KaBOOM! News • page 15

December 06, 2011 Rose Cottrill

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!

We have a happy ending to one of our previous Play Hater stories.

Back in October, we reported about a Fairfax, VA zoning board that ordered Iraq War veteran Mark Grapin to take down the tree house he built in his backyard for his two sons. The zoning board issued the order because Grapin's home is on the corner of his street, technically making his backyard a front yard according to zoning regulations.

 Mark GrapinThe story started making local and national headlines and a Change.org petition was quickly launched, asking the Farifax County Board of Zoning Appeals to reverse the order to destroy the tree house. On November 30th, The Washington Post reported that the board voted 5-0 in Grapin’s favor, allowing the tree house to stay up, provided they plant some more trees around the house.

We applaud the board’s decision and are thankful that Grapin’s boys will have a place to spend hours of imaginative outdoor play. 

Photo credit: Mark Grapin, The Washington Post.

December 01, 2011 KaBOOM!

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.

November 23, 2011 Jason Cooper

KaBOOM! is on Tumblr

Introducing a whole new way to follow KaBOOM!-- the KaBOOM! Tumblr blog!

Tumblr is a super-easy way to blog photos, quotes, links, and much more. It’s an elegant and simple way to share things on the internet, but more importantly, it has produced a vibrant, fun, and often hilarious community of bloggers that has helped us discover stories about playgrounds we might not have found in other social networks.

The KaBOOM! Tumblr blog has been running since June. Take a look at some of our most popular and favorite posts, and if you are a Tumblr user, visit our page and follow us!

Corgie on a Swing

Cute dog in a swing - found on 9/30/2011

Bubble hearts mural

Bubble hearts mural on a basketball court - found on 9/13/2011

In this post, a fellow Tumblr blogger discovers that KaBOOM! is a real organization and not the elaborate prank as depcited on Parks and Recreation:

Pleading ignorance here that KaBOOM! was merely an "elaborate prank" disguised as a non-profit playground-building organization on NBC's 'Parks and Recreation.'  But not so, which makes it even more awesomesauce, to use an appropriate term of art. 

Quote found on 6/21/2011

Good use of imagination

Good use of imagination at the playground - found on 10/19/2011

Finally, one of our followers was kind enough to explain what this is:

Vintage playground equiment

There were all different colours of these "spinning eggs", I'm not sure what their actual name was, that was just what everyone called them as kids. It was basically a pole with a disc in the center which you grabbed and 'turned', though the actual 'egg' would turn, the pole was cemented into the ground. So you were basically turning this giant egg with you and another inside it, faster and faster. They were great fun but a rarity these days as they are deemed "too dangerous" for small children. Quite a shame really ): But hey - your Tumblr and organization is great! I love it! Glad I discovered you!

Found on 7/15/2011

You can see much, much more when you visit the KaBOOM! Tumblr blog!

What qualifies as a "good" piece of playground equipment? Of course, there is no silver bullet—which is why playgrounds consist of many different kinds of equipment—but in our view, a piece of playground equipment should accomplish at least ONE of the following:

  • Challenge kids physically
  • Stimulate kids creatively
  • Encourage cooperation and/or competition
  • Be FUN!

We're afraid that this piece of playground equipment in Shepreth, UK fails on all fronts:

Photo by clare_and_ben (cc).

How to get bad students to behave? Threaten to deny something they like. Kids like recess. Therefore, the "bad kids" will learn their lesson if they are forced to stay indoors, while the "good kids" get to venture outside and play.

At first glance, the logic seems sound. But while taking recess away seems to be an increasingly popular disciplinary measure in the classroom, is it really effective? Research shows that kids who get a chance to run around and let off some steam during the day actually behave better in the classroom. Not only are they more focused, but their brains are more receptive to learning.

In fact, it’s all too likely that the rise in ADHD and other attention disorders is related to the decline in outdoor play opportunities for children—in schools, neighborhoods, and homes.

This is not to say that bad classroom behavior should go unaddressed, but denying kids recess is unlikely to have the desired effect. In fact, it’s those rowdy, uncontrollable kids who need recess the most.

Have your kids been denied recess because they misbehaved in the classroom? Do you think taking away recess is an effective disciplinary technique?

When kids must teach adults the difference between a rational and irrational decision, you have to stop and wonder what’s going on.

In St. Catharines, Canada, 10-year-old Mathew Taylor (pictured left) stepped up to reverse his school’s decision to ban all balls—basketballs excluded—on the schoolyard during recess. The ban was imposed after one child got hit in the head by a soccer ball, even though according to Mathew, “she was back in class shortly after the incident.”

After “some boring recesses,” Mathew decided to take action. He collected 95 signatures for a petition, researched childhood obesity data online, and met with the school principal. His impressive and persuasive efforts led her to reverse course and once again allow soccer balls, footballs, and tennis balls on the school field.

It’s heartwarming to see Play Heroes like Mathew stepping in to save play. He instinctively understood that the decision to implement the ban was driven by paranoia and did not serve the best interests of his schoolmates.

But the fact that 10-year-olds are teaching school administrators about common sense is worrisome—to say the least. Would we rather see kids running around during recess, refining their gross motor skills, learning about teamwork,  and incrementally challenging themselves? Or would we rather see them sitting around?

Knee-jerk reactions to relatively minor injuries on the schoolyard may or may not stave off lawsuits, but at what cost?

Photo by Bob Tymczyszyn, St. Catharines Standard. Learn more about this story here.

Are you a mom or dad who blogs about parenting? Do you want to support a great cause? Are you looking to reach new audiences? Could you use a $350 Amazon gift card?

If you believe your kids need time and space to play outdoors, enter our “Parents & Play” blog contest for a chance to win one of 10 Amazon gift cards. Plus, we'll share your story with 80,000 monthly unique visitors on our Play Today blog, as well as our 40,000+ Facebook fans and Twitter followers!

We at KaBOOM! believe that there is a Play Deficit in our country, and it’s harming our children. Too many families don't have a playground within walking distance of their home. Paranoia is trumping common sense, resulting in sterile, uninspired play environments and fewer opportunities for kids to play. Recess is being eliminated from our nation’s schools. Kids are overscheduled, and in their free time, many choose to stay indoors, lulled by television, computers and video games.

To enter our "Parents & Play" contest, answer the following question in 300-500 words:

As a parent, how have you personally witnessed the growing Play Deficit in your child’s life?

Tell us a specific story from your own experience that touches on one of the following themes:

  • School recess
  • Play opportunities in your neighborhood
  • Helicopter parents
  • Structured after-school activities
  • Indoor screen time

To get a better sense of what we're looking for, read this great sample post by Play Today guest blogger and bestselling author Leslie Morgan Steiner.

To submit: Email your submission to KaBOOM! Online Content Manager Kerala Taylor at ktaylor@kaboom.org. Use the subject line, "Parents & Play Blog Contest." Include your 300-500 word post as a Word attachment and pasted into the body of the email. Also include a 100-word bio with a link to your blog. Attach 1-3 photos relevant to your story, at least 600 x 400 px. One submission per entrant, please.

Prizes: Entries will be judged by an expert internal KaBOOM! panel on the relevance of the story and quality of writing. Great photos are a plus! All winners and runners-up will see their posts published on Play Today and shared with our Facebook fans and Twitter followers. They will also receive:

  • First place: $350 Amazon gift card
  • Second place: $200 Amazon gift card
  • Third place: $100 gift card
  • Runners-up: 7 runners-up will receive $50 gift cards

Deadline: Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Click here for complete rules.

As adults, we usually walk to get somewhere. Even if we're just out for a stroll, we are more likely to be thinking about the week's grocery list than we are to be wondering what might be under that rock over there.

Kids, on the other hand, aren't huge fans of walking. They prefer to meander, scurry, climb, discover, and explore. In short, to play. That's why we love this project, "Understanding the Child-Scale in the City," which explores what a walk through town looks like from a child's point of view. As the project collaborators point out:

“….Play is a function of the imagination. Environments which disturb or reduce the role of imagination and make the child more passive, more the recipient of someone else’s imagination, may look nice, may be clean, may be safe, maybe healthy, but just cannot satisfy the central necessities for play. Children are happiest when they can move things around – a delightfully messy occupation in which chaos is delightful and order is self-inscribed."

Here's a delightful depiction of how a child makes a city her playground:

Image from a-small-lab.com. See more images here.

October 28, 2011 Kerala Taylor

Top 10 Scary Playgrounds

As part of our recent Scary Playgrounds! contest, we asked folks across the country to submit photos of rundown, decrepit playgrounds that are in desperate need of fixing up. 

By entering, contestants helped further our effort to create a nationwide Map of Play, which charts the location of thousands of playgrounds across the United States. Knowing where the scariest playgrounds are helps us identify the Play Deserts—that is, areas where children have no viable outdoor play opportunities within walking distance.

Congratulations to our three winners and seven runners-up!


Grand Prize Winner Dan Watson submitted Ponderosa Park in Fredonia, Ariz. The playground, which is adjacent to the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indian Reservation, had been forgotten for years, but is now going to get some much needed attention.


Second Place Winner Tricia Elisara nominated the “Not So Special Education Playground” in Julian, Calif. This playground at Julian Elementary School is adjacent to the special ed building. The school has ambitions to make it a special ed garden with multi-sensory play features.


Third Place Winner Mandy Fisher shared this community park in Garrison, Iowa, which was destroyed by a 135 MPH windstorm last June.


Runner-up Wendy Lee of Ramsey, Minn.



(Left) Runner-up Carrie Boyce of Santa Rosa, Calif. (Right) Runner-up Lisa Crane of Wakefield, Mass.



(Left) Runner-up Sarah Fong of Millis, Mass. (Right) Runner-up Susie Dice of Tecumseh, Mich.



(Left) Runner-up Kris Wren of Kris Wren of Portageville, Mo. (Right) Runner-ups Scott Brandes & Michael Cleghorn of Jacksonville, Fla.


Do you live near a playground that’s overrun by rust, weeds, and disrepair? A playground that seems haunted by the ghosts of the children who once scrambled, screamed, and scurried around there? Download our free mobile app or visit our website to add it to our Map of Play.