Play Today

  • 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.

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  • 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, 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!.

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

  • How to become a playing family

    November 04, 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

    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.

  • The lazy days of summer are winding down. A new school year awaits, full of exciting opportunities to learn, grow, and make new friends.

    For many children, a new school year also means more stress. Not all stress is unhealthy—as Marian Wilde of points out, “Good stress induces a student to strive for her personal best on an exam, a term paper or on the debate team.”

    Yet unfortunately, the stress levels of today’s children are rising at worrisome rates.  According to the American Psychological Association (APA), typical schoolchildren today report more anxiety than did child psychiatric patients in the 1950's, and the National Association of Health Education Centers reports that 9-13 year olds say they are “more stressed by academics than any other stressor—even bullying or family problems.”

    Active play is a proven stress reducer, not only helping children during times of trauma, but also to handle the stresses of everyday life. A recent study in Finland found that physical activity helps children cope with stress, with physically active children reporting “happier moods and fewer symptoms of depression than children who are less active.”

    Of course, play is not just about active bodies, but also active minds. As cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman points out, imaginative play “allows the expression of both positive and negative feelings, and the modulation of affect, the ability to integrate emotion with cognition.” The social aspects of play also help kids feel more connected to their communities, reducing feelings of isolation or exclusion.

    Children intuitively understand that play is not only fun, but helps them cope with stress. A boy in a KaBOOM! focus group of eight- and nine-year-olds recently noted: “Play is important because you lose some energy and become calm and make your Mom happy for the rest of the day.”

    In fact, play can make Mom (and Dad) happy in more ways than one. A group of Kansas State researchers found that single mothers who play with their kids experience less stress than those who don’t. While all kids need room to direct their own course of play, family playtime can reduce stress for parents and children alike.

    That’s why it’s imperative that families, schools, and communities make time to play this fall—during school, after school, and on the weekends. While stress relief for adults has become a powerful, multi-faceted industry, for children it could be as simple as a trip to the playground.

  • How to play it cool at the playground

    July 02, 2013 David Flanigan

    It’s summer, and the heat is on. Does your neighborhood playground look like it’s about to melt? This playground in Houston, Texas actually did:

    When the temperature outside is 90-100 degrees, playground equipment and surfacing can get as hot as 130 to 150 degrees, putting kids are at risk of second-degree burns.  There’s a reason that hot cities suffer from “empty playground syndrome.”

    But some cities are starting to wise up, making sure to incorporate shade elements into new playground designs and adding them to existing playgrounds. Not only does shade limit UV exposure, but its cooling effect is remarkable. Ian Smith, the Director of Athletics from the Boys and Girls Club of San Fernando Valley in Pacoima, CA says, “Before [adding shade structures], the kids were not able to play on the playground during the day. Now that we have shade, the temperature of the playground area is 15-20 degrees cooler and the kids are able to play safely!”

    As Ian points out, during the heat of summer, shade can make the difference between an empty playground and one that’s crawling with kids. At a shaded playground, kids will stay longer and play more often.


    At KaBOOM!, we try to incorporate shade into our playgrounds when possible. Left: The VIET playground in New Orleans stays crowded all summer long. Right: Kids rejoice in the shade at the Alliance for Women and Children playground in Abilene, Texas.  

    Know a good shady playground in your area? Help other parents in your area by adding a photo on our Map of Play.

    Know a playground that needs some shade? Don’t just wring your hands! Listen to this podcast to get some helpful hints for planning and budgeting for a shade project, plus check out these grants from the American Academy of Dermatology and the Shade Foundation of America.

    Got any other tips for playing it cool at the playground?

  • Investing in childhood makes economic sense

    June 27, 2013 Darell Hammond

    Following his recent visit to the World Economic Forum on East Asia, our CEO and Founder Darell Hammond reflects on the global economic benefits of play:

    What is the world’s most vital resource? It’s not oil. It’s not gold. It’s our children. As acclaimed economist Jeffrey D. Sachs puts it, “Investing in the health, education, and skills of children offers the highest economic returns to a country.”

    The earlier we start making these investments, the better. According to UNICEF, “Early childhood represents a unique window of opportunity for investing in children’s cognitive and physical development.” While these investments should cover a wide range of needs, there is one need we often overlook: play.

    We all know that play comes intuitively to children, but few of us are aware of just how vital it is to their development. Dr. Sam Wang and Dr. Sandra Aamodt, who have researched how play enhances brain development say, “the 19th-century kindergarten movement, which popularized the concept of preschool education, was based on the idea that songs, games, and other activities are a means for children to gain perceptual, cognitive, social, and emotional knowledge that prepares them for entering the world.”

    We often hear about the successes of Chinese and Japanese students, who earn top science, reading, and math scores in the international PISA exam, but less discussed is their “playful and experiential… approach to schooling before second grade.” Even in later years, many students in China and Japan received short play breaks every 50 minutes.

    A case study from Germany reveals just how important play is for a young child’s future success. In the 1970s, many of the country’s play-based kindergartens were transformed into “centers for cognitive achievement.” Longitudinal research comparing 50 play-based centers with 50 cognitive achievement centers found that by age ten the children who had played in kindergarten “were more advanced in reading and mathematics and they were better adjusted socially and emotionally in school. They excelled in creativity and intelligence, oral expression, and ‘industry.’”

    As this research indicates, early childhood education represents a critical window for giving children access to play opportunities. It’s no coincidence that the five countries that top the chart in UNICEF’s recently released report, Child Well-Being in Rich Countries—The Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, and Germany—are all countries that make substantive investments in high-quality, play-rich daycare and preschool opportunities. 

    But do these investments pay off? According to Science Daily, a longitudinal study revealed that "for every $1 invested in a Chicago early childhood education program, nearly $11 is projected to return to society over the children's lifetimes."

    Global studies have found that investment in early childhood development reduces crime rates and increases future wage-earning potential, thus increasing government revenue. UNICEF reports, “A simulation on increasing pre-school enrolment in 73 countries found benefits in terms of higher future wages of $6.4-$17.6 per dollar invested. The simulation indicated potential long-term benefits which range from $11 to $34 billion.”

    Increasingly, our world economy depends not just on productive workers, but on creative ones. An IBM survey of more than 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries worldwide revealed that the single most important trait, “more than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision,” to successfully navigating an increasingly complex world” is creativity. In his extensive research on innovation, educator Tony Wagner “identifies a pattern—a childhood of creative play leads to deep-seated interests, which in adolescence and adulthood blossom into a deeper purpose for career and life goals. Play, passion, and purpose: these are the forces that drive young innovators.”

    Around the world, play opportunities are disappearing, and countries are paying the price. Literally. Society pays the cost of remedial help, public benefits, medical care, and even incarceration. Meanwhile, we are hindering our world’s next generation of innovative thinkers and business leaders.

    Most tragically of all, our children are missing out on the childhood they deserve. Depriving them is a grave moral failure—and one that we simply cannot afford.


    Photo by Smaku (cc). A version of this post originally appeared on the World Economic Forum blog.

  • Ready to wallow? On June 29, the World Forum Foundation is encouraging children around the world to get muddy in honor of International Mud Day. We take a moment to pay tribute to this ooey gooey carpet-staining substance.

    Mud play benefits children in five crucial ways:

    1. Squish, squash: Mud play offers unique tactile, sensory experiences that are vital to a child's developing brain.
    2. As children run mud through fingers, scoop mud from containers, and create mud pies, they develop their hand-eye coordination and learn about cause and effect.
    3. Hold the hand sanitizer: Research shows that kids who play in dirt (including very wet dirt) develop stronger immune systems that can pave the way for better health throughout their adult lives.
    4. Mud is also good for the heart, and not just because of all the cardio exercise that it inspires. A 2010 study from Northwestern University found that exposure to the germs and pathogens found in dirt can reduce a child’s risk of cardiovascular inflammation in adulthood.
    5. Mud makes kids happy. Well, that much is obvious, but according to the National Wildlife Federation, studies have shown that making “direct contact with soil… has been shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and facilitate learning.”

    Of course, kids don’t need any prodding to get outside and get muddy. Share photos of your muddy kid by posting to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #mymuddykid. We’ll feature our favorites on Facebook and our blog.

    Image via let the children play. Check out this wonderful blog for mud recipes and so much more!