Outdoor play - KaBOOM! News

Kenneth on Play

December 27, 2013 KaBOOM!

Play can change a person's childhood.

When Kenneth was in kindergarten, KaBOOM! built a playground at his school and Kenneth began to play more outside. His grades improved from B's and C's, to A's and B's.

Where other kids are getting an average of 8 hours of screen time a day, Kenneth is getting outside and playing. The playground led to changes in his life. Hear what Kenneth has to say about play in his third video, below. (And, don't forget to watch Kenneth's first and second videos too!)

Kids really do need a playground. Help give kids like Kenneth the childhood they deserve.

Donate Now


Enjoy this guest post from our friends at 1000 Hours Outside, a blog that encourages parents to take their kids outside more and discover the amazing benefits of play.

Think back on your most vivid childhood memories. Do they center around toys or do they center around experiences? I certainly remember some of my favorite toys like my wooden dollhouse, scooter, and Skip-It, but my main recollections are around experiences and books I read. I remember father-daughter canoe trips down the Ausable River in Michigan and piano lessons with my mom. I remember curling up with my Nancy Drew books in this cool bed tent thing my parents bought me. I remember doing crossword puzzles with my mom and lots of family game nights. The childhood things that usually leave the greatest mark do not typically come in a box.

With the holidays around the corner we wanted to offer up top five gifts for the playing family. Our hope is that these suggestions provide memorable childhood and family experiences.

1) Loose Parts Toys
Give your child the gift of imagination this holiday season. Loose parts toys are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart, and put back together in all sorts of ways. Loose parts can be used alone or combined with other materials. There’s no set of specific directions for materials that are considered loose parts. The child is the direction. Children tend to prefer loose parts over fancy toys. As the joke often goes, a child will play with the box a toy came in more than the toy itself. Loose parts toys that don't come in a fancy box are items like pinecones, shells, beads, stumps, logs, rope, crates, boxes, buckets, and fabric. Loose parts toys you can buy from a store are items like The Tegu Explorer Set, Wooden Tool Box, Think-Its, and Legos. (As with all toys be careful of choking hazards for young children.)

1000 Hours Outside - Gift of Imagination

2) Art and Craft Supplies
Art is good for kids. In a similar fashion to the benefits of free play, letting kids spend time doing open-ended art projects provides many developmental benefits. Art teaches problem solving and open-ended thinking. It develops the whole brain as children increase their ability to focus, think ahead, and work on their hand-eye coordination. There is research showing that children who do art read better and do better in math or science. Art gifts help children express themselves. Here are a few of our favorites: Travel Easel, Young Artist Finger Paint Set, and Drawing Studio.

1000 Hours Outside - Arts

3) Fort Building Kit
Holiday presents can get pricey, especially when it comes to electronics. However, something as simple as a fort-building kit can be inexpensive and yet provide hours of imaginative play for families. Children adore secret hiding places. Your kit could include rope, sheets, clothespins, or a tub of PVC pipes. Don't forget a flashlight!

1000 Hours Outside - Fort

4) Outdoor Clothing
Just as a hoophouse or greenhouse extends a growing season, a good wool underlayer, rain suit, or boots can extend your outdoor season. Remember the saying: "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." Provide your child with the gift of outdoor play year round. This is where the memories are made!

1000 Hours Outside - Wool

5) Step back.
It seems that there is already a natural inclination for kids to get outside. We spent time learning some baby sign language when our kids were younger and the sign for "outside" was one they all picked up on quickly and signed often! From increased exercise and activity to better eyesight to enhanced problem solving skills the list of things gained from time spent in vast outdoors is an extraordinary one. Let's buy our kids items that further the lure of the open air. Even if these must be packed away for a few months due to weather you will be happy with your investment come spring! We have all of these on our wish list: Skylight Rocket, 3 Wheeled Scooter, Backyard Slackline, Zipline Adventure, and ChalkTrail for Bikes!

1000 Hours Outside - Races
Photos courtesy of 1000 Hours Outside.

Jen, Lisa and Ginny are moms (both part-time working and stay at home) who have a passion for getting kids outdoors. Stemming from their backgrounds in health and fitness and education, they are driven by trying to provide a carefree childhood coupled with all the health and developmental benefits that outside time provides. They have nine kids amongst them who all love running, building, picnicking, playing and napping in the open air. Their blog, 1000 Hours Outside, is meant to encourage moms and caregivers everywhere to take their kids outside more and discover all of the amazing benefits. 1000 Hours Outside hosts monthly gift card and product giveaways to give families that extra incentive to make this investment into free play in the open air.


Kenneth on Friendship

December 03, 2013 KaBOOM!

Kids don't always get the play they need. But Kenneth is lucky. When he was in kindergarten, KaBOOM! built a playground at his school—a playground where he got to meet a lot of other kids.

Kenneth will never forget one day when he made a friend on the playground. Hear this story in his second video. (If you haven't seen Kenneth's first video, watch it too!)

Help give kids like Kenneth the childhood they deserve.

Donate Now


Meet Kenneth

November 14, 2013 KaBOOM!

Meet Kenneth, an 11-year-old in Birmingham, Alabama who loves his playground. When he was in kindergarten, his school built a playground with KaBOOM!.

Donate Now

Watch Kenneth describe what happened after the playground opened and the impact it had on his school.


Enjoy this guest post from our friends at 1000 Hours Outside, a blog that encourages parents to take their kids outside more and discover the amazing benefits of play.

As the saying goes, "The years fly by, but the hours are long." Raising a family can seem grueling at times and there's an endless amount of choices surrounding how to spend our years rearing children. Of all the options out there, free play and providing time to "just be a kid" often gets lost in the mix. However, the research is out and it points to the overwhelming importance of play. Whether you've always known this or it's just coming to the forefront of your parenting practices, here are five quick ways to infuse play into everyday life.

1) Find a nearby trail.
Use your city's parks and recreation website or look for trails through your local or state parks. There is so much variety in nature. Your kids will be engaged from the moment you step on the path. As a general rule we try and stick with trails that are less than two miles. We don't bring along any toys but we do make sure to have a few snacks and some water! While you're out on your adventures, add photos and rate the trails you visit on the Map of Play.

1000 Hours Outside - Trail

2) Invest in some loose parts toys.
Loose parts toys are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. Check out the picture below to get an idea. Instead of buying a plastic toy for the next birthday or holiday, help your child build creativity and imagination with stumps, logs, rope, crates, boxes, buckets, fabric, and the like. Children tend to prefer loose parts over fancy toys anyway.

1000 Hours Outside - Loose Parts

3) Invite some friends along and watch the creativity soar.
It's certainly safer to be outside with someone else and it's more fun, too! All the different personalities and ages that are brought to the mix are good for child development.

1000 Hours Outside - Friends

4) Let loose.
One of my best days ever as a mom was when we came upon a shallow inland lake and let the kids swim in their clothes. You can tell by their faces that is was one of their best days, too!

1000 Hours Outside - Splash

5) Step back.
Spread out a picnic blanket and observe. You will be amazed and inspired. Children are so engaged with life.

1000 Hours Outside - Step Back
Photos courtesy of 1000 Hours Outside.

Jen, Lisa and Ginny are moms (both part-time working and stay at home) who have a passion for getting kids outdoors. Stemming from their backgrounds in health and fitness and education, they are driven by trying to provide a carefree childhood coupled with all the health and developmental benefits that outside time provides. They have nine kids amongst them who all love running, building, picnicking, playing and napping in the open air. Their blog, 1000 Hours Outside, is meant to encourage moms and caregivers everywhere to take their kids outside more and discover all of the amazing benefits. 1000 Hours Outside hosts monthly gift card and product giveaways to give families that extra incentive to make this investment into free play in the open air.


Last week, in honor of National Backyard Games week, we asked our readers to share outdoor games they invented as children.

As we read through your wonderful responses, it became clear that children and adults have different definitions of what constitutes a "game." Unlike most adult-invented games, the games you shared all had elements of challenge but no obvious winners or losers.

Congratulations to the inventors of our three favorite games, who will each win a copy of our new book, Go Out and Play! Perhaps we'll add these to our next edition:

Frixening
"We had a big willow tree in the backyard, on a hill surrounded by juniper bushes. We invented 'Frixening,' which required us to grab the willow tree branches and with a running start use them to swing out as far as we could over the prickly bushes without losing our grip and falling in. I have no idea where we got 'Frixening' from."
- Alice Requadt Marks

Mud Ski
"My little brother and I did all sorts of things with our swing set—but probably the greatest was when we could get our hands on the garden hose. We'd fill up the ditch under the swings with water, and wade around until it was good and muddy, then wrap the swings a couple times to get them to chest height and 'water ski' across the void. Many a good, filthy hour was spent that way. Getting hosed off by our mom before we were allowed inside was almost as fun as getting muddy."
- Maia Tel Sol Dei

Boss
"As children, my best friends and I would often play 'Boss.' Using a disconnected telephone in the basement, we would take turns making up calls we received from the Boss telling us about missions we had to go on for work (of course, we all worked at the same place!). These included anything from having to sneak by Mom barefoot to searching for treasures in the small creek in our yard to riding our bikes through make-believe trails we created in the neighborhood—and named after our favorite candy!"
- Margaret A. Powers

Want to see more of our favorite outdoor games? Donate $15 to get your own copy of Go Out and Play!

Photo by Bill Dubreuil (cc).


Yes, it's Screen-Free Week, which begs the question: What are you doing in front of a screen?

But wait! Before you go, take a minute to get inspired by these creative outdoor activities from some of our favorite bloggers. For more awesome ideas, see our Screen-Free Ideas for Parents Pinterest board.


We are staunch advocates of recess, but how many adults truly remember what recess is all about? It isn't just 20 minutes of mindless running and screaming. It's a time to create imaginary worlds, take on new personas, make friendships, break friendships, learn new skills, scrape a knee, engage in mischief, and much more.

"Recess Stories," a web series that bases its episodes on true stories, captures the delightful complexity of life on the playground. Take a look:

Please, remind us: Why are we taking this away from our kids?

See more episodes at recessstories.com.


Of course, every month should be “Get Outside Month,” but in April it’s official. Join the youth-inspired, youth-led Children & Nature Network initiative to Play, Serve and Celebrate—outside!

When we think of the “outdoors,” we often think of weekend destinations like beaches, forests, rivers, or mountains. These natural treasures are all well worth a visit, but this month we also encourage you to explore the Great Outdoors that exists right outside your front door.

Here are 5 ideas to get your family—and your neighborhood—playing outside in April. For more inspiration, check out our "Get Outside" board on Pinterest.

  1. Hold a Play Day

    Bring some old-fashioned fun to your neighborhood by organizing a Play Day on your street, at your school, or at your local park. Can you believe that some kids these days have never played Red Rover or fallen down in a three-legged race? A Play Day is a chance to gather your community to build awareness for the importance of play and teach kids those old-fashioned games that we all know and love.
     
  2. Conduct a neighborhood scavenger hunt

    Help local kids get to know their neighborhood—and each other—by organizing a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Give kids a list of elements to find, take pictures of, or request from fellow neighbors. See some sample hunt ideas at Playborhood and Free Range Kids.   
     
  3. Hide natural treasures on your street

    Think of it as a scavenger hunt in reverse. Create a few natural treasures—like painted rocks, shell wind chimes, or fairy houses (pictured at right)—and hide them in unexpected places throughout your neighborhood.  When other neighbors stumble across your treasures, they are sure to smile in delight—and perhaps be inspired to create their own.
     
  4. Visit every playground in your neighborhood

    Set a goal of visiting every park and playground in your zip code during the month of April. See which playgrounds are already marked on the KaBOOM! Map of Play and then use our mobile and online tools to fill in the holes and add to existing data. To maximize fun, share times and dates for each playground visit on a neighborhood listserv so that other families can get involved.
     
  5. Organize a walking school bus

    A mere 17% of children currently walk or ride a bike to school. Not only does walking let children flex their muscles, but it immerses them in a rich play environment. Riding in a car is a sedentary, sterile and uninspiring experience by contrast.


    If safety is a concern, remember that there is always safety in numbers. A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. It can be as informal as two families taking turns walking their children to school, or as structured as a route with meeting points, a timetable and a regularly rotated schedule of trained volunteers.

What ideas do you have for getting your family and neighborhood outside this month?

Bottom photo by MoBikeFed (cc).


Common sense has triumphed over senseless fear! Last week we lamented an elementary school's recent ban on its longtime "Fridays on the Green" tradition, which was prompted by complaints about safety and unruly behavior. As part of the tradition, 5th graders with parental permission were able to walk downtown by themselves on Friday afternoons to eat ice cream and play on the green.

We are happy to see that both parents and students at Davidson Elementary School shared our outrage and took active measures to overturn the ban. As reported in Davidson News:

Parents over the past two weeks have emailed the school, posted comments on this website and even launched an online petition drive questioning a decision by the school’s former principal to stop letting parents give their fifth-grade students permission to walk to the Village Green on Fridays.

Over 125 townspeople showed up to "Occupy the Green," with kids carrying signs that said, "Trust: It's a tradition" and "We can take care of ourselves."

The parents must now absolve the school of liability when granting their kids permission to walk to the Green, but as so aptly put by Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids, who helped us spread the word about the petition: "If a slightly obsessive, overkill waiver is what it takes to give kids back the best part of being fifth graders, so be it."

A parent told Davidson News, "It’s a victory for the people – and ice cream." And, we would add, a victory for unstructured outdoor play!