By J.C. Boushh
The human brain is wired with an inborn teacher. Soon after children learn to walk, the developing brain urges toddlers and preschoolers to climb. Climbing develops the brain in a variety of ways. When children climb, both sides of their brain work together to tell the right hand and the left foot to move together and the left hand and the right foot to move together. Climbing builds pathways in the brain that teach the muscles and brain to work together and especially how to use both sides of the body at the same time. When children climb, their eyes and brain work together to learn where to grab and hold, where to place knees and feet, important skills for developing spatial awareness skills (Readdick & Park, 1998).
Playgrounds are among the most important environments for children outside the home that allows children the opportunities to experience climbing. Play environments provide valuable opportunities for experiencing the joy of movement and developing fitness and motor skills (Gabbard, 2008).
Not only is there a physical health benefit to playgrounds and specifically playground climbing equipment, but there is a mental health value to allowing our children to experience the joy of climbing. The type of climbing that takes place on overhead ladders places an enormous burden on the brain's kinesthetic monitoring and spatial computing power, since there are so many places the hand could actually be while it is moving from rung to rung (Wilson, 1999). This means that people don't just get better at the specific task they're doing, but the skills actually transfer to general cognitive abilities and mental faculties, as measured independently from the task itself (Fernandez & Goldberg, 2006).
Dr. Mary McCabe, a leading expert in physical education and health of young children, cites more than 80 brain research studies that suggest that the development of motor skills (movement) helps to facilitate academic readiness and learning. "The research suggests children can raise their achievement level, increase their motivation, heighten their understanding, accelerate their learning timeline, and expand their creativity through motor skills, music, and proper nutrition," says McCabe. A well-developed playground environment in a park or school setting can greatly enhance a child's overall physical and mental development, making playgrounds more than just fun (Hendy, 2000).
Children that play daily are better prepared physically and academically for the world ahead of them. The more we allow children the freedom to play the more we allow them to succeed cognitively. Physical health and mental health are equally tied to a child's successful future.
Fernandez, Alvero & Goldberg, Elkhonan (2006) Are You Sure Your Members are Working Out ALL Their Muscles? International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association.
Gabbard, Carl (2008) The Brain, Motor Skills, and the Playground. Kompan Institute Play Symposium "Building Generational Play"
Hendy, Teressa B. (2000) Jungle Gym or Brain Gym? Child Development and Physical Activity. Park and Recreation
McCabe, M. L. (1999). "FitKid" Curriculum Guide for Elementary School Exercise Equipment.
Readdick, Christine A., Park, Jennifer J.(1998) Achieving Great Heights: The Climbing Child. Young Children v53 n6 p14-19.
Wilson, Frank. (1998). The Hand: How the uses shapes the brain, language, and human culture. New York: Vintage Books.
JC Boushh is a recognized expert in the field of play, recess, playground, and the outdoor classroom as it applies to brain development and brain-compatible design. He has lectured worldwide as well as authored numerous articles on play and the outdoor environment.
By Alan Schnepf
San Diego UNION-TRIBUNE
Aug. 2, 2008
LAKESIDE – There's more than strength in numbers. There's also speed.
About 250 people in Lakeside proved that Thursday when they built the city's newest playground in less than a day.
The group showed up at Lindo Park Elementary School on Thursday morning to build the 3,400-square-foot playground and finished it the same afternoon.
Among the volunteers was Damon Johnson, a produce clerk at an Albertsons in Vista. Johnson had the day off and decided to help. He brought along his wife and son, who will soon be leaving for college.
"It's about going out and doing something physical," Johnson said. "I can go out and donate money, but this? I'm a part of it, a part of the blood, sweat and tears." [Read more]
Loss of recess in schools hurts children’s growth, ability to learn
June 4, 2008
If there were a way to scientifically measure which child had the most fun on the playground, then recess would be a federal mandate. But because the need for elementary-age students to get out of the building and blow off some youthful steam is better known to common sense than to scientific inquiry, the old-fashioned practice has sadly fallen out of favor in far too many American schools.
The national Parent Teacher Association has noticed, with appropriate alarm, that a nefarious combination of factors has knocked recess out of as many as 40 percent of elementary schools nationwide. Those factors include budget cuts, worries about injuries or bullying on the playground and the growing emphasis on core academic subjects and frequent high-stress tests. [More]
By Karin E. Swenson
The role of playgrounds in my son Phillip's life cannot be overstated. Phillip has autism. Autism is a spectrum disorder that affects children by impairing their ability to communicate and their ability to interact socially. To date there is no known cause of autism (although many debate this fact) and no known cure. However, intervening as early as possible in the child's life with appropriate therapies can help.
Like all 5-year-old little boys, Phillip loves to climb, swing, jump and run on any piece of playground equipment he can find. To that end, I intentionally seek out playgrounds locally and wherever we may be traveling. He needs the daily physical release that a playground affords him. Lots of physical activity seems to keep him focused when he needs to be.
In addition to the physical release, though, I value the opportunities for human contact playgrounds offer. It is a battle to get Phillip to relate to a peer by playing a turn-taking board game, for example, but on the playground he so desperately wants to use the equipment that he is willing to wait his turn for a swing or at the top of a slide, or he'll join a group of kids going through a tunnel. This is priceless. My son, who doesn't want to even look at other kids, understands that being chased by other kids and chasing them in return is a great way to spend time at the playground.
Without playgrounds in our life, we would be lost.
You can't create or manufacture the lessons learned on a playground. They just happen, and for that I am grateful. I am also grateful for the wonderful access to playgrounds we have in our area. I'm sure that Phillip would say the same, if he could. But for now I'll take his smile when he is playing chase with another child at the playground.
Karin E. Swenson holds a B.A. in American studies from Mount Vernon College, Washington D.C. (now a part of George Washington University). Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, she served as the Executive Director of The Harvard Club of Washington at the National Press Club.
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Lavender, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 Public Affairs
United States Navy
July 22, 2008
PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (NNS) -- Seabees and their shipmates assigned to various commands throughout the Gulf Coast voluteered to help build a playground at the Marsha Barboura Community Center in Pass Christian, during a KaBOOM! project July 19.
KaBOOM!, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, has built over 1,450 playgrounds across the United States, Canada and Mexico. [More]
July 22, 2008
A professional athlete from Shreveport is giving back to his hometown.
Antawn Jamison is teaming up with Community Renewal International, Bellaire Baptist Church and Kaboom, to design a dream playground for children.
"For me, it's about giving back, putting smiles on kid's faces. Let them know that I'm from the same situation you're from and that if you continue to work hard and dream, anything is possible," said Jamison. [More]
Rockwell Group Takes It To The Playground
by Dave Pinter
July 21, 2008
The play parts have already been field tested earlier this year at the East Village Community School. Rockwell is beginning to work with playground producer Kaboom on a portable version. He is intending to locate a portable version within each of the five boroughs. Kaboom is looking to expand the concept on a national scale. Those who have seen it including Cynthia J. Gentry, chairwoman of the Atlanta Taskforce on Play are already impressed. [More]
Gore's spirit could free U.S. from foreign oil
By Ellen Ratner
WorldNet Daily Exclusive Commentary
If we can put 370 volunteers together on a very hot Saturday in July from very different backgrounds (rich, poor, black, white, young, old, military, civilian, very religious and not at all religious) then why can't we put the same community spirit together to save and produce energy? ... Former Vice President Al Gore is no more a wacko for his vision than is KaBoom! founder Darrell Hammond. [More]
By Kyle Jones
Cherokee Tribune Staff Writer
July 20, 2008
It's that time again.
The temperature is on the rise. Baseball games monopolize the TV channels. Outside, the air is warm and humid while burgers and hot dogs roast on the hot grill by the pool.
Everywhere in Cherokee County, summer is in full bloom. But for a Canton neighborhood, one of the season's most joyful trademarks has been incomplete for several years.
"In the summertime, kids love playing outside," said Sharon Jones, who lives near the city's Burge Park on Burge Street. "But around here, they have no place outside where they can play. That's why I think redoing the park is a smart thing to do." [More]
By MATT HOLLIS
North Channel Sentinel (Texas)
July 17, 2008
The heat was intense, but that did not stop more than 250 volunteers from participating in the Wendel D. Ley YMCA/KaBoom! playground project, July 12.
"This says a lot for the community in Channelview," said Ann Gaudard, KaBoom! Project manager. "The North Shore community has never been one not to share its time, talents and treasures. Today, they shared all of those with us. It really will make a difference in these kids' lives."
KOOL-AID helped to fund the playground along with a $10,000 donation from the North Shore Rotary Club. [More]