We know what they say about all work and no play. That's why at KaBOOM!, we make an effort to take some time out to recharge. After all, adults need recess too.
We recently took a field trip to The National Building Museum to experience three of its current exhibits: The Building Zone, PLAY WORK BUILD, and Detroit Disassembled. The first two exhibits helped us see the KaBOOM! ideals of play in action. Detroit Disassembled provided a stark counterpoint -- a reminder of the many places in our country where children lack access to a safe place to play.
In The Building Zone (top left), we noted that once you opened the gate, you crossed into a "land of play," moving from observing to doing. "You couldn’t fit one more child in the sandbox," one Boomer noted. "It was so full of play!" Another noted: "My group was amazed by the number of families playing together. In one case we even saw a grandmother, mother and child! I think this really speaks to the level of engagement the exhibits lend themselves to."
Moving upstairs to PLAY WORK BUILD, we noticed how the Imagination Playground blocks gave children free reign over how they played. The exhibit provided all the tools necessary to stimulate creative play for children -- and adults. Boomers noticed how the blue blocks, both small and large, "really got parents building too!"
An image from Detroit Disassembled. Photo by Andrew Moore, from the collection of Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell, courtesy of The National Building Musuem.
After so much play, it was time for reflection. The Detroit Disassembled exhibit served as a poignant reminder that play is not everywhere. We all agreed that we must continue to "come together in places where situations are difficult and let resilience and team champions shine through." We need to shift the mindset to see potential, not destruction.
During several of our interactions, Boomers noted how parents brought their kids to National Building Musuem consciously because they recognize that their kids "need time to play." Grateful to work at an organization that understands this need also extends to adults, we returned to the office reinvigorated to carry on our mission to give children everywhere the childhood they deserve.
If every community had a "Play Lady" like Pat Rumbaugh, a lot more kids would be getting the daily active play they need. But at the very least, every community can now get a copy of her upcoming book. Let's Play at the Playground is an early reader that will inspire kids and adults alike to go out and play.
As Dr. Stuart L. Brown, Founder and President of The National Institute for Play, puts it, "This joyously pictorial panorama of playground play lifts one's spirit. Its compelling pictures capture the joy of spontaneous play, and evokes the momentum for a lifetime of healthy play, sharing and cooperation."
Pat Rumbaugh, a former physical education teacher, lives in Takoma Park, Md. In March 2009, she founded Takoma Plays, an organization dedicated to promoting play and planning free play events for the community. Thanks to Pat's tireless efforts, KaBOOM! has named Takoma Park a Playful City USA community for four years running.
Let's Play at the Playground is photographed by Daniel Nakamura, a Maryland dad, play advocate, and owner of Booth-o-Rama Photobooths. Pat and Daniel are joining forces to extend the impact of their book by co-founding Let's Play America, an organization that aims to encourage and facilitate efforts like Takoma Plays in cities and towns across the country.
Playgrounds give kids a chance to move their bodies, but the opportunities afforded by a single playground extend beyond physical activity. Kids also get more chances to challenge themselves, exercise their imaginations, and interact with other children and families. A new study conducted by Deborah Puntenney, Ph.D. at Northwestern University, in conjunction with KaBOOM! and Health Care Service Corporation, confirms our motto: “It starts with a playground.”
By the end of 2013, Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) and its Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas will have built 39 playgrounds through a partnership with KaBOOM!. The company's support for KaBOOM! is part of its Healthy Kids, Healthy Families program, a three-year initiative designed to improve the health and wellness of at least one million children through community investments.
The study, conducted in 9 cities in 2011, used a learning community model to examine how being part of the KaBOOM! playground building process affects attitudes about the health promotion impact of physical activity and play, and the potential ripple effects associated with the community building aspects of the projects.
Key Findings: Health Promotion
Parents and other adults involved in children’s well-being almost universally agree that play is strongly associated with better health for kids. They were aware of this before they started, and this knowledge contributed to their desire to build a playground.
90% of adults believe kids in their community want to play more following the playground build.
96% of adults believe kids in their community are getting more exercise following the playground build.
Between 83% and 94% of adults believe that the playground has increased opportunities for higher quality play, including more fun (94%), more creative and challenging play (88% each), and more prospects for skill mastery (83%).
The percentage of adults saying kids are “bored” when they are outdoors dropped from 71% to 25% following the playground build.
There was an 11% increase the number of adults who said they played outside with kids at least three times a week between the pre- and post-build surveys; among parents the increase was even higher, with a 16% increase in the number indicating they went out to play with their kids this much.
Key Findings: Community Building
Adult confidence in their own ability to change the community increased 29% after the playground build.
Neighborhood pride increased by 23%, and neighborhood trust increased by 48%.
Photos from KaBOOM! and Blue Cross and Blue Shield playground builds in Tulsa, OK (upper left), Chicago, IL (upper right), Rio Rancho, NM (bottom left), and Marshall, TX (bottom right).
Here, KaBOOM! says thank you to HCSC for its commitment to bringing play to children in need:
The deadline for our Let's Play Video Contest is fast approaching! Create a one-minute video by Friday, March 8 showing us why your community needs a playground, and you could win one of five $15,000 equipment grants from Let’s Play, a community partnership led by Dr Pepper Snapple Group.
Watch this video to learn more:
A panel of internal play experts will determine the top 10 finalists based on video content, quality, creativity, and demonstrated need. The finalist videos will then be put to a public vote to determine the five winners.
The days, weeks and months of recovery following a hurricane can take a severe toll on a community, particularly on the children who live there.
As part of JetBlue’s rebuilding efforts, they are partnering with KaBOOM! to bring the joy of play back to communities that have suffered from the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy.
KaBOOM! is actively outreaching to connect with child-serving organizations that have been impacted by the storm to become KaBOOM! Community Partners for JetBlue’s three (3) playground build projects in 2013.
Eligible organizations include the following:
Those who experienced damage to the physical infrastructure of the current playground or building;
Those whose population served was directly impacted by storm (loss of home, weeks without power, displaced from school);
Those who experienced an increase in services provided to a broader group of children resulting from needs of the community occurred; or
Any group that can demonstrate a physical, financial or social/emotional impact from the storm.
Note: Evaluation and screening of applications will not be exclusive to the JetBlue Rebuild initiative but will be against general viability criteria for a KaBOOM! lead Community Partner Playground project and ALL funding opportunities in the New York/ New Jersey area.
Help kids in these communities begin the healing process and get back to the important business of being kids.
» I am a leader in a Sandy-impacted community. I am interested in having my organization become a KaBOOM! Community Partner. Learn more.
» I know a Sandy-impacted community that needs a playground. I want to help them become a KaBOOM! Community Partner. Let us know!
» I don’t have a specific recommendation but I’m interesting in volunteering my time. Please keep me informed about the JetBlue playground builds.
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From Los Angeles to Detroit, folks across the country are rallying for more play. Here's a look back at five inspiring and noteworthy news stories from 2012:
The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics brought play and recess to the forefront by issuing a major report in January on the importance of play in child development and then releasing a policy statement on the crucial role of recess in school at the end of the year.
Nine-year old Caine Monroy proved that world-changing ideas come from everywhere – even cardboard boxes. As depicted in this short film that went viral last spring, Caine (pictured left) used leftover boxes from his father’s auto parts store in East Los Angeles to create his own arcade of games. In the process, Caine created a worldwide movement of imagination and inspiration, including the first-ever global Cardboard Challenge.
With Imagination Playground in the background, First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Secretary of Health and Humana Services Kathleen Sebelius announced the next chapter of Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties. The announcement focused on the development of five pillars for the program, including “Active Kids at Play.” Both the First Lady and Secretary Sebelius stressed the importance of play and physical activity, while addressing the need for communities across the country to assist KaBOOM! in creating a comprehensive map of playspaces.
Children (and teachers) in Chicago public schools found out what they had been missing for nearly 30 years when they returned to school in the fall: recess! For the first time since the early 1980s, children in Chicago public schools were able to take a break from the classroom and share in laughter, joy and fun after recess was reinstituted.
Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and the city council provided an example of what can be accomplished when elected officials unite for a common cause. Left with a sizable budget surplus in 2012, Mayor Gray and the city council committed to using the nearly $10 million surplus to renovate eight aging playgrounds. The decision proved so popular in the community that the Mayor and city council then allocated an additional $20 million in committing to renovate 32 playgrounds in the city by September of 2013 – the largest playground renovation project in DC history.
Every day, we work to give kids in need a space where they can make lasting memories and lifetime friends. In doing so, we make our own friends and memories—with plenty of laughter along the way.
It is always gratifying to invest time and sweat into a project, and to see it through to fruition. But when when we look back, it's the moments we remember, moments when we made a new connection, or something was said that moved us or made us laugh.
Here are our 12 best moments of 2012. What were your best moments on the playground?
School Superintendent of Joplin, Missouri tells us how the new playground in his community may be saving lives
When disaster strikes, one of the most important things we can do for our children is give them time and space to play. In August 2012, KaBOOM! joined forces with the Kansas City Chiefs to build a playground in Joplin, Missouri, a community still reeling from the effects of the tornado that devastated the area 16 months prior.
When CJ Huff (above left), the Superintendent of Joplin Schools, recently visited the KaBOOM! headquarters, he talked to us about the many positive effects the playground had brought to the surrounding community. While kids’ talk about suicide had dramatically increased following the tornado, after the playground build, talk of suicide decreased. It’s all too easy to forget that kids bear the stress of their families: lost jobs, lost homes, lost lives. Getting outside and having the opportunity to run, laugh, and play is essential.
"Playgrounds are a critical component to the infrastructure in any community," CJ Huff said. "We also found playgrounds were really a place of reunification in the aftermath of the tornado and a meeting place for children who hadn’t seen each other since the storm."
Volunteers build a playground—and also a new front porch for an elderly neighbor across the street
To Glenn’s surprise, he found that an 85-year-old woman named Dorothy lived there. The inside of her house was immaculate, but Dorothy had difficulty moving around and could no longer maintain the outside. She had tried to find help, but nothing came through. As they were talking, Glenn fell right through the rotted front porch!
Glenn came back on the playground build day with a crew of volunteers who built Dorothy a new front and back porch, cut her grass, cleared fallen trees, removed an old pool and trampoline, cleaned the gutters, painted the garage, and planted new landscaping. They unearthed Dorothy’s like-new riding lawnmower that she turned around and gave to a 16-year-old neighbor who is trying to start a lawn-mowing business. In return, he promised to keep her grass cut.
“I love to sit on my front porch and watch and hear the kids play at the park,” says Dorothy, who is incredibly grateful for everybody’s help. “With the new playground it is so colorful now!”
Kid CEOs run KaBOOM! for a day, become close colleagues during afternoon playtime
In November, our CEO and Founder Darell Hammond stepped down for a day so that the winners of our Little Artists contest, four-year-old Jake Bannister and six-year-old Helen Bartman, could assume the post. Their busy schedule included signing letters to our Board, running an all-staff meeting, testing out our Imagination Playground equipment, and leading a Senior Team huddle at our local playground.
Though Jake was initially a bit shy and overwhelmed, he and Helen became close colleagues after they had a chance to play. The above photo shows the two CEOs walking back from the playground as they strategize about effective kazoo-playing techniques. The moment was a moving testament to the power of play, reminding KaBOOM! staff of the importance of what we do.
Alexandria resident Jason Ellis converts a vocal playground opponent into a major donor
Not everyone believes in the power of a playground—but some can be convinced. That’s what Jason Ellis learned when we partnered with the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA), The Washington Capitals Charities, and So Kids Can to build a playground in Alexandria, Va. Jason, who works at ARHA, found himself challenged by affluent neighbors who did not appreciate his community, much less the thought of a new playground there. Finally, one particularly vocal neighbor decided to meet with Jason and talk through his vision and his work with KaBOOM!. By the end of the meeting, she not only apologized for being unable to volunteer at the playground build, but she also handed Jason a check for $500!
Braddock, Pa. residents Kimmy and Chris meet over mulch, get engaged
Maybe only fools fall in love, but sometimes those fools are hardworking, mulch-shoveling volunteers. Kimmy Miller and Chris Ferry first met two years ago while volunteering at a playground build in Braddock, Pa.
Braddock Mayor John Fetterman has since spoken at length about the impact of the playground in his town, which he refers to as the "Grand Central Station of Kidville." He notes that the community has taken an active role in not only maintaining the but also expanding the playground since its initial construction. That's why we KaBOOM! say, “It starts with a playground.” But now we’ll have to add marriage to our list of the many positive ripple effects a playground can set in motion. When we learned that Kimmy and Chris got engaged in December, we made sure to send some KaBOOM!-themed engagement presents their way. Rumor has it they will be wed on the playground.
Nesbit Elementary School makes KaBOOM! history, says ‘thank you’ in unexpected ways
In April, Nesbit Elementary School made KaBOOM! history by hosting the most volunteers ever on site for a single playground build, thanks to the generous sponsorship of DIRECTV. Over the course of one day, 840 volunteers hauled 530 cubic yards of engineered wood fiber and mixed over 80,000 pounds of concrete for the student-designed inclusive 10,000 square-foot playground.
During an amazing lunchtime performance by Nesbit students, Principal Clayborn Knight went on to make KaBOOM! history a second time by becoming the first principal to rap his gratitude for the new playground:
About eight months later, we were surprised yet again when we received 50 thank you cards (pictured above) that the kids worked on as part of a continued service learning project. "We still LOVE our playground!" they said.
40 teens show up unexpectedly to help build a playground in downtown St. Louis
Not everyone welcomes teens at playgrounds—in fact, some go so far as to ban them. But downtown St. Louis neighbors Matt O’Leary and Kelly Kelsey were delighted when 40 teens arrived unexpectedly at the site of a future playground, asking how they could help.
Matt and Kelly had long wished that someone would do something about Lucas Park, which for years was littered with needles and trash, and known for drinking, drug use, and other unruly behavior. Meanwhile, the 350 children under age six who lived nearby had no place to play.
On Build Day, they expected about 60 volunteers, but ended up with a hundred. Alongside fellow community members, teens hauled wheelbarrows, shoveled dirt, and assembled equipment, constructing a beautiful new playground in less than 12 hours.
Says Kelly, since the playground build, “The park has gone through a complete transformation – a total 180. Area residents are shocked at the change.” She adds, “I’ve seen so many families in the park that I’ve never seen before. I knew there were more kids in the neighborhood, but they never played outside.”
A family’s exhaustive playground-going prompts three-year-old to utter words, “I want a nap!”
Calgary mom Dana Wheatley wasn’t playing around when she took on our Summer Playground Challenge—to visit as many playgrounds with her kids as she could. Over the course of six weeks, she and her kids, Gordie (pictured above) and Nicole, explored a whopping total of 431 playgrounds! “Sometimes I wonder if we’re going to too many playgrounds, Gordie is acting like everything is a playground,” Dana mused while sharing a photo on her blog of Gordie trying to scale a glass railing at the Calgary Tower. But if there's one thing Dana has learned, it's that “there is no such thing as too many playgrounds.”
Improved sleep is one of the many benefits of outdoor play—beneficial for kids and parents alike. Dana experienced this benefit firsthand. Though three-year-old Gordie had been dropping his naps, she said, “we've been really wearing him out in the playgrounds so he's started napping most days again. [Recently] I told him that when we got home it would be time for his quiet time. He yelled, 'No! I want a nap!'"
Elementary School Principal creates 'home playground' for kids with no place to play
Many school playgrounds are closed after hours, but that doesn't always stop kids from playing on them. Such was the case at William Penn Elementary School in the Playful City USA community of Bethlehem, Pa.
Some school administrators might have reacted by punishing the children for trespassing, but not Principal Nathan Stannard. Acutely aware that the kids in this low-income neighborhood needed a 'home playground' and had nowhere else to play, he championed the cause to make a formal agreement to open the playground to the public after hours. He hopes to inspire other school administrators to do the same.
A three-time Playful City USA honoree, Bethlehem received a Let's Play Joint Use Grant, with a goal of opening five school playgrounds to the public in 2012. Thanks in part to the support of school officials like Stannard, they opened nearly double that number. Now, children in nine communities enjoy evening and weekend access to playgrounds that were formerly off-limits.
Traveler unintentionally eavesdrops on an airport conference call, ends up building a playground
Our hardworking Project Managers are constantly on the road and often participate in conference calls while waiting for flights at the airport. You need to talk quite loud to be heard on the phone at the airport, but apparently traveler Lena deMorais didn’t mind. She gave KaBOOM! staffer Kenny Altenburg the above note (left) while he was wrapping up a call.
Kenny didn't see who had given him the note, but after he boarded his plane, a young woman leaned across the aisle and said, "Thank you for buidling playgrounds for these kids."
Staffers (and their children) can't get enough of those awesome blue blocks
It's always nice to get a firsthand reminder of why we do what we do. We all know that play has myriad physical, emotional, cognitive, and social benefits, but at its core, play is just plain FUN.
That's why, when the National Building Museum opened its amazing exhibit, PLAY WORK BUILD, we had to check it out. The exhibit features Imagination Playground—those "awesome blue blocks" we all know and love, but also mini versions of the blocks, as well as a one-of-a-kind virtual block play experience.
The only experience more rewarding than playing ourselves is watching our own children play. Pictured above from left to right are daughters of our COO James Siegal, Software Engineer Lukas Eklund, and daughter of Sr. Manager of Online Content and Community Kerala Taylor. As an added bonus, Kerala reported that after playing with Imagination Playground blocks for over two hours, her 13-month-old proceeded to "sleep through the night for the first time EVER!"
Staffer returns to a Florida playground, finds it crawling with kids and a continued source of inspiration
When KaBOOM! staffer David Flanigan recently traveled to Windsor Cove to check in on the playground we had helped build there three years ago, he was hopeful but anxious. The last thing he wanted to find was an empty playground and parents still fearful of sending their children outside. He need not have worried. He found the playground crawling with kids and a community that, according to resident Melody Hills, "continued to talk to one another and come together, despite the challenges."
Melody told David that the mothers who were directly involved in the playground planning and building process moved toward self-sufficiency. "Four of the women gained employment, two went to school, and two moved out of the Palms Apartments Community," she said. "But, most of all, I will never forget the looks on the faces of the children when the playground was completed. That was priceless!"
In September, we asked you to submit your best shot of a happy child at play and to let us know why your family values play. After receiving nearly 500 submissions to our Joy of Play Photo Contest, we're pleased to announce the winners!
Traci Orr says: "Samson is a little shy, but being on the playground gives him a sense of fearlessness and helps him connect with other kids. Free play allows him to expand his imagination and express his creativity. It also helps us connect as a family and learn more about each other."
Angelyn Smith says: "Play helps us bond as a family. It helps us trust each other and appreciate each other's laughs and smiles. We value playing with our daughter as we want her to grow up seeing the world as an adventurous place."
Carly Morgan says: "Eva didn't start walking until almost 18 months and she was a very clingy, whiny baby because she couldn't get around easily. As soon as she took her first steps, we hit the local playgrounds and her independence just exploded! Now she launches herself down the slides without any help (or fear!) and she's sure to add a 'Yeah! Yeah, baby!' at the end to let us know she's proud of herself. She's almost as proud as we are!!"
Cynira Clay says: "My family values play because it gives the kids the opportunity to be kids and just explore the world on their own. We feel it’s necessary for child development socially and emotionally."