Play deficit - KaBOOM! News

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 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.

Do adults these days have less patience, or are kids more "bad" than they used to be? In light of the recent flurry of articles about the rise of the "no kids allowed" movement—which has included kids being banned from restaurants, airline flights, and even grocery stores—we can’t help but wonder to what extent the growing Play Deficit is responsible for the perceived rise of temper tantrums and other disruptive, insolent behavior amongst our nation's little ones.

It’s no secret that a lack of play is linked to bad behavior. Studies have shown that schools without recess, for example, struggle with more behavioral problems in the classroom, including violence and emotional outbursts, and that their students show a lack of ability to interact with peers and authority figures. 

We asked our Park-A-Day Challengers if their regular visits to parks and playgrounds this summer have spurred any changes in their children’s behavior. Our 2010 Park-A-Day alumnus Liza Sullivan previously advised this year's Challengers that kids who play more "won’t be as squirmy at home and will rarely have trouble falling asleep at night!" Here's what a few other Challengers had to say:

"I had an interesting experience this week because both kids were in camp. My nine year old was outside from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. everyday. My six year old played lots of games outside, but also experienced one day that was heavier on classroom time. On our drive home, she said, 'Mommy, can we stop at a playground?' I was like, 'What? You just spent seven hours at camp!' And she complained they'd been inside too much that day. I was amazed she knew herself well enough to know she needed to hang out outside. So we got home and she played outside in our homemade sandboxes for over an hour while I got dinner ready."

"Whether it's the park or getting out for a bike ride, by getting the boys active I see a change in behavior. That activity is usually tied to greater engagement from me and those two things contribute. Having one without the other wouldn't be enough."

"My boys have been involved in organized team sports since each was five years old and since I don't work they have plenty of 'play' time at home. What I've noticed is that there were many more serious behavior problem kids (all boys) in kindergarten this year than the older two ever had in any grade."

Have you noticed a link between your child's behavior and how much they play? Do you agree that kids aren't as well-behaved as they used to be?

A limitless sense of possibility... the freedom to reach new heights... pure, unadulterated joy. We know all the stats and studies, but sometimes it just takes a few pictures to remind us why play is so important.


Photo by Krystle Fleming (cc).


Photo by David (cc).

Play is under attack—and not just in the United States. The UK Department of Education has recently informed the national play organization, Play England that it will not be renewing its contracts after the current ones expire at the end of March, signifying the end of a 10-year national play strategy.

Yet again, adults in charge are failing to recognize that play is a vital component of a child’s education, preferring instead to view it as a “luxury” that can be de-prioritized during lean economic times. But Play England is not going to accept the massive spending cuts without a fight. They have launched Save Children’s Play, a national movement that empowers local communities to launch their own campaigns for children’s play.

Play England states on its website:

In a climate of massive public spending cuts, the play sector faces its most difficult challenge since the 1980's. Local authorities are facing tough decisions on spending, and children's play is being hit hard. Sadly, once we start seeing the impact of cuts - play sites falling into disrepair, play schemes closing and play services making staff redundant, it will be too late. The millions of children who rely on public play facilities will lose out for a generation.

We urge you to express your solidarity with our friends across the pond by liking the Save Children’s Play Facebook page. And whether or not you live in the UK, Play England’s “Save Play Action” pack is brimming with tips and ideas for starting a campaign to save play in your neighborhood. Download the action pack here.

I am sitting on a patch of grass under a massive weeping willow. My friends and I are intricately braiding fallen branches, creating what will soon become a crown. We begin sectioning off the hanging branches, creating rooms in our castle. No sooner does the game begin than we emerge from under the tree hand in hand, laughing and running toward our next adventure.

Danielle Marshall, our Senior Manager of Research and Traning, fondly remembers playing outdoors as a child in her first post of a new series on the Altarum Institute's Health Policy Forum. Danielle goes on to say:

Does this type of play still exist for children? Can you imagine childhood without opportunities to play? Many of the adults I encounter speak fondly of their childhoods and recall play as a key component of their lives. So why is it that we adults quickly sacrifice children’s opportunities to play in the name of achievement, safety, or changing times?

The health of a society should be measured by the health of its play. The play of a healthy society should be rich and varied: imaginative, dramatic, physical, cooperative, solitary. Children—in urban, suburban, and rural areas—should have ample and easy access to safe and stimulating outdoor play spaces: creeks, woods, adventure playgrounds, pocket parks. Caregivers and parents should feel comfortable allowing children the time, independence, and freedom to play in their neighborhoods. Kids should be safe playing outside. Play should be afforded the same importance as math and reading, valued as truly integral to curriculum, as the foundation of learning. Cities, neighborhoods, and housing should be designed to support and sustain play throughout the life span.

In coming months, Danielle will be exploring issues related to the Play Deficit and its impact on health and public policy. Read the full post here.

AndroidAmidst flurries of discouraging news stories about schools eliminating or cutting down on recess, we come across occasional gems, like this letter to the editor that appeared last Friday in the Newburyport News. Laurie A. Couture, a mental health counselor for children in Massachusetts, writes:

"Epidemic numbers of American school children are presenting with profound distress signals in reaction to the developmentally inappropriate environments of public schools. These distress signals, including hyperactivity, distraction, aggression, poor school performance and school refusal, are mislabeled as ADHD, learning disabilities or mental illness in such children. The knee-jerk reaction has been to chemically control these children with powerful, dangerous psychiatric drugs.

In direct contrast, children in indigenous tribal cultures traditionally spent the majority of their day moving, engaging at all ages in intense play and physical activity. These children were not displaying symptoms of learning disabilities, brain disorders and mental illness because they were living in congruence with their nature, which is to move and play.

Although the research is clear that the very means by which children learn is through play and that physical activity is necessary for children, schools continue to treat play as a waste of time and treat children as if they are androids. Between school and homework, schools expect children to spend upwards of nine hours overriding their basic biophysiological nature in order to fulfill adult expectations that are irrelevant to a child's life. The detriments of this to children's physical, emotional, intellectual, social and creative development are lifelong and should be of grave concern to our society."

Read the full letter, Schools need a lesson in child development. Laurie is one of many concerned citizens who are taking the time to speak out against our country's growing play deficit—and people are paying attention!

Are you fired up? Learn tips for writing your own letter to the editor in our free on-demand webinar.

Photo by Denise Cortez (cc).