06/18/01
Playing Smart -- All Summer
    by John Cech

Back in the good old days, a few decades ago, when school let out for the year, kids had a whole long summer stretched ahead of them, like a ribbon of blue highway, with some stops along the way for a family vacation or little league or camp. But mostly you horsed around the neighborhood, rode bikes, got bored, hung out with your friends, got bored, swam, watched reruns on television, got bored. Today, though, unless you live in some time-sheltered glen, a kind of kid's Brigadoon, you and your children probably have your palm pilots filled with people to meet, things to do, places to be. Or at least that seems to be the cultural expectation -- and at first glance it would seem to be the agenda of Susan K. Perry's Playing Smart, The Family Guide to Enriching, Offbeat Learning Activities for Agest 4 - 14.

But Playing Smart is after something different. It is loaded with ideas for things you can do with your children or that you can encourage them to take on for themselves during the summer months ahead -- unusual things, in this day and age: like planing, preparing, planting, and tending a garden, or working your way through her list of "38 Ways to Make Walking Interesting Again, " which is part of her chapter on "Adventures in Ordinary Places." Many of her suggestions make simple good sense, like finding out about the unique nooks and crannies in your area and visiting them -- how many of us haven't taken our children to a local museum or nature trail because, well, we'll do it some day? But there are other, less obvious, ways to make the ordinary engaging for your children. Perry recommends, for instance, going to the regular places at unusual times -- like the beach in the rain -- or simply stopping with your children and observing activities that might otherwise be passed by on the way to the next new thing -- a hedge being trimmed, a fence being painted, a plane leaving a vapor message on the blue dome of the sky. Perry's book is about mindfully shifting perspectives, changing the idea that fun is only found in theme parks or that learning only takes place in school. Playing Smart reminds us that you can unlock the extraordinary with the keys of the familiar.

Copyright 2001 by John Cech

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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:24:15 EDT


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