard. Mothers were around, but were not involved in their play.

Today, Gentry, a board member of the International Play Association, doesn’t see kids wandering around the neighborhood — and she would worry if she did . . .

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