Brenda Simon, PLAYbynature Founder and Director
Brenda Simon has been a human rights lawyer, a co-op housing project manager, an urban planner, local government policy analyst and a community arts teacher. However, none of these jobs remotely prepared Brenda for the hours of labour every week dedicated to keeping her two children “in play”: making phone calls, arranging for play groups, trekking through the neighbourhood loaded down with backpacks and snacks, neglecting laundry, incoming mail and dinner preparations. It seemed that no amount of effort was ever enough. When Brenda sought out help from the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club, wondering why after-school programmes never used the park or permitted free play, the executive director explained that his staff were not trained for that kind of work. Contemplating the variety of reasons why a robust and reliable play environment seemed so hard to create and wondering how to fix the situation, Brenda realized that the problem extended way beyond the capacity of a few parents to remedy. “PLAYbynature ” was born.
Since embarking on this project two years ago, Brenda has travelled to the U.K., Denmark, Germany and the U.S., learning about play planning, playground design and play provision, meeting wonderful playworkers, play thinkers, parks and program designers.
Play advocacy and planning is a diverse inter-disciplinary effort incorporating child care and education policy, developmental psychology, land use planning, recreational programming, landscape architecture and human rights education – all in service to the wonder years of childhood.