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White House looking for Champions of Change

Do you know someone who's been working hard to get the children in their community up and active? If so, the President's Council, the White House Office of Public Engagement and the First Lady's Let's Move! initiative would like to hear about them!

Last year, the White House Champions of Change program hosted an event to highlight the work of chefs who have been improving school nutrition programs. For 2012 they are looking for nominations of individuals and organizations that are "increasing access to physical activity for children and young adults."

We are seeking adult champions (18 and over) who are working to increase access to physical activity for kids through some/all of the following:

  • Organized or competitive activities for teams and/or individuals, including youth with disabilities;
  • Unstructured play;
  • School-based activities, including physical education, recess and activity breaks;
  • Outdoor activities that promote time in nature;
  • Afterschool or summer programs.

Nominations must be submitted by midnight on January 23, 2012.

You can learn more about the program and fill out the form here!

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I call it tiny. My kids call it nature.

In November KaBOOM! launched its first guest blogging contest, asking parents to muse about their experiences with play. We received lots of entries, and while it was tough, managed to narrow it down. Over the next ten weeks we will be publishing the top ten, and we hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did! Congratulations to all of our winners. In 4th place is Victoria Green from Boca Raton, Florida…

You know that stereotypical childhood spent outdoors that parents these days wish their children could have? The one with kids roaming free through the neighborhood, digging in the dirt, climbing trees and playing outside until after dark in the summer? Yep, I had that, growing up in Rhode Island in the 70s and 80s.

Now I have two boys, ages 5 and 2, and we live in a townhouse in south Florida. Many of the things I experienced as a child aren’t available here: big backyards, friendly neighborhood moms who invite you in for a drink of water, the ability to walk home from school. My friends and I spent some time bemoaning those differences, until I realized: my kids don’t know what they’re missing.

We do have a yard. Ok, yes, it’s tiny. But so what? My kids are tiny. The yard has grass and bushes and rocks and bugs and lizards and sea shells. Nature! And we have a long driveway which we share with our neighbors that also has some bushes and trees. Perfect for riding trikes and bikes, drawing with chalk, blowing bubbles and squirting one another with the hose. Our neighborhood abuts the Intracoastal Waterway. Just a short walk down the road and we can play on a sandy beach, see pelicans flying overhead and watch fish jumping. We can check to see if the tide is high or low, and whether any treasures have washed up on our shore.

One day last week, after a rain shower, my kids and I went out into our driveway to play. The boys immediately started splashing in a puddle. My older son got a bucket and made some mud, which he smeared onto a tree. After a while, he pulled some leaves off a bush and plastered those into the mud: a messy, oozy poultice.

While we were out, our neighbor directly across the driveway came home with her two girls, ages 5 and 7. They looked longingly at my muddy, wet boys and asked if they could play outside, too. Their mom looked aghast and hustled them inside immediately.

Sometimes, the opportunity for play is there, but you just have to look a bit harder to find it.

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Join our CEO & Founder for a free online Q&A

Ever wonder how our CEO and Founder, Darell Hammond, was inspired to save play? Want to know why play is something worth saving? Curious how a man who grew up in a group home with his seven brothers and sisters, and who dropped out of school because of a learning disability, managed to build one of the most successful nonprofits in our nation’s history?

You’ll have a chance to ask Darell these questions and more in one of our upcoming live online Q&As. He will share some of the personal struggles and triumphs that he relates in his soon-to-be-released book, KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play, and then open the floor to your questions. By providing helpful tips for concrete actions you can take to save play in your community, Darell hopes that these conversations will leave you feeling empowered and inspired.

Don’t miss out – sign up today, and come prepared with questions!

 To learn more about KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play, visit

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Play Hater! Virginia Governor McDonnell vetoes more physical activity in schools

There has been a flurry of research lately about the importance of physical activity and outdoor play when it comes to children's academic performance, but some folks clearly aren't paying attention. Among them is Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, who vetoed a bill last week that would have required all elementary and middle school students in Virginia to participate in 150 minutes of physical activity a week, in addition to recess.

The bill passed 37-2 in the Senate and 55-40 in the House, but Governor McDonnell had the final say. He was not only concerned about increased physical activity taking away from classroom time, but also about funding the initiative. Yet as our CEO and Founder Darell Hammond points out in his Huffington Post piece, "Why All Schools Should Require More P.E.":

Government funding is largely a matter of priority, and by passing the bill, McDonnell would have demonstrated to the people of Virginia that the state is serious about children's health. The reality of implementation would have lent urgency to a problem that we as a country have let languish for far too long.

He goes on to say:

In Virginia, 24 percent of children are on Medicaid and one in three is overweight or obese. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Virginia has the 14th-highest obesity-related health care costs in the 50 states. Clearly, the childhood obesity epidemic is already costing the Virginia government a significant chunk of money--so why refuse to invest money in a long-term solution?

It's important to remember that the bill is not the only solution. Childhood obesity is a multi-pronged problem that requires a multi-pronged plan of attack. As opponents of the bill rightly point out, schools certainly can't be expected to shoulder the entire burden of "fixing" the problem, but they can still play an important role.

We are deeply disappointed in McDonnell's decision. The bill not only would have helped improve the health and well-being of Virginia's children, but it could have set a precedent for other states to follow. Sign our online petition to tell McDonnell that you are disappointed by his veto and to encourage him to prioritize physical activity for Virginia's children.

Learn more about the bill at Huffington Post.

Petitions by|Start a Petition »



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Play Haters! Village in Fiji bans play after 6 p.m.

From the other side of the globe comes this bizarre story about Namatakula Village in Nadroga, Fiji, where primary and secondary school children are no longer allowed to play after 6 p.m. during the week.

The village headman Jovilisi Natoya told The Fiji Times:

"This is to ensure that the children concentrate on their studies instead of wasting time playing during the evenings... I go around the village every evening to check, and if any child is caught playing after 6pm, then my role as the village headman is to chase them home" (emphasis ours).

Just as we do here in the United States, villagers are casting "study" and "play" as mutually exclusive, lauding the benefits of "study" while entirely disregarding the rich and varied learning opportunities that play presents. And clearly, "study" is something best done indoors at home, where children in Namatakula must now be cooped up every evening, despite their country's tropical climate.

It's a sad world where the adults in charge police the very activites that are essential for our children's health, happiness, and cognitive development. How we wish that the village headman Notoya were instead making evening rounds to knock on doors and commanding children to, "Go outside and play!"

"Don't even THINK about going outside to play! Back to your studies!" Photo by Stephanie Hicks (cc). 

Read the full story in The Fiji Times.

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Coming to a neighborhood near you... if you live in Abu Dhabi

On the heels of last week's disheartening news about the end of the United Kingdom's 10-year national play strategy, this story from Abu Dhabi may help revitalize any dwindling optimism about the state of play in the world. The city plans to open over 120 new playgrounds this year, as well as a dozen parks, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that every resident has a playground or park within 400 meters (about 437 yards) of their home.

Ahmed al Muraikhi, Abu Dhabi's director of parks and recreation told The National, "We wanted to provide an escape for families and children and make safe parks within a reachable distance to all residential areas."

As a nonprofit with a vision of a playground within walking distance of every child in America, we sometimes feel a bit daunted by the sheer enormity of what we have yet to accomplish. Abu Dhabi is not only acting on the same vision, but expects to achieve it within a year -- and we know that's no small feat!

Playground in Abu Dhabi
A playground outside of Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Photo by Sarah Ackerman (cc).

Learn more about Abu Dhabi's aggressive playground-building plan.

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Help get play on the best seller list!

If our CEO and Founder's soon-to-be-release book, KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play, can make The New York Times best seller list, our movement to save play will gain tremendous momentum. With your help, this book could inspire moms, dads, teachers, and elected officials across the country to talk about the Play Deficit and what we can do about it.

Here's how you can help: make a donation of $15 or more to KaBOOM! by Friday, April 8th, in honor of our 15th birthday, and we'll send you a copy of the book. Not only will you support the movement to save play, but each book delivered gets us that much closer to The New York Times best seller list!

Think about what we could accomplish if this book inspires thousands more to join our cause! Please consider making a donation of $15 or more today and receive a copy of the book for yourself, or for someone in your life who might be inspired to take action.

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Saving play across the pond

Play is under attack—and not just in the United States. The UK Department of Education has recently informed the national play organization, Play England that it will not be renewing its contracts after the current ones expire at the end of March, signifying the end of a 10-year national play strategy.

Yet again, adults in charge are failing to recognize that play is a vital component of a child’s education, preferring instead to view it as a “luxury” that can be de-prioritized during lean economic times. But Play England is not going to accept the massive spending cuts without a fight. They have launched Save Children’s Play, a national movement that empowers local communities to launch their own campaigns for children’s play.

Play England states on its website:

In a climate of massive public spending cuts, the play sector faces its most difficult challenge since the 1980's. Local authorities are facing tough decisions on spending, and children's play is being hit hard. Sadly, once we start seeing the impact of cuts - play sites falling into disrepair, play schemes closing and play services making staff redundant, it will be too late. The millions of children who rely on public play facilities will lose out for a generation.

We urge you to express your solidarity with our friends across the pond by liking the Save Children’s Play Facebook page. And whether or not you live in the UK, Play England’s “Save Play Action” pack is brimming with tips and ideas for starting a campaign to save play in your neighborhood. Download the action pack here.

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