April 09, 2010

What the UK is doing right

Free range children signKate Becker, our VP of Program Management, and Darell Hammond, our CEO, are currently across the pond, touring innovative playspaces in the United Kingdom. Here are Kate's notes from the road:

G’day and cheers! No wonder the folks we’ve met in the United Kingdom are so happy.

There is a true synergy around play here—from Play England, to the Councils (local government), to the Parliament and beyond, the people and political sectors are coming together to ensure that their nation’s children are not play-deprived.

We spent the day touring the incredible playspaces of Tower Hamlets, a borough in London. We met with incredibly passionate play workers, observed kids, talked to designers and played on various playgrounds. We watched as kids discovered, learned, conquered and giggled. This is what play should be!

There is a huge gap between the standard-focused playgrounds of the United States and the take-a-bit-of-a-risk-look-see-touch-do-adventure playgrounds of Tower Hamlets. Walk across a rickety bridge. Gather wood and toss it into the fire—in the middle of the play area! Zip 50 feet across a rolling terrain on the zip line. Sleep overnight in the teepee camp. Overcome obstacles in a massive sand pit. Crawl into a special room through a wardrobe (think The Chronicles of Narnia). Kids here are being encouraged to get out of their comfort zones (and the comfort zones of their parents), to test themselves, to challenge their characters and to grow a little.

Take a look!

After such an eye-opening day, I have to wonder: Is play in the United States too risk-adverse? What can we do to foster a culture that encourages kids to challenge themselves and expand their horizons? What does our obsession with controlling risk mean for the future of our society?

At KaBOOM!, we know that play fosters creativity, gets kids moving, expands their intelligence and increases their problem-solving and social skills. Our goal is to get kids playing longer, playing harder, and returning to playspaces time and time again. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by working toward a society that embraces and prioritizes playspaces like those that I witnessed in London today.

Many thanks to Penny Wilson and Phil Doyle for their very important work around the cause of play and for spending time coordinating our visit and for managing the tour of the fabulous playspaces.

england, safety, playground equipment, united kingdom, playgrounds