Better known as bethanybob in our online community, Bethany Ingraham is one of our superstar Park-A-Day Summer Challengers, taking to heart her commitment to visiting one park a day for the entire summer! Her adorable one-year-old boy (pictured left) has the envious job of playing on at least 50 playgrounds before fall arrives.
As Playmaker of the Month, she took some time to talk to us about why she decided to participate in the Park-A-Day Summer Challenge, and what got her started in advocating for play:
Q. What inspired you to start taking action?
I have always believed that play is an important part of education and childhood development. It may have been my experience in being homeschooled; or maybe it was the tedium of high school under "No Child Left Behind." I feel that kids need to be allowed to play, to explore, to imagine, to pursue interests, and to develop skills that don't fit neatly into a standardized test.
The turning point came a year ago: I became a mother. I want what's best for my son, and I'm unconvinced that sitting indoors all day, every day is healthy for his mind or his body. I want him to have the same great educational opportunities I had -- which means a good dose of "the three R's" balanced with copious amounts of play.
Q. Why do you advocate for play?
Play is an endangered species at home, in school, and in our neighborhoods. There isn't one primary culprit; it's due to a number of factors, including concerns about safety, our drive to make sure children are learning, and our evolving culture that is becoming more reliant on technology.
Evidence is mounting against standardized testing and the eradication of play in our schools, yet few schools seem to be paying attention. I'm waiting until my son is old enough to enter school before I fight with the education bureaucracy; in the meantime, I want to reach parents. I want them to know that unstructured playtime is one of the best things for a child's health and education, and that there are a lot of opportunities for their kids to go outside and play.
Q. How are you engaging your community?
As of this writing, almost all of my work has been done online. I audit and take pictures of playspaces, and then add my findings to the KaBOOM! Playspace Finder. I write e-mails and occasionally make phone calls to local schools. I share blog and news posts to friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook. I have received a lot of positive response and hope that it will help develop the confidence I need to do more face-to-face work with my local community.
Q. What keeps you going?
There is a lot more work to be done! I want to continue educating myself so that I can share my knowledge and resources with others. There are playspaces waiting to be discovered: some of them may be hidden gems or are in need of repair. Finally, it helps me live out my childhood dream of visiting every playground in sight -- even if it means living vicariously through my son. What child would complain about that?
Q. What makes it all worth it?
My son's laughter -- there's nothing better than a joyful child at play!
Many thanks to the esteemed emily_at_kaboom for conducting this great interview.