I don’t usually weigh-in on such things. but the premise of HGTV’s new show, My Yard Goes Disney, really ticks me off. We’re talking full Grass Stain Guru White Trash Fit.


And mind you, nobody loves a fabulous gay making over a house on a $2,000 budget more than me. Nobody. But sorry HGTV, you deserve a little reality check.


So here’s the reality: Today’s children spend less time outdoors than any previous generation. In history. Ever. We are raising a generation of children that are disconnect from nature and plugged into screen time 7.5 hours a day (Keiser Family Foundation, 2010).


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Comment by Bethe Almeras on June 17, 2011 at 12:24pm

I vote for good old fashioned gardens + wildlife gardens but also leaving enough space or lawn for play -- creative play, gross motor games & sports, picnics, gatherings with friends, etc. A yard should not only accommodate nature play & exploration, but also use as an Outdoor Family Room or Living Room.


No need to over-design in either direction. Children need space to let their bodies, minds & imaginations grow. :-)


Comment by Suz Lipman on June 17, 2011 at 11:54am

We also have a Children's Built Environments group right here on C&NN Connect, where people are sharing wonderful resources and ideas about natural playscapes for kids:




Relatedly, C&NN Connect member Sharon Danks writes about transforming schoolyards into more natural playscapes in her book, "Asphalt to Ecosystems", which was featured on the C&NN News site:



Comment by John Thielbahr on June 17, 2011 at 11:45am

I agree with Bethe and Suz that yards don't need to be theme parked.  I think that is more HGTV than Disney, although it looked like Disney characters might be involved in the pictures I saw.  There are plenty of resources for parents and educators to create natural play spaces for kids, most of which can be found on the Children & Nature Web Site.  We have to find new and creative ways to inspire them to act.

Comment by Suz Lipman on June 16, 2011 at 4:36pm
I don't think you'll find any disagreement here! Kids need free play in unmediated, and ideally natural, spaces and the HGTV show seems to represent a trend in the exact opposite direction. I really appreciate you bringing it to our attention and holding the line against this sort of, perhaps well-meaning, but misguided craziness!
Comment by Bethe Almeras on June 16, 2011 at 2:23pm
I'm not bashing Disney per se, but trying to call attention to the commercialization of every square inch of children's lives and point out & educate about the missed potential. I stand firm with thinking yards don't need to be theme parked up by anyone, and parents need help in seeing alternative ways to engage their children in play and learning at home and elsewhere.
Comment by Suz Lipman on June 16, 2011 at 12:12pm
John, That's a great point and a terrific addition to the conversation. You're right -- some of us do tend to throw around the term "Disneyfication" when it's unclear how much they even have to do with the HGTV project, other than perhaps lending their name to it. It's wonderful to know about Disney's rich support for programs that help children explore and appreciate the natural world. That can certainly be overlooked and even unknown. I appreciate you bringing their efforts to the fore.
Comment by John Thielbahr on June 16, 2011 at 11:15am
Like Suz, I have no idea what HGTV is all about, but let's be careful about bashing Disney here.  No corporation is totally pure, of course, but Disney is one of the few big corporations that still help create a sense of wonder in children and many of their themes are nature-based.  What might not be as well known is Disney's considerable Foundation work for conservation of the natural world, and their work in schools to raise awareness and address environmental challenges in our society.   This seems to be a HGTV issue, not a Disney issue.
Comment by Suz Lipman on June 14, 2011 at 6:54pm
.. Just saw the link to the HGTV site. Indeed a lot of the "improvements" seem decorative and have no play value. Bah.
Comment by Suz Lipman on June 14, 2011 at 6:49pm

Good one, Bethe! Luckily I'm not tuned in enough to know exactly what HGTV and Disney want to do to the yards, but I can imagine! Of course, plain old play in natural settings is usually about as good as it gets. All one needs to know is a couple of basic games. (Tag, anyone? That has dozens of variations, requires no equipment, and lets everyone run around.)

Even then, kids are often happiest exploring or pretending on their own. They don't need much, just the space and time to let things happen. I'm with you, that if we mediate every experience and create un-real spaces, then play and imagination get lost just a bit. Amusement parks are fine to visit. We don't need them, and they may be detrimental, in the backyard.

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