Created Equal: Why kids need free play more than ever

Tom Farrey of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program and Dave Egner, president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, joined the show to talk about the path forward for increasing free play among youth.

Only 13% of kids in southeast Michigan get the one hour of physical activity per day that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends. That’s according to ‘Project Play,’ a survey and report from the Aspen Institute, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. 

In Michigan, just like the rest of the United States, youth participation is low, costs to play sports are high, and kids are less active. Travel and competitive sports are part of the problem, often demanding time and money that families just don’t have.  

One of eight solutions put forward in the 2015 report is to reintroduce free play for children. Playing tag, making up games on the playground, riding bikes around the neighborhood – all those things lead to more active, and therefore, healthier and happier kids.  

The other ‘key plays’ introduced in the report include:

  • Reintroduce free play
  • Encourage sport sampling
  • Revitalize in-town leagues
  • Think small
  • Design for development
  • Train all coaches
  • Emphasize prevention

Positive changes are already happening. For example, the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation has invested heavily in youth sports and recreation –  over $100 Million in southeast Michigan and western New York since 2015. That includes $17 Million building innovative play spaces and skateparks in Detroit.

Tom Farrey, founder and executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, and Dave Egner, president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, joined Created Equal on Thursday to discuss the report and its findings.

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Tom Farrey is the founder and executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, whose signature initiative is “Project Play.’ He’s also an Emmy-award winning sports journalist and author of “Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children.” He emphasized the importance of making places for play accessible to all kids.

“I think we have to make sure kids have some place to play within walking distance,” Farrey said.

Dave Egner is the president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation. He says one such opportunity for increased free play for Detroit youth is the Joe Louis Greenway on Detroit’s riverfront.

Listen to Created Equal with host Stephen Henderson weekdays from 9-10 a.m. ET on 101.9 WDET and streaming on-demand.

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