children

It's summer, and whether you're 5 years old or 105 it's time to play.

To inspire you, the NPR Ed Team called up leaders and designers at 10 of the nation's best children's museums and asked them one simple question:

What's the one thing under your roof (or maybe out back) that kids and their grown-ups love to do/see/touch/play the most?

Here are their answers, our summer "playlist."

1. Adventure Expeditions — Port Discovery Children's Museum, Baltimore.

Toddlers make their fair share of noise. But they also have a lot of noise to contend with — a television blaring, siblings squabbling, a car radio blasting, grownups talking.

Amid all that clatter, toddlers must somehow piece together the meanings of individual words and start to form their own words and sentences.

When it comes to school breakfasts, two is better than none, says a new report released Thursday in the journal Pediatric Obesity.

Erika Christakis' new book, The Importance of Being Little, is an impassioned plea for educators and parents to put down the worksheets and flash cards, ditch the tired craft projects (yes, you, Thanksgiving Handprint Turkey) and exotic vocabulary lessons, and double-down on one, simple word:

Play.

Here's a stark fact: Most American children spend more time consuming electronic media than they do in school.

According to Common Sense Media, tweens log 4 1/2 hours of screen time a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. For teens, it's even higher: nearly seven hours a day. And that doesn't include time spent using devices for school or in school.

Recess at Eagle Mountain Elementary School in Fort Worth, Texas, looks much like recess anyplace else. Some kids run and squeal, others swing, while a half-dozen of their peers are bunched up on the slide.

Journey Orebaugh, a 6-year-old in an off-white princess dress, is playing family.

"You just get a bunch of people and just act like who you want to be," she says. Journey likes to play the mom.

In the months after Hurricane Katrina slammed New Orleans in 2005, Tara Powell was one of the social workers on the scene, trying to help children cope with the disaster.

But as she and colleagues spent time in schools, it quickly became clear that the crisis interventions they were using were not working. One activity incorporated a book that kids were supposed to draw pictures in — something many of them had no interest in doing. Another was rooted in Native American spirituality, which didn't resonate with kids from inner city New Orleans.

Parents have made news recently after being detained for purposefully leaving children on their own, prompting renewed debate about so-called "free-range parenting."

That includes Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, a Silver Spring, Md., couple who are being investigated after they let their children, ages 10 and 6, walk home from a park last month by themselves.

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