Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood Launches “Save the Lorax!” Campaign

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

"Let’s honor The Lorax’s important message by celebrating the story and saying ‘no’ to the film’s corporate cross-promotions," say CCFC director, Dr. Susan Linn. - (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield. Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Park, Springfield, MA)

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood writes:

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has launched a campaign to “Save the Lorax!” from an onslaught of corporate cross-promotions.  For more than forty years, Dr. Seuss’s classic book, The Lorax, has been a clarion call for reducing consumption and promoting conservation.  But this Friday, Universal Pictures’ The Lorax arrives in theaters with dozens of corporate partners promoting everything from SUVs to Pottery Barn to Pancakes.  CCFC is urging anyone who cares about The Lorax’s original message to enjoy the story but pledge to shun the movie’s commercial tie-ins, including:

  • The new Mazda CX-5 SUV—the only car with the “Truffula Seal of Approval.”
  • Seventh Generation household products and diapers festooned with the Lorax.
  • IHOP’s kids’ menu items like Rooty Tooty Bar-Ba-Looty Blueberry Cone Cakes and Truffula Chip Pancakes.
  • In-store promotions featuring the Lorax at Whole Foods, Pottery Barn Kids, and Target.
  • Online Lorax games and sweepstakes for YoKids Yogurt, Comcast Xfinity TV, Target, IHOP, and HP.
  • HP’s “Every Inkling Makes a Difference,” a branded in-school curriculum produced and distributed by Scholastic.

“It is both cynical and hypocritical to use a beloved children’s story with a prescient environmental message to sell kids on consumption,” said CCFC’s director, Dr. Susan Linn.  “The Lorax that so many of us know and love would never immerse children in the false corporate narrative that we can consume our way to everything, from happiness to sustainability. Instead, The Lorax would join everyone who cares about children and the environment to give kids time and space to grow up free of commercial pressures.”

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Community Gathers to Discuss Creative Free Play in a Commercialized World

Creative Free Play in a Commercialized World
A Community Conversation

On Tuesday, February 7th, a group of parents, grandparents and childcare professionals came together for Hilltown Families’ Roundtable Discussion: Creative Free Play in a Commercialized World to discuss a variety of subjects related to the theme of creative free play in a commercialized world, a continuation of the presentation Hilltown Families hosted before the holidays with Dr. Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe and Consuming Kids.

COMMUNICATION

The roundtable was a lively discussion with a variety of perspectives and ideas for empowerment.  One point reiterated several times during the conversation was the importance of communication.  Caring about the impact of media on our kids and their growing minds, we need to talk to them about commercialization, helping them navigate our media saturated world by pointing out advertising and marketing strategies geared toward children. Proactive ways parents can communicate with their kids include watching the same TV shows/movies their children are watching, or exploring the internet with them, giving parents opportunities to find teachable moments and openings for engagement in dialog.

TEACHING

One idea that came out of our discussion on how parents can make their kids savvy to the marketing strategies of corporate marketers was to take a walk with them through a big box grocery store in search of movie or television characters on products placed at their eye level, then talk about why these characters are on these products in these locations.  Another idea was to choose non-commercial educational videos and apps for children when consuming media. Video series like the Liberty Kids to supplement Colonial Studies, or Bill Nye the Science guy to supplement science studies were suggested.

CREATIVE FREE PLAY

As always, the notion of involving children in real world activities as much as possible is the antidote to too much media consumption, and Hilltown Families provides a comprehensive list of events each week for families that supports this practice.  Providing opportunities for creative free play that enhances imagination is essential.  A recent event at a local family center utilizing empty boxes for play was a perfect example.  Ironically, allowing children to be bored can often lead to creative solutions.  Several parents related stories of the most creative play originating out of moments of boredom resulting in toilet paper roll towers or made up stories exercising the imagination.

OTHER TOPICS

Related subjects discussed included:

  • violence and inappropriate language in media
  • sexualization in media and the impact on girls
  • children who are not exposed to certain media feeling left out among peers
  • over-scheduling of childhood
  • older teens/young adults and the over-use of Facebook
  • tensions from protecting our children from the impacts of commercialization in a media saturated world versus creating opportunities for dialog and critical thinking

A couple of resources were recommended to empower parents with young girls who struggle with the challenges they face. The book Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World was recommended to parents with tween aged girls.   And the video from the Dove Self Esteem Campaign Ad “Evolution,” which shows how models are photoshopped, was suggested as a video to screen with girls (and boys) to illustrate how the current ideal of beauty is manufactured and promoted through media.

CONCLUSION

The discussion was concluded with an invitation to parents and professionals who have ideas/thoughts on how to empower our community and children on these topics to work with Hilltown Families to share and grow these ideas. Drop us an email at hilltownfamilies@gmail.com anytime.  And please continue to be part of the ongoing dialog about the importance of creative free play and helping our children navigate a commercialized world.  To receive updates and notices on events and opportunities on this topic, share with us your email and we will keep you posted:

Big thank you to Northampton Public Schools for co-sponsoring this month’s discussion, and to Cup & Top Cafe for hosting.

[Image credit: (ccl) Monette Enriquez]

Roundtable Discussion: Creative Free Play in a Commercialized World

A Community Conversation with Hilltown Families…

Roundtable Discussion: Creative Free Play in a Commercialized World
Tuesday, Feb 7th from 6-7:30pm in Florence, MA

Come together as a community on Tuesday, February 7th at 6pm in Florence, MA to casually discuss some of the challenges families and educators face in an age of rampant commercialism and ubiquitous technology, while brainstorming together on ideas and strategies for preserving non-commercialized creative free play for our children.

Hilltown Families will host a free informal roundtable discussion for parents, educators and community members interested in a dialogue about creative free play in a commercialized world on Tuesday, February 7th from 6-7:30pm at Cup & Top Cafe in Florence, MA, sponsored by Hilltown Families and the Northampton Public Schools.

  • WHAT: Roundtable Discussion on Creative Free Play in a Commercialized World: A Community Conversation with Hilltown Families
  • WHERE: Cup & Top Cafe, 1 North Main Street, Florence, MA
  • WHEN: Tuesday, Feb 7th, 2012, 6-7:30pm (Snow date: Feb. 21st)
  • COST: Discussion is Free. Dinner from Cup & Top is available through 6:30pm ($).
  • CONTACT: Hilltown Families, hilltownfamilies@gmail.com

On the heels of the holiday season, with another commercialized holiday approaching on Feb 14th (Valentine’s Day), Hilltown Families invites parents, educators and community members to come together to informally discuss some of the challenges we face in an age of rampant commercialism and ubiquitous technology, while brainstorming together on ideas and strategies for preserving non-commercialized creative free play for our children.  

This free roundtable discussion will take place at Cup & Top Cafe in Florence, MA. Participants are warmly welcomed to purchase dinner from the cafe through 6:30pm (gluten-free & nut-free options available).  Free childcare is available in the cafe’s playspace. To sign up for childcare, email hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

Hilltown Families roundtable discussions are part of a series of Community Conversations presented by Hilltown Families that invites the community to engage in conversations about raising healthy children including helping children develop a positive sense of self and empathy for others and the world around them.  This evenings roundtable discussion is a continuation of the presentation Hilltown Families hosted before the holidays with with Dr. Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe and Consuming Kids, and is co-sponsored by  the Northampton Public Schools/CFCE through a grant from the MA Department of Early Education and Care.

[Image credit: (ccl) Monette Enriquez]

How to Choose Non-Commercial Toys that Promote Creative Free Play this Holiday Season

TRUCE Action Guides: Toys, Media & Children

TRUCE is a national group of educators deeply concerned about the impact of children’s entertainment and toys on their play and behavior. Their goal is to raise public awareness about the negative effects of violent, sexualized, and stereotyped toys and media on children, families, schools, and society.

It’s Black Friday and many parents have holiday gift buying on their minds.  The discussion of holiday buying looms large in our community, with folks chatting about buying local, buying handmade, and buying non-commercial.

Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (TRUCE), a Massachusetts based group of educators concerned about how children’s toys and entertainment are affecting the play and behavior of kids, has a few guides available on media and play that will help aid parents in making informed decisions and choices when it comes to toys that promote creative free play:

Toys, Play & Young Children Action Guide

This guide will help parents and educators promote children’s creative and constructive play, and make informed choices about toys, and work with others at home, school, and in the community to support positive play.

In this guide TRUCE highlights that toys have high play value when they…

  • Can be used in many ways.
  • Allow children to be in charge of the play.
  • Appeal to children at more than one age or level of development.
  • Are not linked to video games, computers, TV, or movies.
  • Can be used with other toys for new and more complex play.
  • Will stand the test of time and continue to be part of play as children develop new interests and
    skills.
  • Promote respectful, non-stereotyped, non-violent interactions among children.
  • Help children develop skills important for further learning and a sense of mastery.
  • Can be used by children to play alone as well as with others. Can be enjoyed by both girls and boys.

TRUCE invites parents to copy and distribute their guides to help spread the word in your community.  Download this guide here:

TRUCE: Toys, Play & Young Children Action Guide (pdf)
TRUCE: Toys, Play & Young Children Action Guide (Spanish pdf)

Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media Action Guide

Want to provide your little one with experiences that will enhance healthy play and development? This guide will help you understand why quality play is vital for your child’s growth and what you can do to support it.

In this guide TRUCE warns parents to  “Beware of BRANDING! Children’s media characters are often used by marketers on toys, clothing, and foods to capture young children’s attention. Why is this a problem? Whenever kids see it, they want it because it’s familiar. These kinds of licensing agreements, which support branding efforts, can lead to unwise buying choices, unhealthy eating habits and nagging.”

Download this guide here:

TRUCE: Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media Action Guide (Spanish pdf)
TRUCE: Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media Action Guide (pdf)

To learn more about TRUCE, visit www.truceteachers.org.


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A Recap: The Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World

An Intergenerational Crowd Comes Together for Hilltown Families Community Conversation with Dr. Susan Linn on The Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World

Jackie MacNeish of Ashfield, MA writes:

“On Tuesday night this past week I went to hear Dr. Susan Linn speak of the Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World hosted by Hilltown Families at the Meekins Library (Williamsburg, MA). It was fantastic – A topic I’m passionate about and yet wanted to know more about, a knowledgable and interesting presentation, and a community of different people (young, teenagers, elders, students, teachers, parents, etc) gathered together to listen, think and discuss. I would like to attend one of these discussions each month, so I hope there are more coming our way!”

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VIDEO

If you missed the talk last week here she is on TEDxTalks with an abbreviated presentation of last Tuesdays Community Conversation:

ONLINE RESOURCES

So what can a parent do to level the playing field? “They can begin by looking a their own patterns of consumption,” says Dr. Linn in a recent interview with the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “They can work to limit access to screen time and work to limit commercialism in their schools by urging school systems to have a policy on commercialism and marketing.”

Below we have several online resources we’ve compiled, many of them recommended by Dr. Susan Linn during her presentation last week:

Continue the Conversation

Many people are interested in continuing this conversation. If you would like to be a part of this continued discussion on the importance of creative free play for our kids, drop us a line and we’ll give you a heads up on future opportunities for gather and discuss:

The Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World

Hilltown Families presents…

The Importance of Creative Play
in a Commercialized World
A Community Conversation with Dr. Susan Linn
Tuesday, Nov 15th from 7-9pm
Meekins Library • Williamsburg, MA

Co-sponsored by the Media Education Foundation and the Odyssey Bookshop.

Hilltown Families presents “The Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World” with Dr. Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe and Consuming Kids on Tuesday, November 15th from 7-9pm in the Hawks~Hayden Community Room at the Meekins Library, 2 Williams Street in Williamsburg, MA (FREE).

In the critically acclaimed Consuming Kids, Dr. Linn, the nation’s leading advocate for protecting children from corporate marketers, provided an unsparing look at modern childhood molded by commercialism. In her book, The Case for Make Believe, Dr. Linn argues that while play is crucial to human development and children are born with an innate capacity for make believe, the convergence of ubiquitous technology and unfettered commercialism actually prevents them from playing.

In an era when toys come from television and media companies sell videos as brain-builders for babies, Dr. Linn lays out the inextricable links between play, creativity, and health, showing us how and why to preserve the space for make believe that children need to be happy and to become productive adults. Dr. Linn will speak about her book and help generate ideas for preserving non-commercialized creative play, especially around the holidays. - Join us on Tuesday, Nov 15th from 7-9pm for a community conversation with Dr. Susan Linn in Williamsburg . (FREE)

This talk is free and open to all adults and older students studying the effects of commercialization and childhood development. A Q&A session will follow along with a book signing.  Titles will be available for sale on site in limited quantities.

Book Giveaway: We’re giving away a couple of copies of The Case for Make Believe to our readers. Find out how you can enter to win below.  Deadline to enter to win is November 14th by 12noon.

ABOUT DR. SUSAN LINN

Susan Linn, Ed.D. is co-founder and director of The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and an Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. An award-winning producer, writer, and puppeteer, she is the author of The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World, and Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood and lectures internationally on reclaiming childhood from corporate marketers. She has been featured on Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, The Today Show, The Colbert Report and Good Morning America.  In 2006, she received the American Psychological Association’s Presidential Citation for her work on behalf of children. Dr. Linn lives in Brookline, MA.

ENTER TO WIN

A Q&A session will follow the talk and Hilltown Families invites the community to submit questions to Dr. Linn in advance about the importance of make believe and how to preserve creative play for our children. Submit your questions in the comment field below and be entered to win a copy of Dr. Linn’s book, The Case for Make Believe. Must include your full name and town to be eligible to win. We’ll randomly draw winners and will share the results below. Winner does not need to be present at the event to win.

Questions can also be submitted to hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

This is the first in a series of Community Conversations presented by Hilltown Families that invite the community to engage in conversations on the themes of helping children connect to the good inside each of them and their development of empathy for others and the world around them.


❤  Thank you ❤ to our co-sponsors of “The Importance of Creative Play in a Commercialized World,” the Media Education Foundation and the Odyssey Bookshop.

Hilltown Families Counteracts Commercialization via Creativity

Empowerment by Art: Hilltown Families Checks Commercial Fashion

“We had a great time! My son is wearing his shirt with pride right now at an evening event at his school,” texted Helen Kahn of Florence, MA.

In the wake of JCPenney’s “I’m too pretty to do homework” and Forever 21 “Allergic to Algebra” t-shirt debacle, this past Friday Western MA families came together to pushback against commercial fashion and corporate marketers in the Hilltown Families event, “I Am Not A Billboard!”

Presented by Hilltown Families and hosted by The Art Garden, a newly formed non-profit in Shelburne Falls, grandparents to toddlers came together from Charlemont to Northampton to make their own fashion statement by designing and decorating t-shirts with their own words and images. Slogans like “Science Rocks,” “Girls Rule,” and images of peace were drawn, sewn & painted in a successful intergenerational event!

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“With children’s clothes often donning corporate symbols and slogans, our kids are made into walking billboards for big corporations,” says Sienna Wildfield, Founding Director of Hilltown Families. “Fashion is just one of the many avenues corporate marketers utilize to market their brands to children, surprisingly, at a very young age.  Allowing children to embellish their own clothes with symbols and words that celebrate their individuality and intelligence is just one simple way families can counteract commercialization while fostering creativity and expressiveness.

“Messages that communicate values on physical appearance, consumerism and gender stereotypes to our children are pervasive,” says Jess Kuttner, LICSW, Psychotherapist and mother of two boys. “The recent news of t-shirts sold by JCPenny with the slogan, ‘I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me,’ is one example of how empty and degrading values are being marketed to our children.  Is it any wonder that there are epidemic numbers of kids and teens who bully each other and numb themselves with video games, TV, food and drugs? Giving children the opportunity to create their own t-shirts is a proactive way to counter corporate and negative messages while helping children focus on what is unique about themselves on a deeper level.

Big thank you to ❤ The Art Garden for hosting this event, to ❤ Country Pie Pizza of Ashfield for donating pizza for our pizza party, and to all the ❤ amazing families who came together to empower their kids and themselves through art!

Too Creative to Wear a Corporate T-Shirt. Make Your Own!

I AM NOT A BILLBOARD!
Make Your Own T-Shirt Workshop & Pizza Party with Hilltown Families
at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls
Friday, Oct 14th from 4-6pm

Hilltown Families and The Art Garden will be offering a free Make Your Own T-Shirt Workshop & Pizza Party for families on Friday, October 14th from 4-6pm in Shelburne Falls. All are invited to come and create t-shirts with affirmative slogans and positive images of self-expression.  Bring an old t-shirt and repurpose it into your very own, one-of-a-kind design.

“With children’s clothes often donning corporate symbols and slogans, our kids are made into walking billboards for big corporations,” says Sienna Wildfield, Founding Director of Hilltown Families. “Fashion is just one of the many avenues corporate marketers utilize to market their brands to children, surprisingly, at a very young age.  Allowing children to embellish their own clothes with symbols and words that celebrate their individuality and intelligence is just one simple way families can counteract commercialization while fostering creativity and expressiveness.

“Messages that communicate values on physical appearance, consumerism and gender stereotypes to our children are pervasive,” says Jess Kuttner, LICSW, Psychotherapist and mother of two boys. “The recent news of t-shirts sold by JCPenny with the slogan, ‘I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me,’ is one example of how empty and degrading values are being marketed to our children.  Is it any wonder that there are epidemic numbers of kids and teens who bully each other and numb themselves with video games, TV, food and drugs? Giving children the opportunity to create their own t-shirts is a proactive way to counter corporate and negative messages while helping children focus on what is unique about themselves on a deeper level.

On Friday, October 14th from 4-6pm, bring your kids to The Art Garden and allow them to create their own t-shirt.  Jane Wegscheider, Artistic Director of The Art Garden will show families how to use an assortment of materials and methods to create their own designs and unique messages. Bring your own t-shirt and choose from acrylic paints, fabric pens, stamps, embroidery thread, etc. to make your very own, one-of-a-kind, t-shirt that celebrates your individuality and intelligence.

“Rather than a t-shirt that says, ‘Allergic to Algebra,’ how about slogans that promote a willingness to learn, like “One Smart Cookie!” or “Math Rocks!” says Wildfield.

The Art Garden is located at 14 Depot Street in Shelburne Falls, MA (in the same building as the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum) . Click HERE for map.  All are welcomed to this free event. Slices of pizza donated ♥ by Country Pie Pizza of Ashfield will be available for $1 a slice while supplies last. For more information, contact Sienna Wildfield at hilltownfamilies@gmail.com, or call The Art Garden at 413-625-2782.

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