Stories to outrage you, ideas to inspire you, and photos of playgrounds to make you go 'ooooh'.

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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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What if more playgrounds simulated video games?


Salt Lake County’s Evergreen Park is building an electronic playground set that includes blinking lights and an LED controller.

By simulating the video game experience on the playground, Danish playground equipment manufacturer Kompan is hoping to lure kids outdoors who would otherwise be hooked into game systems on the couch.

Bob Ross, president of Salt Lake City-based Play Space Designs, told the Salt Lake City Tribune, "These are physically challenging games, and that’s what appeals to the older kids. And that’s the challenge — to get older kids back to the playgrounds."

We agree that something needs to be done to get older kids to playgrounds, particularly in a day and age when playground equipment is so "safe" (read: boring) that it holds little appeal for children older than seven. But are "video-game-like" playgrounds the way to go?

We're not so sure. While outdoor physical activity for children is necessary and good, it's even better when accompanied by a healthy dose of imagination. Beloved playground structures like slides, monkey bars, and swings invite children to make up their own games as they scamper, run, and climb. An electronic game, on the other hand, encourages a prescribed set of motions toward a prescribed set of goals.

Kids play enough video games at home. Instead of simulating the experience on the playground, can we find more imaginative ways to engage them by re-introducing elements of risk and whimsy on the playground?

Yay or nay? What do you think about electronic playground equipment?

 

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5 reasons why parents need to play this summer

The summer of 2010 was a summer I will always remember—but not because of an exotic vacation or cross-country road trip or adventure-filled summer camp. Instead, I stayed right at home and explored local playgrounds with my twins. We were one of six families to participate in the first-ever KaBOOM! Summer Playground Challenge.

When the Challenge ended, I observed a marked change in my children – they appeared healthier, happier, stronger, and more self-confident. While everyone knows that outdoor play is  beneficial for kids, what I didn’t expect was how transformative the Challenge proved for mom as well!

Here are five reasons why parents should join the 2012 Playground Challenge:

  1. Regular outdoor play is good for the soul. Activities like swinging, building sandcastles, rolling down grassy hills, and running through a fountain on hot summer days help you feel like a kid again. You will also have incentive to escape from computers, piles of laundry, and other distractions.
     
  2. It’s easier to get your kids to bed. Each day will provide your children with opportunities to be physically active as they increase their strength, coordination, and endurance. As a result, they won’t be as squirmy at home and will rarely have trouble falling asleep at night!
     
  3. Play opens doors to teachable moments. Rather than constantly playing the role of disciplinarian, you become a support to your child’s exploration, discovery, and learning. As you explore playgrounds and nature areas, your children will undoubtedly ask you endless questions, and each day will be filled with teachable moments.
     
  4. You meet new people in your neighborhood. As you explore, you will inevitably strike up conversations with other parents, contributing to a sense of community and connectedness. This can be particularly meaningful for stay-at-home parents – a job that is sometimes very isolating.
     
  5. Your family can experience new places right at home. Many participants, myself included, found that until they took on the Challenge, they were unaware of the surprising number of parks, playgrounds, and nature preserves in or near their community. They discovered hidden gems and explored nearby neighborhoods they had never had reason to visit before.

As a gift to yourself and your children this summer, allow for plenty of time to play, and consider being a part of the national 2012 Playground Challenge!

The 2012 Summer Playground Challenge asks parents to visit playgrounds and add them to our Map of Play using our soon-to-be released Tag! mobile app. If you need another reason to join our Challenge, participants will earn points and badges toward great prizes throughout the summer and toward one of three Grand Prizes--a trip for two to Washington, DC! Sign up for more information here.

Photo by Liza Sullivan, 2010.

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Kids say: Hands off our field!

A city council in Canterbury, UK plans to build housing on a beloved playing field, but neighborhood kids are saying, "Hands off!"

Orla and Timmy, ages 10 and 11 respectively, attended a recent city council meeting to take a stand. Orla said: "It's not just for me and my friends but for all the people of the area who live and breathe better because there is a lovely empty green field nearby."

Said Timmy: "Often in the evenings, I go to the field and play football with my dad and brother. It's very easy to stay indoors and watch TV or play computer games. Please leave our field alone."

Council chief executive Colin Carmichael told ThisIsKent.com that neighbors were consulted about developing the field in 2004 when the plan was to build a primary school there. But the plans fell through and it was earmarked for housing instead.

Angry residents, who feel they were left out of the decision-making process, have gathered over 1,600 signatures on an online petition to save the field. The Canterbury City Council now has to delay its plans and refer its decision to an Overview Committee on June 13.

Let's pay tribute to the dedicated children and families who are stepping up to save play in Canterbury! Tweet your support to @kingsmeadfield and stay tuned for updates.

Photos via Save the Kingsmead Field.

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Our favorite kid-invented outdoor games


Last week, in honor of National Backyard Games week, we asked our readers to share outdoor games they invented as children.

As we read through your wonderful responses, it became clear that children and adults have different definitions of what constitutes a "game." Unlike most adult-invented games, the games you shared all had elements of challenge but no obvious winners or losers.

Congratulations to the inventors of our three favorite games, who will each win a copy of our new book, Go Out and Play! Perhaps we'll add these to our next edition:

Frixening
"We had a big willow tree in the backyard, on a hill surrounded by juniper bushes. We invented 'Frixening,' which required us to grab the willow tree branches and with a running start use them to swing out as far as we could over the prickly bushes without losing our grip and falling in. I have no idea where we got 'Frixening' from."
- Alice Requadt Marks

Mud Ski
"My little brother and I did all sorts of things with our swing set—but probably the greatest was when we could get our hands on the garden hose. We'd fill up the ditch under the swings with water, and wade around until it was good and muddy, then wrap the swings a couple times to get them to chest height and 'water ski' across the void. Many a good, filthy hour was spent that way. Getting hosed off by our mom before we were allowed inside was almost as fun as getting muddy."
- Maia Tel Sol Dei

Boss
"As children, my best friends and I would often play 'Boss.' Using a disconnected telephone in the basement, we would take turns making up calls we received from the Boss telling us about missions we had to go on for work (of course, we all worked at the same place!). These included anything from having to sneak by Mom barefoot to searching for treasures in the small creek in our yard to riding our bikes through make-believe trails we created in the neighborhood—and named after our favorite candy!"
- Margaret A. Powers

Want to see more of our favorite outdoor games? Donate $15 to get your own copy of Go Out and Play!

Photo by Bill Dubreuil (cc).

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