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The 5 C's of a great playground


Our Summer Playground Challenge just drew to a close, during which over 60 parents explored local playgrounds with their kids, adding over 4,000 new photos to our Map of Play! We asked our newly minted play experts what it is that distinguishes a good playground from a great one.

From their many thoughtful responses, we’ve culled the 5 C’s of a great playground:

1. Creative

Many post-and-platform playgrounds offer the same play options over and over again. A great playground offers something new.

“I like playgrounds that offer interesting options to play on. Clambering up huge tires versus a wall or having a four person teeter-totter as opposed to two changes things up a little.” – Fezeka Saige

2. Comfortable

A great playground offers simple amenities that keep parents and kids playing longer.

“Shade and water fountains are a must! Children usually want to play during the afternoon but with the sun many times it’s not possible. Clean water fountains are also extremely important since kids finish exhausted after so much play.” – Alicia Vazquez

3. Communal

A great playground isn’t just for kids. It’s a gathering space for an entire community, from tots to teens to grandparents.

“I look for a sense of community in a playground. I also like seeing people of all ages... from older people practicing tai chi or playing chess and answering questions from my kids, to the teenagers, to the parents of kids like myself.” – Alex Nguyen

4. Conspicuous

A playground that’s hard to find risks being underutilized. A visible playground teeming with children inspires passersby to stop and play! 

I think [playgrounds] are best when people can see that they are there and that people are playing there. – Dana Wheatley

5. Connected

We know that play is not limited to the playground! A great playground is connected to other play opportunities, particularly green space or other natural elements. 

“My favorites have always been those with lots of trees… and trails for riding bikes. Bonus: if the playground has great view!! We have some here on top of the hill or on higher parts of the city, and it's such a pleasure to be at those playgrounds.”  - Annie

Photos from to bottom: Angelika Paul, KT, torbakhopper (cc), Sasha Yetter.

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Ditch the waterpark. Go play in a fountain!


Waterparks are tons of fun, but often expensive and out-of-the-way. Why not cool off downtown, for free? Everyone loves the hypnotic aesthetic appeal of a fountain, but what's even better than admiring a fountain is playing in one!

Here are some of our favorite shots of downtown summer fun:

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Our bucket list: 23 things every kid should do before turning 13


“When you are a kid you get to ride bikes, scooters, play with toys and use your imagination. You don’t have to go to work or do all the things old people do.” These are wise words from Caine, the boy who became an Internet sensation for his cardboard arcade and who recently reflected on growing older for his 10th birthday.

While we hope that adults still find time to play, Caine is right that childhood is a particularly opportune time to explore, discover, and create. The good news is that at age 10, he still has a few years before officially making the transition from “child” to “adolescent,” and we hope he makes the most of them!

To help him out, we’ve created a bucket list of things every kid should do before turning 13. Of course, we could go on and on, but here (in no particular order) are 23 things we consider essential. What would you add?

  1. Wallow in mud
  2. Run down a dune, roll down a hill
  3. Swim in an ocean, lake, or river
  4. Touch the sky with your toes
  5. Climb a tree, scale a boulder
  6. Jump off a rope swing
  7. Build a fort for a secret club
  8. Dig a hole deeper than you are tall
  9. Scrape a knee, bruise an elbow, or break an arm
  10. Hang upside down
  11. Eat dirt
  12. Throw a snowball
  13. Invent a recipe
  14. Sell homemade lemonade from a homemade lemonade stand
  15. Make something with a cardboard box
  16. Take apart a piece of machinery and put it back together again
  17. Crown yourself King or Queen of the forest
  18. Catch a bug in your hands
  19. Build a fire
  20. Plant something
  21. Jump in a pile of leaves
  22. Bury a treasure and draw a treasure map
  23. Wear a cape

Photos (top to bottom) by Rob (cc), Kerala Taylor, David (cc), and chascar (cc).

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5 Playground Olympic events your kids would rock


Let the games begin! Since our brave Playground Challengers are spending quite a bit of time playing this summer, we asked them what Olympic events their kids would rock... if the Olympics were held at the playground.

Here are five of our favorite new Playground Olympic events -- plus one event we hope your kids don't champion!

In which of the following would your kids take home the Gold? Got any new Playground Olympic events to add to our list?

  • "Both my kids would get a gold medal in giving their mom a heart attack! How do they both manage to find the ONE thing that makes me sprint like a maniac?" - Amy Keyishian (Photo by Eric Lewis, cc)
  • "My youngest, who is six, would win the 'I have no fear so I disappear' playground event. You have to keep an eye on this one, she's quick!" - Myrdin Thompson (Photo by W2 a-w-f-i-l, cc)
  • "My six year old said she would beat any kid at running while hula hooping on the playground." - Elizabeth Bonin (Photo by Steven Depolo, cc)
  • "My almost three and four year old do endurance - they are two-hours-in-the-sandbox kind of players." - Angelika Paul (Photo by Alec Couros, cc)
  • "If there was a 'hot lava' competition where my kids didn't have to touch the playground floor? They'd totally own that." - Alex Nguyen (Photo by Nate McBean, cc)
  • "Oldest son? He's back at the house participating in the Summer Couch Olympics. So far he has a gold medal in eating an entire bag of goldfish crackers in one sitting." - Myrdin Thompson

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Hold your own Playground Olympics


Do you have Olympic fever? We do. After all, the Olympics encapsulates many of the elements that make outdoor play so critical: teamwork, skill development, challenge, and fitness, to name just a few.

This Saturday, July 28, As First Lady Michelle Obama leads the U.S. Delegation to the 2012 Olympic Games, she’s calling on families around the country to support Team USA, not just by cheering on our athletes, but also by organizing their own Olympic Fun Days.

Since we can’t think of any more fitting place to hold your own Olympics than at the playground, here are five Olympic-inspired playground games:

  1. Slide shotput: Place a bucket at the bottom of a slide. Competitors must each “put” five tennis balls down the slide. The one who gets the most in the bucket wins the gold.
     
  2. Monkey relay: Divide into teams and hold relay races across the monkey bars. To discourage recklessness, competitors must balance something on their heads—may we suggest a stuffed monkey? If the monkey falls off, the contestant must start over.
     
  3. Synchronized swinging: Teams swing together for 30 seconds each. A panel of judges determines which team is the most synchronized.
     
  4. Long swing jump: This one is already a classic playground favorite—who can jump the farthest off the swing?
     
  5. Playground ping-pong: Teams of two volley a ping-pong ball across various pieces of playground equipment, like slides, swingsets, monkey bars, and jungle gyms. The team who can keep the ball going the longest wins. Particularly recommended for teens and tweens!

Find an Olympic Fun Day near you, or organize your own at Meetup.com. What are your ideas for Olympic playground games? Please share in the Comments section below!

Photo by Wayne Silver (cc).
 

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How to make ice cream in a coffee can


As you may know, we at KaBOOM! are big fans of ice cream -- and it's not just because we were the first nonprofit to have its own Ben & Jerry's flavor. Ice cream, in moderation, brings joy to children's lives. And it is best relished outside, after a day full of outdoor play.

So of course we were excited to learn that July is National Ice Cream Month! Why not pay homage to this exquisitlely frosty treat by making your own? You don't need any fancy equipment -- just ice, salt, tape, and a coffee can.

The best part? Your kids can get a healthy dose of outdoor play while they're at it. Here's how:

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5 ways to save play this summer

Are your kids getting enough outdoor play this summer? We wish we could tell you to open your front door and shoo them outside, but sadly, many will find only empty streets, void of other kids to play with.

We can help you fix that. Here are five ways you can save play in your community, by not only getting your kids outside, but also the whole neighborhood. Click on each photo below for instructions on how to get started. Then, go play!

  • Close a street for play. Photo via nycstreets (cc).
  • Turn your front yard or driveway into a neighborhood playspace. Photo via clappstar (cc).
  • Start a neighborhood summer camp. Photo via Aaron Selverston, Palo Alto Patch.
  • Take the KaBOOM! Summer Playground Challenge.
  • Create a pop-up adventure playground. Photo by Sarah Zarrow, via Pop-up Adventure Play.

 

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Condo management bans bikes, scooters, and skateboards. Kids say, we need to play!


“It’s not fair” is a common refrain amongst children. When in reference to a friend getting more money from the tooth fairy or a sibling getting a slightly larger scoop of ice cream, we adults tend to be dismissive.

But what six-year-old Laurence Howard finds “not fair” is a much more serious claim. A resident of Red Bank Run Townhomes in West Deptford, New Jersey, Laurence says of new outdoor play restrictions imposed by condo management: "It's not fair for all the kids, because we need to play, we need air, it's not fair because everybody has stuff to ride.”

Says Jeziah Lopez, "Being inside just playing video games, it's not good for your body."

"It's not good for our freedom," Antonio Leon chimes in.

According to 6 ABC Action News, children at Red Bank Run Townhomes will no longer be able to ride bikes, scooters, and skateboards in the parking lot and other common areas. Why? Because “the activity could be harmful and even dangerous to [the children] or to others.” From now on, all outdoor play will be relegated to a small playground in the rear of the complex.

It’s no secret that we at KaBOOM! love playgrounds. But we also support children playing in other public spaces, particularly when a playground doesn’t accommodate older children or provide room for bikes, scooters, skateboards and other wheeled devices. We also believe that a group of playing children is perfectly capable of sharing a space with attentive adult drivers.

The real danger, of course, is not kids playing in a parking lot, but kids being forced inside. As the Red Bank Run children astutely point out, to deny them air is not good for their bodies or their freedom. Perhaps the community would be better off if Laurence, Jeziah, and Antonio ran the condo board instead. First up on the agenda? May we suggest a ban on careless drivers in the parking lot?

See the full story here:

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