Entrepreneurs

Silicon Valley entrepreneur takes on childhood

Kids playing tag
Christopher Futcher | Getty Images

Mike Lanza is an entrepreneur living in Silicon Valley. He has worked on a number of projects you might expect, a few start-ups in tech, finance and software.

His latest project is a bit different.

Lanza's next innovation is in parenthood. He wants to make childhood more adventurous, independent and parent-free, as reported in the The New York Times Magazine and elsewhere.

"Because children are having a lot less fun and are dealing with heightened pressures and fears from parents, far more of them are experiencing serious emotional problems," Lanza writes in his his book, "Playborhood."

Here's how he sees it: Children are consumers who only have a certain amount of time to explore and have fun. Providing children with free-range, parent-less play time gives these consumers what they need.

Childhood these days is far more constrained than it was even a couple of decades ago. To tackle that significant problem, Lanza approached it from an entrepreneur's perspective. He started his new parenting method, launched a blog, and wrote a book all about "Playborhood."

To promote the idea around his own home, Lanza transformed his house in Menlo Park, California. It now has a 24-foot-long play river and a two-story log-cabin playhouse. Anytime they like, area kids are welcome to explore his property and the neighboring houses that are part of the "Playborhood."

Lanza's methods have sparked controversy. Some say his choices, which include letting his children ramble unsupervised on the roof of his multi-story house, are too dangerous.

The fact that he blames mothers specifically for being over-protective at the expense, primarily, of boys, and his focus on a traditional definition of masculinity, have also generated criticism.

Whether or not you agree with Lanza, the idea of "Playborhood" has sparked important conversations about childhood and has encouraged many parents to reflect on their own parenting styles.

"I'm a dad who is driven to give his kids a great childhood," he writes. "We need a road map for solving this problem now."