Bright ideas - KaBOOM! News • page 2

October 17, 2012 Kerala Taylor

11 costumes you can make from a cardboard box

If you've been following this blog for a while, you might say we're a bit obsessed with cardboard boxes. Well, our love affair continues. If you're thinking about dashing to the store to buy some uninspired costume-in-a-bag this Halloween, think again!

First, check out these 11 DIY cardboard box costumes. Not only are they cheap, creative, and environmentally friendly, but your kids can get in on the fun.

Have you made a costume from a cardboard box? We'd love to share it -- please post a photo to our Facebook page

  • Kids love trucks. Even garbage trucks. This costume wins the prize for cuteness and authenticity. Photo via Dabbled.
  • Witches and ghosts are so unoriginal. Why not let your kid dream up (and make) a costume no one else will have? Left photo via Oli's Glob. Right photo via The Oregonian
  • Amid all the Halloween candy, these costumes will satisfy your salty cravings. Left photo via Family Crafts. Right photo via The Lovebug Journey..
  • A cardboard box makes for great crocodile jaws! Photo via Evil Mad Scientist.
  • Let your kids air your dirty laundry. This photo comes to us from "Coolest Homemade Costumes," and we're inclined to agree. Photo via Coolest Homemade Costumes.
  • We saw lots of Lego people when looking for cardboard box costumes. This Lego Harry Potter was our favorite. Photo via The Oregonian.
  • Ahoy, mate! Photo via Creative Crafts.
  • By consuming his body weight in sugar and wearing this airplane costume, your child can fly high on Halloween! Photo via LilSugar.
  • If your child is obsessed with the Avengers, it's time to put your art skills to the test! Photo by Nikejerk3, via Gfest.

Would you send your child to a school that gives its students hammers instead of standardized tests? Brightworks, a K-12 school in San Francisco, takes experiential learning to a whole new level. As it proudly proclaims on its website: "Our students fly kites, experiment with wind tunnels, and build turbines."

Founded by renowned tinkerer Gever Tulley, the school abides by the philosophy that tinkering and play are at the heart of learning. Student achievement is measured not by testing, but by exploration, expression, and exposition.

See Brightworks in action:

Would you send your child here?


Over the decades, as our vehicles have changed and evolved, one still looks more or less the same: the yellow school bus.

What has changed, though, are the other modes of transportation that children are using to get to school. While 71 percent of adults walked or rode their bicycles to school as children, a mere 17 percent of their own children currently do so. Fifty-three percent are driven by a parent.

That makes us sad. A car interior is a relatively sterile and isolated environment, affording few opportunities for movement, interaction, and play. A school bus, by contrast, is far more communal, while walking and biking get kids' hearts pumping, stimulating their brains in the process.

That's why we're so excited to see these human-powered school buses, which offer the best of both worlds:

Like our classic yellow bus, this Dutch bicycle school bus has one adult 'driver,' but unlike our buses, it's powered mostly by children. With a top speed of about 10 miles per hour, it also features an electric motor for those particularly tough hills.


OK, so it's not yellow, but this bicycle built for seven allows passengers to sit in a circle as they pedal and steers like a car. In Germany, these bikes are being used as human-powered school buses, and a school district in Oregon uses them to fight childhood obesity.


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 rotating schedule of trained volunteers. School bus costume optional.

Did you walk or bike to school? How do your children get to school?


Top photo via Bottom photo via Safe Routes to School.

Over the past few weeks, two Ohio parents have become Internet celebrities for the 12-foot-high roller coaster they built for their kids out of PVC pipe. We are duly impressed. Though we build nearly 200 playgrounds a year, we have yet to build a roller coaster. 

Do you know what's even more impressive? In California, a group of tweens and teens are building their own roller coaster at Gever Tulley's Tinkering School. That means they not only get to experience the thrill of the ride, but are also learning valuable construction and engineering lessons along the way.

See more photos here.

August 20, 2012 Kerala Taylor

Stand up (or lie down) for sidewalk chalk!

This summer, sidewalk chalk has been under attack. A neighborhood HOA in Colorado tried to ban chalk art from its common spaces, and a 29-year-old mom in Richmond, Va., was sentenced for letting her four-year-old daughter draw with chalk on some park rocks.

It's time to stand up for sidewalk chalk! On Tuesday, August 21, join Chalk the Walks, a national annual event, to spread joy through this wonderful, whimsical -- and did we mention, washable?! -- medium.

Chalk the walks with your neighbors and friends -- and remember, sidewalk chalk isn't just for kids! Here's some inspiration to get your juices flowing:

“When you are a kid you get to ride bikes, scooters, play with toys and use your imagination. You don’t have to go to work or do all the things old people do.” These are wise words from Caine, the boy who became an Internet sensation for his cardboard arcade and who recently reflected on growing older for his 10th birthday.

While we hope that adults still find time to play, Caine is right that childhood is a particularly opportune time to explore, discover, and create. The good news is that at age 10, he still has a few years before officially making the transition from “child” to “adolescent,” and we hope he makes the most of them!

To help him out, we’ve created a bucket list of things every kid should do before turning 13. Of course, we could go on and on, but here (in no particular order) are 23 things we consider essential. What would you add?

  1. Wallow in mud
  2. Run down a dune, roll down a hill
  3. Swim in an ocean, lake, or river
  4. Touch the sky with your toes
  5. Climb a tree, scale a boulder
  6. Jump off a rope swing
  7. Build a fort for a secret club
  8. Dig a hole deeper than you are tall
  9. Scrape a knee, bruise an elbow, or break an arm
  10. Hang upside down
  11. Eat dirt
  12. Throw a snowball
  13. Invent a recipe
  14. Sell homemade lemonade from a homemade lemonade stand
  15. Make something with a cardboard box
  16. Take apart a piece of machinery and put it back together again
  17. Crown yourself King or Queen of the forest
  18. Catch a bug in your hands
  19. Build a fire
  20. Plant something
  21. Jump in a pile of leaves
  22. Bury a treasure and draw a treasure map
  23. Wear a cape

Photos (top to bottom) by Rob (cc), Kerala Taylor, David (cc), and chascar (cc).

July 24, 2012 Darell Hammond,Kerala Taylor

Hold your own Playground Olympics

Do you have Olympic fever? We do. After all, the Olympics encapsulates many of the elements that make outdoor play so critical: teamwork, skill development, challenge, and fitness, to name just a few.

This Saturday, July 28, As First Lady Michelle Obama leads the U.S. Delegation to the 2012 Olympic Games, she’s calling on families around the country to support Team USA, not just by cheering on our athletes, but also by organizing their own Olympic Fun Days.

Since we can’t think of any more fitting place to hold your own Olympics than at the playground, here are five Olympic-inspired playground games:

  1. Slide shotput: Place a bucket at the bottom of a slide. Competitors must each “put” five tennis balls down the slide. The one who gets the most in the bucket wins the gold.
  2. Monkey relay: Divide into teams and hold relay races across the monkey bars. To discourage recklessness, competitors must balance something on their heads—may we suggest a stuffed monkey? If the monkey falls off, the contestant must start over.
  3. Synchronized swinging: Teams swing together for 30 seconds each. A panel of judges determines which team is the most synchronized.
  4. Long swing jump: This one is already a classic playground favorite—who can jump the farthest off the swing?
  5. Playground ping-pong: Teams of two volley a ping-pong ball across various pieces of playground equipment, like slides, swingsets, monkey bars, and jungle gyms. The team who can keep the ball going the longest wins. Particularly recommended for teens and tweens!

Find an Olympic Fun Day near you, or organize your own at What are your ideas for Olympic playground games? Please share in the Comments section below!

Photo by Wayne Silver (cc).

July 23, 2012 Kerala Taylor

How to make ice cream in a coffee can

As you may know, we at KaBOOM! are big fans of ice cream -- and it's not just because we were the first nonprofit to have its own Ben & Jerry's flavor. Ice cream, in moderation, brings joy to children's lives. And it is best relished outside, after a day full of outdoor play.

So of course we were excited to learn that July is National Ice Cream Month! Why not pay homage to this exquisitlely frosty treat by making your own? You don't need any fancy equipment -- just ice, salt, tape, and a coffee can.

The best part? Your kids can get a healthy dose of outdoor play while they're at it. Here's how:

July 19, 2012 Kerala Taylor

5 ways to save play this summer

Are your kids getting enough outdoor play this summer? We wish we could tell you to open your front door and shoo them outside, but sadly, many will find only empty streets, void of other kids to play with.

We can help you fix that. Here are five ways you can save play in your community, by not only getting your kids outside, but also the whole neighborhood. Click on each photo below for instructions on how to get started. Then, go play!

  • Close a street for play. Photo via nycstreets (cc).
  • Turn your front yard or driveway into a neighborhood playspace. Photo via clappstar (cc).
  • Start a neighborhood summer camp. Photo via Aaron Selverston, Palo Alto Patch.
  • Take the KaBOOM! Summer Playground Challenge.
  • Create a pop-up adventure playground. Photo by Sarah Zarrow, via Pop-up Adventure Play.


July 09, 2012 Kerala Taylor,Portia Obeng

Forget Hawaii. 5 reasons to take a playground staycation.

There are lots of nice things about Hawaii. But for most of us, the promise of an exotic beachside vacation comes with a lengthy plane ride and a hefty price tag. And while you may not live in Hawaii, we bet there are lots of nice things about your hometown too, if you take the time to look. 

Being a nonprofit with a vision of a playground within walking distance of every child in America, we're especially partial to playgrounds. Why not take a week off work to explore the playgrounds your hometown has to offer? Here are five reasons to take a playground staycation:

  1. Explore new places right at home – Step out of your “playground comfort zone.” There are probably many hidden playground gems in your hometown that you’ve never taken the time to visit. Ask your kids to help you find new places to play -- don't forget spray parks, natural playspaces, and outdoor sports facilities!
  2. Be a kid again -- You don't need jet skis to recapture the thrill of outdoor play. Adults are allowed on the playground, too. Swing as high as you can, soak yourself at a spray park, and wallow in the mud!
  3. Catch up on life – Playing is great, but you can also take some time out on the sidelines. In fact, it's good for your kids to play on their own, so go ahead and browse that stack of magazines you've fallen behind on, search for new recipes to try, or get your daily news fix.
  4. Save money – The best part about playgrounds? They're free and close to home! Stretch your savings even further by packing a lunch for the day and, when possible, walking or biking to your daily destination.
  5. Avoid travel hassles – Kids + travel = stress! Don't worry about packing bags, making your flight, entertaining your child on an airplane or long car ride, or navigating unfamiliar territory. Just breathe easy and look forward to a hassle-free day of playing at the playground!

And here's a bonus reason -- you can win prizes! From July 3 to August 13, every photo you submit of the playgrounds you visit can earn you an entry in our weekly sweepstakes drawing. We're giving away gift cards for toys, shoes, ice cream, outdoor gear, and more!

To reap all these exciting rewards, "book" your staycation by joining our 2012 Summer Playground Challenge!