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Winners of our "Little Artists" contest


We asked little artists to send us illustrations that depict their favorite way to play outdoors. After receiving so many amazing entries, we selected ten winners. Their drawings will be enlarged and recreated by a professional artist for the new KaBOOM! headquarters.

It was a tough decision, so we selected two Grand Prize winners, Jake Bannister and Helen Bartman, to come to Washington, DC and be the KaBOOM! CEO for the day. We’re looking forward to Jake and Helen telling us what to do for the day!

All kids that submitted entries will receive a special gift from KaBOOM!. Here are all the ten winners:

  • By Jake, age 4.
  • By Helen, age 6.
  • By Abbie, age 9.
  • By Colter, age 10.
  • By Sophie, age 7.
  • By Marin, age 8.
  • By Ben, age 2.5.
  • By Linnea, age 7.
  • By Zoe, age 12.
  • By Jonah, age 11.

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Forget Hawaii. 5 reasons to take a playground staycation.


There are lots of nice things about Hawaii. But for most of us, the promise of an exotic beachside vacation comes with a lengthy plane ride and a hefty price tag. And while you may not live in Hawaii, we bet there are lots of nice things about your hometown too, if you take the time to look. 

Being a nonprofit with a vision of a playground within walking distance of every child in America, we're especially partial to playgrounds. Why not take a week off work to explore the playgrounds your hometown has to offer? Here are five reasons to take a playground staycation:

  1. Explore new places right at home – Step out of your “playground comfort zone.” There are probably many hidden playground gems in your hometown that you’ve never taken the time to visit. Ask your kids to help you find new places to play -- don't forget spray parks, natural playspaces, and outdoor sports facilities!
     
  2. Be a kid again -- You don't need jet skis to recapture the thrill of outdoor play. Adults are allowed on the playground, too. Swing as high as you can, soak yourself at a spray park, and wallow in the mud!
     
  3. Catch up on life – Playing is great, but you can also take some time out on the sidelines. In fact, it's good for your kids to play on their own, so go ahead and browse that stack of magazines you've fallen behind on, search for new recipes to try, or get your daily news fix.
     
  4. Save money – The best part about playgrounds? They're free and close to home! Stretch your savings even further by packing a lunch for the day and, when possible, walking or biking to your daily destination.
     
  5. Avoid travel hassles – Kids + travel = stress! Don't worry about packing bags, making your flight, entertaining your child on an airplane or long car ride, or navigating unfamiliar territory. Just breathe easy and look forward to a hassle-free day of playing at the playground!

And here's a bonus reason -- you can win prizes! From July 3 to August 13, every photo you submit of the playgrounds you visit can earn you an entry in our weekly sweepstakes drawing. We're giving away gift cards for toys, shoes, ice cream, outdoor gear, and more!

To reap all these exciting rewards, "book" your staycation by joining our 2012 Summer Playground Challenge!  

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What you can do with a cardboard box


Each summer, parents dole out hefty amounts of cash to keep their children entertained. Yet the wildly popular recent video about Caine's Arcade -- which chronicled the creation of a cardboard arcade built by a bored boy who had to tag along with his dad to work last summer -- proved that not only can a bit of boredom fuel ingenuity and creativity, but also that kids don't need a whole lot to occupy themselves. 

This summer, try giving your wallet a break and your kids a cardboard box. Even better, give them a dozen boxes so they can build their very own pop-up playground! Get inspired by some of our favorite photos of cardboard box play from around the web:
 

 

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Addicted to building playgrounds


On Saturday, June 23, KaBOOM! built its 100th playground in Chicago. For most volunteers, hauling mulch, mixing concrete, building benches, and assembling playground equipment was an entirely new experience.

But not for one very special volunteer. Now with 38 playground builds under his belt, Ed Barker (pictured right) describes himself as a "KaBOOM! volunteer addict." Here's more from Ed:

"Though I live in the Chicago area and have participated in the majority of the builds here, I have also traveled to several other states to volunteer on various playground builds. I first got involved with KaBOOM! when my employer, Fannie Mae, sponsored several playground builds in New Orleans not long after Hurricane Katrina.

I enjoyed the Build Day so much that I have been addicted to being a KaBOOM! volunteer since. I have worked on 38 different playgrounds in various states. I go back and visit as many as possible and keep in touch with people I have met during the build; they are all being used to their fullest potential and the children love the site as much today as the day the caution tape was removed!

There are three parts of the project that I love the most. First is Prep Days and all the work that goes into ensuring a safe and productive Build Day. And, then it's the end of the build day when the children get their first sight of the completed project. The expression on their faces and the squeals in their voices, it makes the whole project worthwhile.

Finally, and this happens on most projects I have worked on, it's the gathering of the community to build a safe place for children to play. There have been numerous times when I have worked alongside of two neighbors on the same block who have never spoken and now they are working side-by-side and quickly becoming friends.

And, I am always humbled when the project is complete and all the volunteers are standing together, looking at the results that hard work and a positive attitude can accomplish -- the pride that shows on their faces is indescribable."

Three cheers to Ed and to all of our Chicago volunteers who have helped us bring 100 great places to play to children in need!

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Sidewalk chalk hearts are offensive because...?


“You have to be kidding me.” According to CBS Denver, this was mother Sarah Cohen’s initial reaction when she learned that her neighborhood HOA is trying to ban sidewalk chalk art—and it’s ours, too.

Cohen’s 3-year-old, Emerson, has inadvertently ticked off some of her neighbors, who contend that her chalk drawings of flowers and hearts violate HOA rules because they “offend, disturb, or interfere with the peaceful enjoyment” of their shared space.

Emerson is also using the chalk to learn how to spell her name. The nerve!

Why a child’s whimsical chalk art would disturb anyone’s "peaceful enjoyment" of gray asphalt is simply beyond us. As residents of the Denver neighborhood duke it out in an upcoming meeting, we hope that a child’s right to play will trump an adult’s right to enjoy his asphalt unblemished.

Avert your eyes! This chalk heart is out to disturb your peace!

Photo by stevendepolo.

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A contest for little artists: Enter for a chance to be KaBOOM! CEO for a day!


How does your child like to play? We are seeking illustrations from little artists that depict their favorite way to play outdoors.

Ten winners will see their drawings enlarged and recreated by a professional artist in the new KaBOOM! headquarters in Washington, DC. One lucky Grand Prize winner will get to come to DC to be KaBOOM! CEO for a day!

The contest is open to U.S. residents 18 years and older, who submit on behalf of a child or multiple children, ages 3 to 12. Entries must be emailed or received via postal mail by July 6, 2012 (deadline has been extended!) and will be judged by an internal panel of play experts. We will announce the winners on July 10.
 
Here's how it works:

  • The child creates a picture of his/her favorite way to play outdoors, following these guidelines:
    • Line drawings only
    • Must be in marker or crayon
    • On white paper
       
  • Submit the child's awesome creation by:
    • Scanning and emailing
    • Taking a photo with a digital camera (at least 600 x 400 pixels) and emailing
    • Sending original via postal mail
       
  • Send to us by:
    • Emailing submission as a JPG attachment (preferred method) to contest@kaboom.org with subject line “Little Artists”
    • Mail to “Little Artists”/ KaBOOM! / 4455 Connecticut Ave, Suite B100 / Washington, DC 20008
       
  • Include with your submission:
    • Your full name
    • The child’s full name
    • Your relationship to child (parent, teacher, guardian, etc.)
    • Your email address, phone number, and mailing address

Please send only one entry per child. If sending on behalf of multiple children, email each entry separately. Mailed entries may be sent in the same package as long as it is clear who created each piece of artwork.  

The first names of the 10 winners will be “signed” beside their work and you will be notified and sent a photo to show how he/she has made our offices a fun and playful space. We will arrange a two-night trip for two to Washington, DC for the Grand Prize winner so he/she can visit our office and be KaBOOM! CEO for a day!

Click here for complete rules. Questions? Email contest@kaboom.org.
 

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Why all kids need to play in mud + our favorite photos

On June 29, the World Forum Foundation is encouraging children around the world to wallow, romp, dig, and slither through MUD. We take a moment to pay tribute to this ooey gooey carpet-staining substance.

Mud play benefits children in three crucial ways:

  1. Squish, squirt, 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.

But most importantly, mud play is downright fun! You just can't look at these photos and claim otherwise:


Photo by cobalt123 (cc).
 


Photo by chascar (cc).
 


Photo by Shenghung Lin (cc).
 


Photo by Bill Dubreuil (cc).
 


Photo by cobalt123 (cc).
 


Photo by Brian Flatgard (cc).
 


Photo by Stinkie Pinkie (cc).
 


Photo by urish (cc).
 


Photo by cobalt123 (cc).
 

Photo by Sarah Johnson (cc).

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What's your favorite memory of playing with dad?

Did you ever used to roughhouse with Dad? You may not have known it at the time, but according to the National Institute for Play, he was teaching you valuable life skills, like "social awareness, cooperation, fairness and altruism." He was also helping you learn to regulate your feelings and behavior.

When outlining the benefits to children of having involved fathers, ChildWelfare.gov points out, "Fathers spend a much higher percentage of their one-on-one interaction with infants and preschoolers in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers." And it is through play, says Mike Hall, founder of Strong Fathers-Strong Families, that "fathers can better control the laboratory that helps children learn to deal with the frustration and anxiety that accompany true learning."

But you and Dad were just having fun, which is of course the most widely appreciated benefit of play. Unlike math homework, it never felt like learning. In honor of Father's Day, let's take a moment to celebrate the joys (and frustrations?) of playtime with Dad.

Take a moment to share with us your favorite memory of playing with Dad in the comments section below.

We'll feature our three favorite comments on our blog and send the commenters a free copy of our new Go Out and Play! book, a collection of great outdoor games!

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