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Free play - KaBOOM! News

As a Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011, KaBOOM! Founder and CEO Darell Hammond has the opportunity to participate in the World Economic Forum next week in Davos, Switzerland. It's a chance to meet business and thought leaders, but also to advocate for something that sparks true entrepreneurial thinking: unstructured play.

Hammond explains this further in a new piece for the Huffington Post:

Unstructured play gives kids the space they need to tinker and take risks -- both vital for the budding entrepreneur. Yet, too frequently these opportunities are being taken away from our kids in favor of more structured activities or time in front of a computer screen. The lack of free, child-directed play time for our kids today will have dire consequences for these future leaders, making them less prepared to solve complex challenges and problems. That is one reason why KaBOOM! has embraced the concept of the Imagination Playground™ which uses loose parts and encourages kids to use their imaginations and be creative.

You can read the full post here: "Play Today, Lead Tomorrow"


"I work at the Office of Education Innovation in Indianapolis, so I spend a lot of time every day thinking about how to improve the quality of education for kids in Indiana. I’d never heard of KaBOOM! until the fall of 2010 when I volunteered at a playground build at a local school.

After an incredible build day experience I started reading the KaBOOM! monthly newsletters and getting interested in the concepts of free and creative play for kids. I started learning more about how skills, learned mainly through free and unstructured play, could be beneficial to my kids once they were grown up and working in the real world.

I watched other over-eager parents working to give their kids an edge with more structured play time with pre-fabricated crafts, organized play dates, sports teams, music lessons and more. Now I just smile to myself, knowing my messy home is a testament to my kids ability to play with anything, any time, anywhere.

Thanks to the KaBOOM! community, and like-minded blogs like Free Range Kids, I learned how important child-directed and imaginative play is for my kids social, physical, cognitive and emotional development. And, anytime I need a reminder - there’s a world wide web of people out there to support me!"

– Christina Summers, Indianapolis, IN

Play it forward so we can keep motivating moms like Christina to let their kids play.


March 19, 2012 KaBOOM!

Play for all kids

“When my son was born sixteen years ago, my life changed. As a new mom of a child with a disability I was quickly realizing how many challenges and hurdles we would both face in the years ahead. But my heart broke when I realized that there were no real playgrounds, or any type of place for my son to play with other children in an unstructured way. Play is a necessity for all children, and especially important for disabled kids. I knew I had to take action.

With the help of four other moms we started the Center for Creative Play, and indoor play space for unstructured play that was accessible for all children. Within 5 years we had over 45,000 visitors a year. We started working on accessible playground across the country and worked with KaBOOM! to make accessible playgrounds a reality.”

– Mara Kaplan, Pittsburgh, PA

Mara saw a need and worked to fill it. Her passion for building accessible playgrounds is contagious and her work will continue until all kids have a great place to play.

Play it forward with a donation to help bring play to ALL kids, without exception.


The article “Societal Values and Policies May Curtail Preschool Children’s Physical Activity in Child Care Centers,” and associated study published yesterday by the American Academy of Pediatrics, shows what we at KaBOOM! have seen happening increasingly over the years: the risk of lawsuits and increased academic competitiveness is harming our children.

In our aggressively litigious culture, we have become so obsessed with controlling risk that children are missing out on opportunities to grow and learn. There is a difference between an injury and an accident. An injury happens when equipment is in disrepair. An accident is just a natural part of growing up. Instead of accepting that a few bumps, bruises and even stitches are an inevitable part of childhood – and can actually be a healthy learning experience – we have somehow come to believe that accidents of any kind should be avoided at all costs.

Play is also under attack in our nation's schools. Shrinking recess and increased homework leave little time for play. And increasingly, cities are building new schools without playgrounds. Despite countless studies proving that play is integral to children's learning and health, most kids aren't getting enough space and time to play during the school day.

The intentions are good. We all want our kids to be safe and to have all of the opportunities available to them. Unfortunately, common sense is victim to these pressures. The key now is to take the results of this and other studies and pivot the conversation away from blame and toward a solution.

We need to create play spaces for our kids that encourage risk-taking and autonomy, allow them to be in control, and give them the time and space they need to exercise their bodies and master certain skills. That is one reason why KaBOOM! has embraced the concept of the Imagination Playground™ which uses loose parts and encourages creativity.

But even the most engaging play spaces won’t help our kids if we don’t shift our societal values to recognize the importance of play in our children’s physical, emotional and cognitive health and development. Once that happens we will automatically start to allocate appropriate financial resources for play spaces and give our kids the time they need to be kids.

When I was a growing up I had plenty of opportunities to play, (and yes, I had plenty of accidents, some of which required stitches) as did most of my peers. It took a generation for play to take a back seat and it will likely take a generation or more to correct itself. We must continue to study the issue, but more importantly, be willing to act when the facts can no longer be denied.


A couple months back we announced that Chobani Champions was supporting our SAVE PLAY campaign by granting three Imagination Playground™ in a Box™ sets to local community organizations. KaBOOM! is happy to report that the tour is over and three communities in Hartford, Conn.; Miami, Fla.; and Boston, Mass. now have innovative mobile playgrounds!

Read the full story and see the photos from the Champions Tour Bus on the Chobani blog.

Here's a video from the gifting ceremony at the Waltham Boys & Girls Club:


NBC News today unveiled the first in a series designed to help parents get back to the basics. In this story about the importance of creative play, they talk to KaBOOM! Founder and CEO, Darell Hammond, about the power of the playground.