KaBOOM! News • page 17

When school playgrounds are rusted, ill-maintained, or otherwise rundown, we send the message to our children that play is not important. Randy took this photo (cc) "at the playground at my old elementary school." He says, "Probably the same... hoop, too."

Could you imagine playing here?

 

 

Join us to defend our children’s right to play by signing our Back-to-School Pledge!

When you sign, we'll get you started with a PDF copy of How to Save Play at Your School—featuring 15 action ideas that parents and teachers can take this fall.

 


The bad news is that most kids aren't getting the time and space they need to play in school. The good news is that parents and teachers aren't happy about it.

Our Back to School Pledge to save play in our schools is gaining steam with over 1,500 signatures; meanwhile, the blogopsphere has been abuzz about the importance of play in school. The following posts alone have generated more than 450 comments and 1,800 Facebook likes and shares.

Despite widespread notions that play is a "luxury," many of us seem to intuitively understand that placing undue restrictions on children's playful instincts not only defies common sense, but negatively impacts their learning and health:

5 freedoms I enjoyed that my daughter won’t

At six months pregnant, like most moms and moms-to-be, I’m finding plenty of things to worry about. When I’m not fretting over my daily calcium intake or environmentally friendly diaper options, I find myself plagued with anxiety about the longer-term realities of child rearing today. I want to give my daughter the freedom I enjoyed as a child—freedom to move, imagine, and create. But in today’s paranoid, litigious, and test-happy culture, will I be able to? [Read more on BabyCenter.com]

Also see great comments to this piece on Free Range Kids and MomsRising.org.


What American Schools Just Don’t Understand (Or, Why My Family Might be Moving to Finland)

My husband and I are expecting our first baby in December, and we just might be moving to Finland within the next few years–unless schools around here get better soon. And by “better,” I don’t mean that they start churning out higher test scores. [Read more on Care2.org]


Play Is Under Attack in Our Schools: 7 Absurd Stories That Say It All

This week, our Congress will be returning from their August recess -- a yearly tradition that recognizes the human need to take a break from a grueling schedule and spend some time playing. At the same time, as children across the country return to school, some will find that they have no recess at all. [Read more on the Huffington Post]


5 Ways to Green Your Child’s School Experience

Kids need time to move outside—it’s essential to their health and well-being. But sadly, lots of students aren’t getting enough space and time during the school day to breathe fresh air, interact with nature, and engage in unstructured play. And considering that children spend about 20 percent of their waking hours in school, that’s cause for concern. [Read more on Green Mama's Pad]


Kindergarten: All Rigor and No Recess -- What Happened to Play?

What happened to free play? What was once a staple in Kindergarten classrooms around the country has disappeared, replaced with structured “learning time” that focuses on curriculum designed to improve test scores and meet state standards. In fact, many schools have scrapped recess in favor of more classroom learning time. [Read more on iVillage]


3 Done-in-A-Day Volunteer Projects to Encourage Outdoor Play at Your School

Your kids need time and space to play in school. It’s not just about having fun—physical activity during the school day can help their attention, classroom behavior, and achievement test scores. [Read more on VolunteerSpot.com]


5 Reasons Why Kids Should Play in School

As your children settle back into school, will they be getting enough time and space to play? Sadly, despite numerous studies proving that play is vital to children's learning and health, schools across the country are slashing recess; piling on homework; and banning tag, soccer, and even running on the schoolyard. [Read more on RoomMomSpot.com]

Also see great comments to a slightly expanded version of this piece on Care2.


Creative Development: 3 Ways to Get Kids More Play Time at School

Much ado is made about the dismal state of school lunches, and for good reason. Daily helpings of tater tots and frozen pizza certainly aren’t giving our children the nutrients they need. But there is another, equally damaging threat to our children’s health that we also need to address: the lack of space and time that kids get to move and play at school. [Read more on momitforward.com]

Join us to defend our children’s right to play by signing our Back-to-School Pledge!

When you sign, we'll get you started with a PDF copy of How to Save Play at Your School—featuring 15 action ideas that parents and teachers can take this fall.

 


Does your schoolyard look like this?

Help is on the way! All it takes is a few buckets of paint to transform a drab outdoor area into a playspace brimming with whimsy and charm.

Best of all, paint is cheap! It requires no special equipment nor expertise. It unlocks new opportunities for learning and play.

Get inspired by these done-in-a-day volunteer projects, and then sign our Back-to-School pledge to get a free action guide with more ideas on making school grounds and school days more playful:

Join us to defend our children’s right to play by signing our Back-to-School Pledge!

When you sign, we'll get you started with a PDF copy of How to Save Play at Your School—featuring 15 action ideas that parents and teachers can take this fall.


September 20, 2011 Kerala Taylor

Letter to editor: Play is a need, not a want!

One of the largest challenges we face in our fight to save play is debunking the myth that play is a "luxury." That's why we were delighted to come across this articulate letter to the editor in response to a new policy implemented at a Wisconsin elementary school. Both before school and during recess, students must now walk for 10 minutes in a single file line.

Clearly, we love to see children moving around outside, but not at the expense of creative, unstructured play. Walking in a single file line does nothing to exercise the imagination, nor does it promote the development of vital skills like curiosity, resiliency, social integration, and the ability to assess risk.

Concerned parent Heidi Faris insists:

"Recess is a right for all children, not a privilege. According to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 31 recognizes 'The right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.'

Play is a need for child development, not a want. It would be the same as depriving them from eating lunch (Young Children, 2009.)

Parents, teachers and principals, I encourage you to stand up for your children. Give kids back the right that they deserve."

Well said, Heidi! Read her full letter here.

Join us to defend our children’s right to play by signing our Back-to-School Pledge!

When you sign, we'll get you started with a PDF copy of How to Save Play at Your School—featuring 15 action ideas for teachers and parents to make school grounds and school days more playful.

 


Originally from New York, Linda Ravin Lodding has spent the past 15 years in Austria, Sweden, and now The Netherlands, where she lives with her family in a one-windmill town. She is a working mom, shutter-bug, yoga class drop-out, cheesecake lover, hula-hooper, dreamer, and author of the wonderful children's book, The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister. Here, she reflects on the child- and play-friendly culture she has encountered in her new home:

When my family first moved to the Netherlands, four years ago, it wasn’t just the quaint windmills dotting the landscape that tipped me off that we were living in a foreign land. Nor was it the tractor-wheel-sized rounds of cheese in our village shop. It wasn’t even the picture postcard views of tulips ‘ribboning’ through the fields. No. It was the children – biking, running around, and freely playing outdoors.

Let me explain. When we first arrived in The Netherlands, we decided that we’d “go Dutch” and cycle everywhere. My then nine-year-old daughter was keen. Her school is only a stone’s throw up the street – but it is a busy street with a tricky roundabout . To complicate matters, there are so many cyclists on the bike path that it feels like the Tour de France. So, naturally, I strapped a helmet on her head and off we cycled – together.

It was soon very evident (especially to my daughter) that no other parent was biking with their child like a Mother Goose making way for her gosling. Dutch children were biking by themselves -- and not only to and from school. They were biking to the town, to their friends’ houses, to the beach, to their sports activities. I’d see children on bikes and wonder, where was the adult? Granted, kids here are basically born on bikes, but weren’t their parents worried that their little ones would get lost? Side-swiped by a bus? Plucked off the street by a pedophile?

Obviously Dutch parents didn’t have such concerns. Or, if they did, they decided to not let them get in the way of embracing a free-range childhood.

As a friend of mine said, “The dangers have always been here – it’s no more or less dangerous today than it has ever been in Holland, yet parents, on balance, opt to give their kids freedom and independence.” And she, like many Dutch parents, thinks this attitude leads to happier, healthier and more resilient children.

She may very well be right. A 2007 UNICEF study found Dutch children to be the happiest among children in the 21 industrialized countries surveyed.

That well-being seems to be cultivated at a young age through parents, schools and communities. “I want for my child the same kind of playful childhood that I had,” another Dutch friend of mine told me. “I tell my children to go out and play and not come home until their pants are ripped!”

Communities are also on board – especially as childhood obesity is on the rise here in The Netherlands. In an effort to reverse that trend, nearly every Dutch child is engaged in some sort of physical activity. As American schools slash recess and P.E. to make time for more sedentary classroom instruction, Dutch schools provide half-days every Wednesday so kids can pursue sports.

What else explains why Dutch children so happy? Play!

You only have to look at the painting, “Children’s Games” painted by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder over 400 years ago, to see that children in this region have been engaged in independent play for centuries.

And, today, Holland has an abundance of play facilities for children – from construction playgrounds to water playgrounds to natural playgrounds. Just take a look at this Dr. Seuss-inspired playground, featured previously on Play Today, in Hoenderloo, in Netherlands' Landal Miggelenberg park.

So, I’ve been trying to “go Dutch” in more ways than one.  Beyond eating Gouda and tiptoeing through the tulips, I now let my daughter bike to school by herself and ensure that we all make time to lighten up a bit and to play.

 




Don't miss Linda's book! Read about The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister, whose "well-meaning busy parents have packed her after-school hours, turning Ernestine into the over-scheduled poster child of today. But Ernestine is about to opt out and do what no Buckmeister has ever done before: just PLAY."

 

 


September 14, 2011 Kerala Taylor

Should elementary schools ban homework?

A homework ban might sound crazy, but here's what's even crazier: We're not really sure how much homework helps learning -- particularly in elementary school. In fact, two reviews of more than 180 homework studies reveal very little correlation between the amount of homework and achievement for first- through fifth-graders and only a moderate correlation for middle schoolers.

Yet in an educational environment where academics is everything, we operate under the mistaken impression that the more worksheets children dutifully fill out after school, the more knowledge we are cramming into their heads.

Even the weekend homework ban recently enacted in New Jersey's Galloway Township is drawing its share of criticism. The Daily Journal proclaims, "Good news for lazy elementary school students in Galloway: Written homework assignments are now banned on weekends."

When the ban was originally proposed for middle school students as well, this mom responded:

"I don’t know about other parents, but no homework for my kids just means more time in front of the TV. I am not going to automatically run out and schedule a lovely picnic or an edifying day trip to Hyde Park just because they don’t have homework. I am too busy. On a typical weekend I have 12 loads of laundry to do, food shopping for the week, possible clothing shopping, home repairs, yard work, bill paying and heavy household cleaning. So no homework might mean my kids have the weekend off, but I don’t."

So are these children's only weekend options to do homework or watch TV? Are they unable to go outside and play?

Comments like these show us how essential it is to restore a culture of play to our families, our neighborhoods, and our schools.With the freedom to spend after-school and weekend hours outside playing, children would cultivate vital skills, such as curiosity, resiliency, and the ability to assess risk; they would also learn how to work in groups, share, negotiate, resolve conflicts, and advocate for themselves. That's not to mention that they would be exercising their muscles along with their minds.

Yes, our kids need to learn their reading, writing, and arithmetic, but not at the expense of play.

What do you think? Should more schools consider a weekend homework ban? What about banning homework altogether?

Join us to defend our children’s right to play by signing our Back-to-School Pledge!

When you sign, we'll get you started with a PDF copy of How to Save Play at Your School—featuring 15 action ideas for teachers and parents to make school grounds and school days more playful.


Researchers get it. Parents get it. Teachers get it. And kids most certainly get it.
Instinct and common sense dictate that recess is a vital and productive component of the school day, but some people still don’t get it. Superintendant Mark Conrad in Nashua, N.H. is one such person.

Conrad and Nashua elementary school principals have decided to eliminate a second 15-minute recess period for 2nd – 5th grade students. Conrad asserts that the second recess period creates a "significant disruption" in the school day, according to the Nashua Telegraph, and sometimes results in a "significant loss of learning." Students will instead use those 15 minutes for “enrichment in math and reading.”

Conrad adds, “Very few districts have a second recess.” It’s true—eliminating recess periods is not a trend limited to Nashua, despite that fact that it flies in the face of multiple studies proving that recess improves classroom behavior. That’s not to mention that children in Finnish elementary schools—who get an average of 75 minutes of recess a day—consistently rank higher than U.S. children in International Student Assessment Scores.

Really, what good is 15 more minutes of math if kids can’t concentrate? Recess doesn’t disrupt the school day; rather, it energizes children’s bodies and minds. They return to the classroom refreshed and ready to learn.

It’s time to speak out against Conrad’s decision and the many similar decisions being made in school districts across the United States. Join us to defend our children’s right to play by signing our Back-to-School Pledge!

When you sign, we'll get you started with a PDF copy of How to Save Play at Your School—featuring 15 action ideas for teachers and parents to make school grounds and school days more playful.


September 07, 2011 Kerala Taylor

5 reasons children need to play in school

Recess periods are shrinking. Homework is increasing. Tag, soccer, and even running are getting banned on the schoolyard. Cities are building new schools without playgrounds.

Most kids aren't getting enough space and time to play during the school day, despite countless studies proving that play is vital to children's learning and health. Here are 5 reasons we need to save play in our schools:

 

  1. Since 1990, American creativity scores have been falling, attributed in part to the lack of "creativity development" in our schools. At the same time, an IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the number one "leadership competency" of the future.
     
  2. Children in Finnish elementary schools—who get an average of 75 minutes of recess a day—consistently rank higher than U.S. children in International Student Assessment Scores.
     
  3. Two reviews of more than 180 homework studies reveal very little correlation between the amount of homework and achievement in elementary school.
     
  4. The decline of play is closely linked to childhood obesity; ADHD; behavioral problems; and stunted social, cognitive, and creative development.
     
  5. Increased physical activity during the school day can help children's attention, classroom behavior, and achievement test scores.

Join us to defend our children's right to play by signing a Back-to-School Pledge!

When you sign, we'll get you started with a PDF copy of How to Save Play at Your School -- featuring 15 action ideas for teachers and parents to make school grounds and school days more playful.

 


September 01, 2011 Kerala Taylor

Three takeaways from a summer full of play

For the past eight weeks, our Park-A-Day Summer Challengers have been busy visiting as many parks and playgrounds as they can. By now, they and their children have become local playground authorities, if you will, who can not only recommend the best playgrounds in town, but who can tell you what distinguishes a good playground from a great playground (it's not just about the equipment!) and why some playspaces fall short.

We asked our Challengers what they learned from their park visits that they didn't know before. Here are three notable takeaways:

I can help improve my public parks

Does your local playground need a trash can? A fresh coat of paint to cover up graffiti? Often a good local playground can be made much better with a few small improvements, but it’s up to you to let your city officials know. As seasoned park-goers, our Challengers not only began to notice areas for improvement that could be addressed quickly but took it upon themselves to act. As playparks says:

"Concerning a city park closer to my home, I emailed my city council member about the need to plant more vegetation on the hills surrounding the park to prevent erosion. I also alerted him to some of the illegal activity going on at the parks. I got an immediate response from the council member and our sheriff. There has been much more policing of the park since our email exchange. I think cities want to improve, but sometimes need guidance from their citizens."

 

 

Some of the nicest playgrounds aren’t open to the public

There’s nothing more frustrating than a beautiful, gleaming playground—behind a locked fence. Some of our Challengers found themselves unable to access the better playgrounds their hometown has to offer because they are privately owned. This disparity clearly demonstrates the need for more joint-use agreements, which open private playgrounds to the surrounding community during designated hours. It sounds like sashametro might become a strong joint-use advocate in Troy, N.Y.:

"When I started this project, I was looking to find out more about the playgrounds around us in Troy, in order to make a case that there were plenty of playgrounds elsewhere, but none downtown. This was to support our case for a downtown Troy playground. But that wasn't quite what I found. There actually are a fair number of toddler playspaces downtown—the problem is that the nice ones are not open to the public.

This contrast is starkly visibly on Old Sixth Avenue, where the city playground on the east side is arguably the worst playspace in all Troy—and that's saying a lot. Directly across the avenue on the west side, a public non-profit that operates a Head Start program has a gorgeous modern playspace for 2-5 year-olds, but it is behind a fence with no access for anyone but the handful of children enrolled in that program."

Playgrounds need more opportunities for challenge and risk

Our Challengers with children in the 9 to 12-year-old range had a particularly hard time keeping their kids entertained this summer, even on play equipment that claims to be age appropriate. As our culture becomes increasingly litigious (and increasingly paranoid), how can we ensure that our playgrounds continue to challenge and engage our children as they grow?

AngieSix points out: "My oldest is 9 and my biggest challenge was finding playgrounds that kept her interested and challenged. I'd love to see a playspace that was REALLY designed for 9-12 year olds—it would be so cool. I imagine it would cause some kind of ruckus, though, since it would need to involve some elements of risk and that scares many parents.

I learned that just because you have a lot of very nice playgrounds, that doesn't mean your kids will love them. If they don't have an element that makes them unique, it doesn't take long for them to get bored. What was surprising to me was that it doesn't necessarily take something new and expensive to make a unique park feature, though. A really great hill to run down, a small creek or pond, nooks and crannies to get a good game of hide and seek going, something challenging to climb or balance on—any of these features can add a new element of play and interest."

Says floridamom: "Although most playgrounds are 'recommended' for up to 12 years old, it hadn't occurred to me that my oldest is now 11! His feet touch the ground while holding most monkey bars, which he thought was funny. Luckily he hasn't completely lost interest yet, but as he continues to 'grow up' both physically and emotionally, I know that spending summers together at playgrounds will eventually come to an end. Maybe I can revise it to find basketball-court-a-day."


See more reflections from our Park-A-Day Challengers.


We love playgrounds, but as any child knows, the concept of confining play to a designated area is somewhat absurd. As we work toward our vision of a playground within walking distance of every child, we also love to see play opportunities beyond the playground -- for kids and adults alike.

Our popular guest blogger Alex Gilliam, from Public Workshop, wrote last year about implementing "a citywide play circuit," drawing from inspiration he found abroad. He's not the only one who is fond of this notion. Tim McGill, author of Rethinking Childhood, says, "The word is playability. A playable space is one that encourages play alongside other functions."

So why not play with trash cans, at bus stops, and down flights of stairs? Kids do it naturally, but adults may need some extra cues:

 

        

Photo credits: Swing at bus stop: popupcity.net; hopscotch and trash can basketball: rebelart.net; slide at metro station: newslite.tv; free throw line and street maze: monkeyzen.com.

See more fun street art on our Tumblr blog.