For Play’s Sake: National Nonprofit KaBOOM! Helps Create Opportunities to Play Link copied!

August 3, 2010

Washington, D.C.

In the past, summer vacation meant kids were out playing from sun up to sundown in their neighborhoods, playgrounds or parks.  But today, opportunities for play are dwindling—the U.S. is suffering from a severe shortage of places for kids to play. According to a recent report from the Center for Disease Control[1], there aren’t enough parks and playgrounds for children to be active every day. And while the lack of play opportunities affects all kids, it has a particularly negative effect on girls and kids in low-income neighborhoods.

For 14 years, KaBOOM! (, a nonprofit dedicated to saving play for America’s children, has been addressing  the growing play deficit by actively initiating and facilitating more play opportunities as well as helping to innovate play.

“Play is important for all kids—no matter what their gender or socio-economic standing is,” said Darell Hammond, CEO and Co-founder of KaBOOM! .  “Too many children are growing up without a suitable outdoor place to spend time and play.  We believe kids need the same opportunities to play that we had growing up.  It’s important for all of us to engage our kids in play—whether that’s taking them to a park or playground or creating fun games to do at home or in the neighborhood.”

Girls Just Don’t Play Enough

According to the CDC report, only one in five homes has a park within a half-mile—and only 17 percent of blocks have a fitness or recreation center within that distance.  Without easy access to suitable places to play, kids today are not getting as much physical activity as they need—a key contributing factor to the childhood obesity epidemic.

The lack of play opportunities affects girls and kids in low-income neighborhoods in particular, where the play deficit is leading to increased rates of obesity.  Studies have shown that girls, in general, are less likely to participate in unstructured physical activity—or play—than boys.  A 2008 study from the Archives of Disease in Childhood, showed that only 11 percent of girls ages 5 to 8 get the recommended hour a day of physical activity, compared with 42 percent of boys. Without access to suitable playspaces, the issue is compounded.

In neighborhoods with unfavorable socioeconomic conditions (such as poor housing or lack of access to parks and recreation centers), children are 20-60 percent more likely to be obese or overweight. In addition, girls ages 10-11 in these neighborhoods were two to four times more likely to be over­weight or obese than their counterparts from higher-income neighborhoods.[2]

Engage Your Kids in Play—Slides, Swings and Pet Sharks?

KaBOOM! has been building playgrounds in underserved neighborhoods across the country for the last 14 years—helping to build playgrounds in low-income neighborhoods.  Part of the process includes the KaBOOM! Design Days where the neighborhood kids can “design” their dream playgrounds.  Using paper and crayons, KaBOOM! staffers invite the kids to draw their ideal playgrounds. 

“We’ve found that by engaging kids, parents and community members in the process, the community overall feels more invested in the finished playground.  Including the kids’ design ideas into the playground helps them feel like they had a hand in creating it—and hopefully keeps them coming back and playing more often,” added Hammond.

While boys and girls may participate in play at different levels and in different ways, KaBOOM! has found through their Design Days that there aren’t big differences in what boys and girls ask for in their dream playgrounds. Not surprisingly, slides, swings and clubhouses are popular items. On the less traditional side, kids have also asked for football fields, video games, dinosaur fossils—and most recently a pet shark.

5 Ideas to Make Play Happen

In addition to building playgrounds, KaBOOM! also has a number of free tools and simple tips to empower more communities to create more play opportunities and give our children the chance to lead healthy, productive lives.

  1. Plan a Play Day— Host a KaBOOM! Play Day to ensure that your children get out and play for an afternoon. Play Days are also a chance to help make local parks or playgrounds inviting spaces where families can spend time together for years to come.
  2. Find Your Nearest Playspace—Use the KaBOOM! Playspace Finder to locate closest, suitable play area for your kids.  There could be a park or playground nearby that you’ve yet to discover. And if your favorite isn’t on the map, add it and share the fun!
  3. Do-it-Yourself—Rally your community and build or revitalize your own playground.  KaBOOM! offers detailed, step-by-step online help on how to build your own playspace.  From fundraising and design to planning and execution, KaBOOM! will guide you through every step of turning that empty lot or dilapidated play area into a fantastic new playground.
  4. Go Retro—Remember those games and activities you used to play as a kid?  A lot of them don’t require a lot of space—and are still fun today.  Pull together some jump ropes, hula hoops and rubber balls for some impromptu play. Build a fort, start a game of tag or play hopscotch—all of these “old-school” play activities help engage kids and keep them active.
  5. Play Out of the Box—Add a little creativity and innovation to your existing neighborhood playspace with the Imagination Playground™ in a Box, a breakthrough concept in play offered by the Rockwell Group and KaBOOM!. The Imagination Playground™ in a Box consists of a collection of giant foam blocks and other items that inspire kids to share their natural love for creativity and collaboration.