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The road to independence

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 9th place is Mike Lanza from Menlo Park, California…


“How is it that you feel so comfortable letting Marco roam in your front yard and neighbors' yards without your watching,” a mom recently asked?

I froze, realizing I hadn’t really thought about how we decided to give our six-year-old son so much freedom. Upon reflection, I realized it was an awful lot of incremental adjustments. My wife and I didn’t just wake up when Marco turned six and say, “OK, Marco, it’s time for you to start hanging out in our front yard on your own.” Rather, we started taking steps that led to that from the time he started walking, working almost daily on his independence skills.

For example, four years ago we let Marco chase balls down on the sidewalk in front of our house. Sometimes I had to yell and/or chase him down to keep him from endangering himself. However, he learned daily from these experiences, and I’m sure that he became a bit better than other two-year-olds at exhibiting self-control when close to a street.

When Marco was three, I took him bike riding on sidewalks. He would go wild on his training-wheels bike, and once again, I had to scream and chase him down quite a bit. Eventually, though, he got pretty good at bike riding.

The next year, when he was four, we began to let him play for very short amounts of time in front of our house without our watching. Briefly losing him once, we panicked until we found him behind a bush in our neighbors’ yard. We reprimanded him sharply, and he began to understand how freedom comes with some responsibility.

At five, Marco began riding his bike in the street without training wheels. Little by little, I let him ride further and further away from me, and now, he sometimes rides a block or two on his own to a friend's house.

Every day, we've kept in mind independence and self-reliance as an ultimate goal for Marco, and every day, he's gotten a little better at being independent. Sure, we've made some mistakes, but these mistakes were never huge because we gave a little more rope every day.

I’ll give you an analogy. When you start teaching your children to recognize letters in the hope that they will one day learn to read, you take an incremental approach. Your next step might be to try to get him or her to recognize a few words like “ball.” You don’t wait until they’re six, give them a book, and expect them to read.

I can’t bear to think right now of Marco crossing El Camino Real on his bike alone. Likewise, even though he can read some sentences with simple words, I can’t imagine him reading a Harry Potter book on his own. Both will come at the right time if we work toward those goals every day. We’ll get there, together.

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All-star playmaker helps build her 50th playground

We at KaBOOM! would like to give our biggest congratulations to Linda Prout, who on November 25th, 2011 volunteered on her 50th playground build!

Linda's playground-building work began in 2005 with the KaBOOM! Operation Playground initiative to build 100 places to play in the areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. A retired school teacher from New Orleans, Linda has devoted her time, energy and spirit to the cause of bringing play to the Gulf Coast. Starting in 2008 she and her husband Lee even went so far as to begin raising more than $50,000 for the cost of funding a playground in their son's memory, which came to fruition at Geraldine Boudreaux Elementary School in Terrytown, La. in June of 2009.

The 50 playgrounds Linda helped create will provide smiles, laughter and fun for more than 25,000 children every year and will eventually serve more than 350,000 kids throughout the lifetime of the equipment.

You can see photos from her 50th build at Andrew H. Wilson Charter School here.

Congratulations, Linda, and thank you for all your hard work!

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Nature play at its best

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 to the top 10. Over the next ten weeks we will be publishing our winners. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did! Congratulations to all of our winners. In 10th place is Rose Cottrill from Weirton, West Virginia…


Don’t have a playground in your neighborhood? That’s okay. Take a look around and I bet you’ll find plenty of play opportunities.

My family especially looks forward to fall and winter when nature gives us an enchanting place to play right in our front yard. I hope you enjoy this slideshow highlighting our favorite activities.

After coming back from a long walk in Marland Heights, my family and I decided to rake the leaves in my father-in-law’s front yard.  

What could’ve been seen as a chore, ended up being so much fun – especially re-scattering all the leaves.

We even enlisted my father-in-law to play with us.

It was great exercise: we laughed and laughed until we got tired!

Simple things like these can really have a big impact on child's development because you are there sharing the joy with them.

Our children love the outdoors so much. They get so cranky when we stay inside. Even during the winter, we try to find something that we can do outdoors. They even love to shovel snow, which frequently turns into a snowball fight. Making snow angels only adds to the fun. 

Sledding is one of our favorite things to do! Our kids look forward to it every year.

There are so many things that we can do with our kids no matter what season it is. We just have to get creative. And it’s much better than buying your kids those high-tech gadgets where they just sit and get no physical activity. 

When we were in Korea, we used to go to a small hill near our house. They loved climbing up this small hill and then sliding down. It was messy, but fun!

We never had toys growing up but my childhood was full of fun because my parents were there to play with us all the time. This is what my husband John and I are doing with our own kids. Spending quality time with them is very important. When it comes to indoor activities, empty cardboard boxes, loose strings, and other inexpensive things can really spark a child’s creativity.

I am currently teaching my 4-year old son EJ at home and during our break time, we do things that he loves to do, like dancing. We watch videos on YouTube and imitate the artists’ moves. We are not great dancers but we always have fun because that is what he likes to do.  

Over the years, I’ve learned that finding the things your kids like to do is the key to having a happy tot at home!

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First Lady makes passionate plea for play

In the closing session of the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit yesterday in Washington, DC, First Lady Michelle Obama made an impassioned plea for play. We couldn’t have been more pleased to have her recognize the importance of play in fighting childhood obesity and keeping our kids fit and healthy and wanted to share a few highlights:

“Only one-quarter of kids play outside each day -- one-quarter of our kids play outside. And that’s compared to three-quarters of kids just a generation ago…. Many of you probably grew up just like I did….Back then, kids were constantly in motion. We rarely went more than a few hours without engaging in some kind of heart-pounding, sweat-inducing, active play.

And that’s an important word:  play.

Back then, play meant physical activity. Sitting around watching TV didn’t count as playing. Lounging around the house with your friends was not playing. Back then, playing actually meant moving your body…

…We know we need to do things differently -- not just as parents, but as a society. We as a society need to redefine for our kids what play is. We as a society need to make physical activity a part of our kids’ daily lives again, and we need to do it in a way that is easy, affordable and fun -- not just for kids but for parents….”

We applaud Michelle Obama for her passion about play and hope you take her advice and grab your kids and go out and play today! Read the First Lady’s remarks in full.

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A play-filled Mother's Day teaser!

With Mother's Day hot on the heels of Teacher Appreciation Week, we at KaBOOM! thought it was especially appropriate to also give a shout-out to one of a child's first teachers: their mom.

Starting on Sunday, we'll be posting some great quotes from mothers who believe that play is an important part of their children's lives. We received nearly 1,000 responses from moms to our Pledge for Play! So many, in fact, that we thought it might be interesting to give you a teaser. Below is a compilation of the words that popped up the most.

Mother's Day Pledge for Play Wordle

Click to enlarge the image

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Wordless Wednesday: How can we be taking this away from our children?

A limitless sense of possibility... the freedom to reach new heights... pure, unadulterated joy. We know all the stats and studies, but sometimes it just takes a few pictures to remind us why play is so important.


Photo by Krystle Fleming (cc).


Photo by David (cc).

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How to fund a community garden

If it were up to us, every community playground would have a community garden, or vice-versa. Gardening and play go hand in hand -- they both connect kids with the outdoors, promote public health, and strengthen neighborhoods. Here, Wendy Irwin, from the Yellow Tractor Program gives us some tips on how to get started:

How are we going to pay for it? That’s often one of the first questions asked as communities plan and prepare for any project, from community-built playspaces to gardens. As an organization that advocates for and creates safe spaces conducive to healthy lifestyles, Yellow Tractor Program delivers activity-based nutrition education and the actual know-how and tools for groups to grow their own healthy food. In the opening stages of projects, Yellow Tractor inevitably encounters concerns about funding, particularly for multiple-user groups, and we’ve developed the following helpful guidelines. 


Whether you plan to seek project funding covering everything from assessment (or “Is the space we have in mind suitable for a fruit and vegetable garden?”) to harvest (or “To whom and how will we deliver our surplus produce in the spirit of helping those in need?”), or you simply plan to get materials donated piecemeal, the “ask” or how you approach the potential business or foundation is key. Win-win partnerships are always the most successful. 

For local business, the ask is built on benefits to the business owner or donations decision-maker, who likely will consider:

  1. Good will in the eyes of his or her established customer base.
  2. The likely growth of that base to include new clients who make their decisions to patronize one business over the others based on the business’s activity level in and financial support of their community
  3. The fact that they are helping develop healthy children and families.  

When approaching foundations, you should know the areas of support listed in their mission statements and that are clearly evidenced by previous grants they have awarded. Sometimes creativity is the key to aligning your needs to fit their support goals. The good news with nutrition gardens is that the benefits are endless and encompass most areas of support: health and nutrition, active lifestyles, community building, leadership training, youth development, hunger, and education for any age garden participant. 

It's time to roll up your sleeves and dig in!

Listen in to our on-demand online workshop, Community-Built Gardens: an Introduction with Yellow Tractor Program, and find more resources at You can also get or give gardening advice in our online Gardening Zoned In group.

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Corporations reach out to communities with the gift of play

If any of you have read today's New York Times, you may have seen KaBOOM! and some of our funders get a shout-out. That's because a recent article showcases KaBOOM! partners Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Kraft Foods Foundation, MetLife Foundation and Foresters as they discuss why they've been putting their charitable contributions to work building playgrounds! Here's an excerpt:

Companies financing playgrounds often work in partnership with Kaboom, a nonprofit group based in [Washington, DC], which recently drew praise from Mrs. Obama. It has a comprehensive plan to include the community and company volunteers in designing, building and maintaining play spaces.

Kaboom has nearly 300 corporate partners, including Home Depot and Kimberly Clark. Darell Hammond, its chief executive, said companies need to spend $75,000 to $500,000 to create a public playground, depending on whether the floor is rubberized.

Companies are drawn to the idea because “playgrounds bring the community together,” Mr. Hammond said. “It’s almost a new town square.”

You can read the full article here: Companies Promote Health and Brands, Making Playgrounds.

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