Where Do the Children Play?

A Documentary Film
Michigan Television

An award winning documentary film on how children's health is impacted by suburban sprawl and congestion


Where Do the Children Play? is a one-hour documentary for public television that examines how restrictive patterns of sprawl, congestion, and endless suburban development across America are impacting children's mental and physical health and development.

Using the adage that children represent 20 percent of the world's population but 100 percent of its future, the film opens by examining differences between growing up today, with all its inherent obstacles and temptations, and childhood as it was lived 50 years ago.

To understand today's children more acutely, the film team first visited Beaver Island where there are no McDonald's, Burger Kings, Targets or Walmarts. There, children congregate by bike in the downtown area to play. All 85 students in grades one to twelve attend the only school on the island. Most use the computer as a tool for homework, but not for communication. And while they miss a lot of what their counterparts have on the mainland, Beaver Island children are keenly aware of nature and its importance to their lives and their well-being.

Second, the film looked at suburbs today, which have the greatest problems. Explosive growth patterns, massive highways, distant malls, create an isolated environment lacking in sidewalks or places to ride bikes, walk or play. Children tend to be driven indoors to computers and television for recreation, and then driven to a mall or a friend's house by parents. Suburban kids, those ironically with the most opportunity in some areas, suffer the greatest health and psychological problems.

Third, the film team visited the city, which produced the greatest surprises as a place for children: for those not raised in crushing poverty, it still works. And surprisingly well. Despite obstacles and the media stereotypes, old neighborhoods function better than many suburbs, with parks and schools and a sense of community in which parents of different backgrounds often watch out for the safety of children, as they did generations ago when these places were built.

Finally, the film examines the impact of the media and stranger-danger television stories. But it also looks at the role of parents themselves, specifically to the over-programmed child of professionals who run their child's life as if it were a business.

Visit Michigan Television's website at: http://michigantelevision.org/childrenplay/

A Place for Play:

A Place for Play is framed by interviews with experts from Where Do the Children Play? a 60-minute documentary from Michigan Television. This companion volume to the film, with a foreword by Richard Louv, explores key issues that have captured national attention in recent years: namely the ways in which free play outdoors is slipping from children's lives. Responding to the sense of lost childhood and fear that pervades our society, this full-color, richly illustrated anthology surveys the history of playground design and the children's garden movement, the benefits of universal access to natural resources, and the challenges of developing child-centered and green communities. Essays address multiple social issues, including restrictive patterns of sprawl, to explain why children are losing the ability to travel on their own or explore green spaces.

For more on the book A Place for Play , and to order, visit: www.press.umich.edu/titleDetailDesc.do?id=362097.

A Place for Play:

Published by The National Institute for Play, Distributed in the United States by the University of Michigan Press 

Where Do the Children Play?:

Praise / Awards

  • Winner of the 2008 Eugene International Film Festival Best Film in Social Issues/Family Values

Product Details

  • 7.5 x 5.25.

Published by

  • Michigan Television
See Sales Restrictions

Sales Restrictions

Our edition is available in United States


  • DVD Disc
  • 2008
  • Available
  • 978-0-9816527-0-2

Add to Cart
  • $19.95 U.S.