Play Today

  • KaBOOM! Explores Toy Fair 2014

    February 28, 2014 Judy Lem

    Where else do life-sized Tamagotchi Friends greet you at the door? Where else can you get a photo with the original Grumpy Cat? Where else can you get a glimpse into all the new toy trends that are soon to hit retailer shelves across the nation?

    Toy Fair, that's where!

    The American International Toy Fair, sponsored by the Toy Industry Association, is the ultimate gathering for toy industry professionals. Designers, manufacturers, and retailers flock to this annual event at New York City’s Javits Center to showcase their wares, check out the latest in innovative product lines, and gather insight into the newest industry trends.

    Last week, the KaBOOM! team (Boomers) joined in the fun to explore new innovations for the Go Out and Play Collection and uncover ways to bring these great ideas from the fair to the families in the communities with which we work.

    One big thing we noticed was, like KaBOOM!, the industry focus is that children—and the adults around them—should seek quality play opportunities not just in the traditionally designated playspaces, but everywhere.

    Understanding that play cannot be confined to a specific activity type or place, the toys and trends we saw really promote active minds, active bodies, and being active together. But as good Boomers do, we inserted a little play into our work. While gathering crucial insights, our investigative play team made sure to test several products to make doubly sure how much fun could be had! There were a few that stuck out in the crowd.  

    Active Play

    Our Boomers made it our mission to seek out the best active play products. What we found were a lot of toys that make playtime edgier, challenging you to move faster, bounce higher or bring more friends into activities.

    The Wing Flyer by Zike combines elliptical pedal movement with a sleek scooter frame. We have to admit that we crashed a couple of times, but that just made it all the more fun!

    “Wow, you got a lot of air!”

    Boomers were impressed by the bounce in the Jungle Jumperoo. The promotional materials note that 10 minutes of jumping is equal to 33 minutes of running. We’ll have to do some more research into that claim, but we definitely all broke into a sweat after testing it out.

    You wouldn’t think it, but walking on stilts takes a ton of balance, core strength, and coordination! It was a challenge, but our Boomer tester had a lot of fun trying!

    Retro Games

    “Retro” games were also huge at this year’s Toy Fair. These games and toys brought back classic childhood games with a new twist.

     

    Giant Connect Four made the much-loved game larger than life!

    Made by the creators of the original pogo stick, the Flybar uses elastomeric thrusters to bounce fully grown riders up to four feet off the ground.

    Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)

    Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—also known as STEM—concepts was another big theme. In particular, toys specifically geared to engage girls in STEM learning seemed to be almost everywhere we turned.

    In recent years, there has been growing attention given to the low number of women who are entering STEM-based careers. To try and bridge this gap, there has been an increase in popular demand for more STEM-inspired toys geared toward girls. This market has grown in popularity and has been taken on by a number of manufacturers.

    You can never go wrong with classic creative construction sets, like this one from Brio, sold in the United States by Schylling. (And if you’re into creative construction on a larger scale, be sure to check out Imagination Playground and Rigamajig!)

    Makey Makey is one of the newest products that aims to teach basic circuitry through hands-on, well, making! Those bananas? They’re not for eating, though we were definitely hungry by the time we got here. They’re for making music! 

    Creativity

    No Toy Fair would be complete without games that engage the creative spirit. Going further than the traditional arts and crafts kits, many products aimed to engage active and inventive minds in a collaborative setting.

    Why should Tom Hanks be the only one who gets to act like a "big" kid? The Step-to-Play Giant Piano Mat encourages kids to make music while dancing. Bonus: They might even sit still during piano lessons.

    The Big Creativity Can by Faber-Castell includes a handful of open-ended materials—like clay, feathers and popsicle sticks—that allow kids of all ages to push their imaginations to the limit.

    Even though we found many great toys at the Fair, it’s good to keep in mind that getting a balance of active play every day doesn’t necessitate having a game or toy. Sometimes, all you need is a friend, family and a little creativity.

    For more information on the KaBOOM! Go Out and Play Collection and how you can help support KaBOOM!, go to kaboom.org/store

  • Making play possible

    January 17, 2014

    Good news: you’re already making a difference and the new year just started. Those who gave in 2013 are helping to make stories like Kenneth’s possible for even more children in 2014. Watch this video and see how play is creating positive change for kids like Kenneth. (Want more? Watch Kenneth's first, second, and third videos, too!).

    Play is a powerful thing and, by supporting it, you’re giving kids the childhood they deserve.

    Thank you for making play possible for children across the country.

  • Kenneth on Play

    December 26, 2013

    Play can change a person's childhood.

    When Kenneth was in kindergarten, KaBOOM! built a playground at his school and Kenneth began to play more outside. His grades improved from B's and C's, to A's and B's.

    Where other kids are getting an average of 8 hours of screen time a day, Kenneth is getting outside and playing. The playground led to changes in his life. Hear what Kenneth has to say about play in his third video, below. (And, don't forget to watch Kenneth's first and second videos too!)

    Kids really do need a playground. Help give kids like Kenneth the childhood they deserve.

    Donate Now

  • Enjoy this guest post from our friends at 1000 Hours Outside, a blog that encourages parents to take their kids outside more and discover the amazing benefits of play.

    Think back on your most vivid childhood memories. Do they center around toys or do they center around experiences? I certainly remember some of my favorite toys like my wooden dollhouse, scooter, and Skip-It, but my main recollections are around experiences and books I read. I remember father-daughter canoe trips down the Ausable River in Michigan and piano lessons with my mom. I remember curling up with my Nancy Drew books in this cool bed tent thing my parents bought me. I remember doing crossword puzzles with my mom and lots of family game nights. The childhood things that usually leave the greatest mark do not typically come in a box.

    With the holidays around the corner we wanted to offer up top five gifts for the playing family. Our hope is that these suggestions provide memorable childhood and family experiences.

    1) Loose Parts Toys
    Give your child the gift of imagination this holiday season. Loose parts toys are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart, and put back together in all sorts of ways. Loose parts can be used alone or combined with other materials. There’s no set of specific directions for materials that are considered loose parts. The child is the direction. Children tend to prefer loose parts over fancy toys. As the joke often goes, a child will play with the box a toy came in more than the toy itself. Loose parts toys that don't come in a fancy box are items like pinecones, shells, beads, stumps, logs, rope, crates, boxes, buckets, and fabric. Loose parts toys you can buy from a store are items like The Tegu Explorer Set, Wooden Tool Box, Think-Its, and Legos. (As with all toys be careful of choking hazards for young children.)

    1000 Hours Outside - Gift of Imagination

    2) Art and Craft Supplies
    Art is good for kids. In a similar fashion to the benefits of free play, letting kids spend time doing open-ended art projects provides many developmental benefits. Art teaches problem solving and open-ended thinking. It develops the whole brain as children increase their ability to focus, think ahead, and work on their hand-eye coordination. There is research showing that children who do art read better and do better in math or science. Art gifts help children express themselves. Here are a few of our favorites: Travel Easel, Young Artist Finger Paint Set, and Drawing Studio.

    1000 Hours Outside - Arts

    3) Fort Building Kit
    Holiday presents can get pricey, especially when it comes to electronics. However, something as simple as a fort-building kit can be inexpensive and yet provide hours of imaginative play for families. Children adore secret hiding places. Your kit could include rope, sheets, clothespins, or a tub of PVC pipes. Don't forget a flashlight!

    1000 Hours Outside - Fort

    4) Outdoor Clothing
    Just as a hoophouse or greenhouse extends a growing season, a good wool underlayer, rain suit, or boots can extend your outdoor season. Remember the saying: "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." Provide your child with the gift of outdoor play year round. This is where the memories are made!

    1000 Hours Outside - Wool

    5) Step back.
    It seems that there is already a natural inclination for kids to get outside. We spent time learning some baby sign language when our kids were younger and the sign for "outside" was one they all picked up on quickly and signed often! From increased exercise and activity to better eyesight to enhanced problem solving skills the list of things gained from time spent in vast outdoors is an extraordinary one. Let's buy our kids items that further the lure of the open air. Even if these must be packed away for a few months due to weather you will be happy with your investment come spring! We have all of these on our wish list: Skylight Rocket, 3 Wheeled Scooter, Backyard Slackline, Zipline Adventure, and ChalkTrail for Bikes!

    1000 Hours Outside - Races
    Photos courtesy of 1000 Hours Outside.

    Jen, Lisa and Ginny are moms (both part-time working and stay at home) who have a passion for getting kids outdoors. Stemming from their backgrounds in health and fitness and education, they are driven by trying to provide a carefree childhood coupled with all the health and developmental benefits that outside time provides. They have nine kids amongst them who all love running, building, picnicking, playing and napping in the open air. Their blog, 1000 Hours Outside, is meant to encourage moms and caregivers everywhere to take their kids outside more and discover all of the amazing benefits. 1000 Hours Outside hosts monthly gift card and product giveaways to give families that extra incentive to make this investment into free play in the open air.

  • Kenneth on Friendship

    December 03, 2013

    Kids don't always get the play they need. But Kenneth is lucky. When he was in kindergarten, KaBOOM! built a playground at his school—a playground where he got to meet a lot of other kids.

    Kenneth will never forget one day when he made a friend on the playground. Hear this story in his second video. (If you haven't seen Kenneth's first video, watch it too!)

    Help give kids like Kenneth the childhood they deserve.

    Donate Now

  • Anatomy of a Swing Park

    November 19, 2013

    Swing ParkEnjoy this guest blog post from Patrick McDonnell.

    About a year ago, I saw an article about musical, light-weight swings at a bus stop in Montreal. Fascinated, I began researching and stumbled upon a few other swing projects like the Water-Fall Swing by Dash 7 and the Red Swing Project. After learning about the other projects, I was inspired to create something similar in Dallas that brought back childhood memories and was affordable.

    In April 2013, I went to an outdoor market held in an empty parking lot, and it occurred to me that the lot would go back to being empty as soon as the market was over. A light bulb went off. Why not put a swing set in an empty parking lot, so that the space could be useful and active after market hours—and yet still be used as a parking lot during the day and weekends?

    In June, I came across the HOLSTEE Fellowship while reading articles on GOOD. HOLSTEE, the folks who wrote the "Go Live Your Life" Manifesto, were giving away monthly $1,000 grants to individuals to seed their dream project. I entered the mobile "Swing Park" - a pop-up swing set to transform a parking lot into a park.

    I made a 60-second video, and was selected to compete for the public vote on Facebook. People in Dallas helped me campaign from July 1–10 and I won! In August, I received the grant and began to build.

    Building the Swing Set

    Initially, I wanted to use reclaimed wood to build big, elegant two-person swings inspired by visual artist Ann Hamilton's "The Event of a Thread," a large-scale art installation in New York City. But function quickly trumped form since the swing was going to be outside and had to be mobile. Instead of a wood frame, I decided to use a metal one and made it detachable.

    I bought most of the materials on a playground equipment website SwingSetMall.com, and purchased the metal poles and sandbags at The Home Depot, spending a total of $975.37 of the $1,000 HOLSTEE grant.

    Here are the materials I used:

    • 4 CoPoly Deluxe Residential Belt Seat with 8'6" Plastisol Chain $195.80
    • 2 End Frame Fitting $269.90
    • 1 Middle Fitting Frame $169.95
    • 8 Galvanized Ductile Iron Pipe Beam Swing Hanger $143.60
    • 8 5/16" S-Hook $6.00
    • 8 2 3/8" X 10' Corner Post $147.76
    • 12 60lbs Quikrete Sandbags $42.36

    The Swing Park debuted at this year’s PARK(ing) Day celebration in Dallas. PARK(ing) Day is a global event where citizens reclaim a parking space and transform it into a mini park to promote people-friendly streets and the importance of public spaces. Parks range from yoga classes to pet adoption areas to book giveaways to lounges.

    I spent about three hours pre-assembling the swing structure. On PARK(ing) Day, it took twenty minutes to unload it and set it up.

    I’m happy to report a few people have contacted me about creating their own Swing Parks. In Dallas, I’m continuing to pop-up the Swing Park around town at different events and eventually want to transition it to a more permanent venue.

    My hope is that Swing Parks become a new way to create mini play areas in neglected urban environments like empty parking lots and bus stops, desolate underpasses, dead plazas, or other overlooked city corners that could use a bit of whimsy and fun and serve as a place for people to come together.

    Swing Park

    Swing Park

    Swing Park

  • Meet Kenneth

    November 14, 2013

    Meet Kenneth, an 11-year-old in Birmingham, Alabama who loves his playground. When he was in kindergarten, his school built a playground with KaBOOM!.

    Donate Now

    Watch Kenneth describe what happened after the playground opened and the impact it had on his school.

  • How to become a playing family

    November 05, 2013

    Enjoy this guest post from our friends at 1000 Hours Outside, a blog that encourages parents to take their kids outside more and discover the amazing benefits of play.

    As the saying goes, "The years fly by, but the hours are long." Raising a family can seem grueling at times and there's an endless amount of choices surrounding how to spend our years rearing children. Of all the options out there, free play and providing time to "just be a kid" often gets lost in the mix. However, the research is out and it points to the overwhelming importance of play. Whether you've always known this or it's just coming to the forefront of your parenting practices, here are five quick ways to infuse play into everyday life.

    1) Find a nearby trail.
    Use your city's parks and recreation website or look for trails through your local or state parks. There is so much variety in nature. Your kids will be engaged from the moment you step on the path. As a general rule we try and stick with trails that are less than two miles. We don't bring along any toys but we do make sure to have a few snacks and some water! While you're out on your adventures, add photos and rate the trails you visit on the Map of Play.

    1000 Hours Outside - Trail

    2) Invest in some loose parts toys.
    Loose parts toys are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. Check out the picture below to get an idea. Instead of buying a plastic toy for the next birthday or holiday, help your child build creativity and imagination with stumps, logs, rope, crates, boxes, buckets, fabric, and the like. Children tend to prefer loose parts over fancy toys anyway.

    1000 Hours Outside - Loose Parts

    3) Invite some friends along and watch the creativity soar.
    It's certainly safer to be outside with someone else and it's more fun, too! All the different personalities and ages that are brought to the mix are good for child development.

    1000 Hours Outside - Friends

    4) Let loose.
    One of my best days ever as a mom was when we came upon a shallow inland lake and let the kids swim in their clothes. You can tell by their faces that is was one of their best days, too!

    1000 Hours Outside - Splash

    5) Step back.
    Spread out a picnic blanket and observe. You will be amazed and inspired. Children are so engaged with life.

    1000 Hours Outside - Step Back
    Photos courtesy of 1000 Hours Outside.

    Jen, Lisa and Ginny are moms (both part-time working and stay at home) who have a passion for getting kids outdoors. Stemming from their backgrounds in health and fitness and education, they are driven by trying to provide a carefree childhood coupled with all the health and developmental benefits that outside time provides. They have nine kids amongst them who all love running, building, picnicking, playing and napping in the open air. Their blog, 1000 Hours Outside, is meant to encourage moms and caregivers everywhere to take their kids outside more and discover all of the amazing benefits. 1000 Hours Outside hosts monthly gift card and product giveaways to give families that extra incentive to make this investment into free play in the open air.

  • The weather is getting colder and, while we’ve already given a fond farewell to the lazy days of summer, that doesn’t mean the fun has to end. Winter provides endless opportunities for great, active play, both indoors and out. And, with the holiday season upon us, kids will be clamoring for new things to keep them at play.

    Like last year, we’ve done our best to find products that you can bring home to make any space a great place to play. This year, though, we’ve partnered with the play experts at imagine toys to create the KaBOOM! Go Out and Play Collection, a carefully curated list of items geared to bring rich and robust experiences for the whole family.

    Whatever their interests, these toys offer your children interesting and exciting ways to keep their minds and bodies moving. Best of all, these toys are also great for groups, which means more time for families to play together!

    And, as a special bonus, with every purchase from the Go Out and Play Collection, you're helping to support KaBOOM! make sure that all kids get the active play they need to become healthy, successful adults. It's the holiday gift that keeps on giving!

    When you're done unwrapping your gifts, here are some ideas on playful ways to repurpose the packaging.

    imagine toys - Inhabit Design & Construction

    Inhabit Design & Construction
    Tired of the kids using sofa cushions to make their indoor constructions? With the Inhabit Design & Construction Kit, kids can build their own playhouse, fort, arch or whatever their imagination whips up using heavy-duty corrugated cardboard panels.

    imagine toys - Piano Mat

    Step-to-Play Giant Piano Mat
    Why should Tom Hanks be the only one who gets to act like a "big" kid? The Step-to-Play Giant Piano Mat encourages kids to make music while dancing. Bonus: They might even sit still during piano lessons after getting to move around during at-home practices.

    imagine toys - Sno-Sculpture Kit

    Sno-Sculpture Kit
    With winter comes snow! Take the opportunity to create a winter wonderland with this great item. Pack snow into the Sno-Sculpture Kit parts and you can construct forts, castles, igloos, robots, and more. You can even personalize it with colorful designs using the included Sno-Marker.

    imagine toys - Jumbo Bananagrams

    Jumbo Bananagrams
    Skyrocket your traditional crossword game to the next level! Jumbo Banagrams magnify the pocket-sized game of the same name, allowing families to play this mind-bending game together while still getting in a little physical activity.

    imagine toys - Sumo Bumper Bopper

    Sumo Bumper Bopper
    Pillow fighting combined with sumo wrestling? Why, yes, that does sound like fun! Inflate the Sumo Bumper Bopper, jump in, and bop around for hours of energetic play. Caveat: Product does not come in adult sizes.

    imagine toys - Berg Moov Starter Kit

    Berg Moov Starter Kit
    Got an aspiring architect or engineer in your home? Using the rubber rings, grooved metal rods, and laminated plywood in the Berg Moov Starter Kit, kids can make and move their own bike, snow scooter, or crane. We predict that this will be a new favorite pastime for indoor or outdoor play.

    imagine toys - Backyard Slackline

    Backyard Slackline
    It's every kid's dream to be a circus performer. Get them started on their tightrope walking career with the Backyard Slackline, a flat length of suspended nylon webbing that stretches and bounces. The Slackline also helps to build core strength and confidence – a bonus parents can keep secret if they want.

    imagine toys - Polka Hop & Stripey Hop

    Polka Hop & Stripey Hop
    Need something to keep your toddler active? Check out the Polka Hop & Stripey Hop. These phthalate-free vinyl hoppers help little ones bounce their way to stronger bodies. Don’t worry, it comes with a hand-operated air pump, so the only thing keeping you out of breath will be keeping up with your kids.

    imagine toys - Night Zone Football

    Night Zone Football
    The days are getting shorter, but that doesn't mean the fun has to end when the sun goes down. The 8" Night Zone Football lights up the sky with its LED light up strips. Lights can be turned on and off and last for 24 continuous hours.
     

    imagine toys - Ring Stix

    RingStix
    This new way to play catch is fun for kids of all ages. Simply put both Stix through the ring, launch the ring up, and catch!

    imagine toys - Backpack

    Bonus Item: KaBOOM! Go Out and Play Backpack
    Get out and play outside! The KaBOOM! Go Out and Play Backpack can hold all the items you need for all of your outdoor adventures. The backpack comes with a copy of Go Out and Play and a handful of outdoor play essentials.

    For more winter play ideas, check out the complete Go Out and Play Collection at imagine toys.

  • 5 ways that play helps kids succeed in school

    September 03, 2013 Kerala Taylor

    Summer may be over, but that doesn't mean kids should stop playing. Play builds active minds as much as it builds active bodies, and by playing together, children gain social competence that is vital to their development and growth. In short, play helps to build the 21st-century skills that children will need to thrive in the workplace and to navigate our complex, ever-changing world.  

    These five studies illuminate just how integral play is to children's learning, achievement, and success:

    1. According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, peer play has a direct positive concurrent relationship on learning outcomes, particularly for preschool children exhibiting problem behavior. 
       
    2. The American Academy of Pediatrics has reported that in an academic environment, play helps children adjust to the school setting, thereby fostering school engagement, and enhances children’s learning readiness, learning behaviors, and problem-solving skills.
       
    3. Pediatrics also published the results of a 2009 study that found play and recess may increase children’s capacity to store new information, as their cognitive capacity is enhanced when they are offered drastic change in activity.
       
    4. A 2011 review of 50 studies conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that increased physical activity during the school day can help children's attention, classroom behavior, and achievement test scores. Eighty percent of principals who participated in a 2010 Gallup Survey reported that recess has a positive impact on academic achievement.
       
    5. As a result of a German educational reform movement, some German kindergartens threw out their play-based curricula in order to become “centers for cognitive achievement.” Research comparing students who continued to attend play-based kindergartens instead of the so-called cognitive centers found that at age 10, play-enriched children performed better in reading and mathematics, were better adjusted socially and emotionally, and excelled in creativity, and oral expression.

    How has play helped your child learn?

     

    As a critical driver of positive educational outcomes for kids, play will be a topic of discussion with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Aspen Institute CEO, Walter Isaacson, at the inaugural Playful City USA Leaders’ Summit later this month in Baltimore. Learn more.