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  • Recess makes kids smarter

    Shwetha Ramani is a freelance communications professional who grew up in India and is now exploring the world of PR on the other side of the world, in the U.S. She lives outside of New York City with her husband.

    When I moved to the U.S. two years ago, one of the first things that struck me as different was not seeing throngs of kids running and playing outdoors. I grew up in India, where kids would all gather outdoors every evening and play well until 7 or 8 p.m. And during summer holidays and weekends, they would spend all day playing outdoors. But that wasn’t the only difference. A few months back, when I began working on Playworld’s Power of Recess campaign, I was very surprised to learn that schools in the U.S. are either cutting back or eliminating recess time altogether because of academic pressures.

    As someone who’s always had two recesses – a 15-minute short recess and a 40-minute long recess – I can attest that recess is a highlight of the typical school day. It provides kids with some much needed down time and allows them to reenergize themselves and focus better in class.

    I recall the boys in my class quickly finishing off lunch and then engaging in a game of cricket, creating a ball out of used silver foil paper and repurposing their pencil boxes as bats. The girls would either join the boys or form their own groups and walk around the school corridors. The lunch break encouraged us to be more physically active and when we returned to class once the break ended, the day didn’t seem all that long and dreary anymore. Also, some of the brightest kids in my class were the ones that played the most!

    The Indian education system is equally focused on academics. Yet, there are certain aspects (read: recess) that are given their due importance. Year after year, India produces a large number of students who excel in the STEM (science technology engineering mathematics) subjects, many of whom make their way to the U.S. to pursue their MBAs and doctorates. Does this have anything to do with sufficient recess time or the fact that Indians play more? While there is no concrete evidence to prove the correlation, it does provide us with some food for thought.

    The benefits of recess are clear. Why are so many schools cutting it back?

  • The KaBOOM! Play Everywhere Challenge is now open!

    Science and common sense agree: kids need play to grow up healthy, resilient and ready for life. But far too many children miss out on the chance to play because of where they live, where they come from or how much their families earn. To make this a thing of the past and help cities create spaces and opportunities for all kids to play as they grow, Playworld is collaborating with KaBOOM! on the organization’s Play Everywhere Challenge.

    The Play Everywhere Challenge, which opened to the public this week, is a $1 million national competition that will award innovative, replicable ideas in city redevelopment and design that make play easy, available and fun for kids and families. The Challenge seeks creative and community-driven solutions that integrate play into everyday life and unexpected places – sidewalks, vacant lots, bus stops, open streets, and beyond. At Playworld, we’re excited to see the creative and awe-inspiring ideas the Play Everywhere Challenge generates.

    Designing meaningful play experiences and believing in the transformative power of play are central to our values at Playworld. We’re thrilled to collaborate on an initiative that will rally applicants who share our goal of promoting daily play as key to ensuring the health and success of America's kids.

    Applications are being accepted through May 31, 2016. Submit your creative solution to make play a way of life in everyday and unexpected locations.

    To learn more about the Play Everywhere Challenge and submit your idea, visit playeverywhere.kaboom.org.

  • National Park Rx Day

    Have you had a healthy dose of the outdoors recently? If not, Park Rx Day is just what the doctor ordered. April 24th marks the first ever National Park Rx Day. Sponsored by the National Park Service, it’s a full 24 hours dedicated to promoting parks, nature and outdoor play in an effort to improve human health. In other words, it is a time to recognize just how beneficial nature can be to our well-being.

    Getting active and outside is more important than ever in this technology-filled era. According to the National Park Service, “Last fall, the U.S. Surgeon General released a call to action to promote walking and walkable communities. National Park Rx Day builds on this call to action and provides citizens with parks and green spaces to promote public health.”

    Today, like every other day, it’s important get outside and get active! As we all know, play is a critical piece of children and adults’ lives, alike. But people often forget that engaging in unstructured, outdoor play is just as important. Being active in the fresh air has various mental, social and physical benefits. Increased time outside can lead to improved mood, improved health and increased connections with community and nature. On National Park Rx Day, it’s important to recognize these benefits of the great outdoors.

    Parks present various opportunities for activities from walking on trails to playing on playgrounds to having a picnic. Each activity provides a chance to connect with nature in a different way – whether it be soaking up some sunshine or running off some stress on your favorite trail.

    The Surgeon General’s park prescription recommends you find your park and see how many ways you can incorporate play into nature!

    Luckily parents don’t need a MD after their name to provide this important directive to their kids.

    How will you observe National Park Rx Day?

  • Investing in early childhood play is an investment in tomorrow’s leaders

    A vast majority of young children are accustomed to their daily routine: school and homework.

    Kindergarteners, in addition to spending most of their time indoors, are spending nearly 25 minutes a day on homework. This is despite the fact that the National Education Association (NEA) and the National Parents Teachers Association (PTA) don’t endorse homework for kindergarten.

    Preschoolers are not getting enough play. 30 years ago, it was a different story – 40 percent of a typical preschool day was devoted to child-initiated play. This number has more recently fallen to a meager 25 percent (Miller & Almon, 2009).

    Play is critical for young children to develop various skills that they’ll utilize throughout their lives.  Engaging in unstructured play allows children to explore and develop numerous abilities such as problem-solving, decision making and self-expression.

    Children need interaction, imagination, and creativity. Countries such as China, Japan and Finland, often touted for exceptional international math and science assessment scores, boast preschools that are full of fun and experimental learning – via play!

    Research shows that play serves as a strong engine to power learning in the preschool years and beyond. Children under 5 enrolled in play-based preschool programs possess a strong advantage over those who are denied play, and are more likely to grow into happy, healthy and well-adjusted adults.

    In fact, a recent review of 180 research studies by Duke University psychologist and neuroscientist Harris Cooper revealed that the benefits of homework are highly reliant on age. The review found that for elementary school-aged kids and younger, it is best to hold off on homework because it can potentially have a negative impact. When assigned too early on, homework can foster a negative attitude towards school in general. And it takes time away from them playing, and learning through play.

    It’s clear that when they play, young children develop fine and gross motor skills, balance and strength, plus cognitive and social skills. Playworld’s early childhood play equipment are specifically engineered to build these skills and help children make the most of their priceless play time.

    Learn more about our early childhood product offerings here.

  • Play sculpture arrives in Singapore

    by Robyn Gordner

    There’s an eye-catching new structure in Singapore and it isn’t a new skyscraper.

    Playworld installed PlayForm 7 in the city last month. The first PlayForm 7 installation in the world is at Marina Bay, near the Merlion, a favorite spot among tourists and residents alike.

    I was very excited to fly from Pennsylvania to Singapore to photograph this milestone in Playworld history. After looking at Google Maps and street-level views for weeks in preparation for the photo shoot, it was surreal to be standing there on that very spot and witness the installation.

    PlayForm 7 establishes a shift in playground design and provides a strong visual impact. In a world where outdoor play is endangered and there is a pressing need to rethink play design, the structure offers a refreshing new take on play. It uses public art as a means to unite communities and creates an intriguing and interesting backdrop where everyone can gather, play, discover and enjoy being together on their terms, in their own way.

    The structure’s open design with over 20 play elements allows nearly 60 children to play on it at once. In fact, when I was in Singapore, I witnessed people of all ages and abilities playing on PlayForm 7. Seeing a PlayForm 7 in its permanent home and experiencing everyone’s’ reactions along the way was a moving experience that filled me with pride for my teammates back at home. It was thrilling to see adults and kids connecting with each other in meaningful ways and their excitement when they first laid eyes on PlayForm 7. They couldn’t wait to approach it, touch it, and experience it.

    The installation concluded with a successful event with local landscape architects and officials from the park and recreation industry. It was fascinating to see them getting involved with the play structure and relive their childhood days. Young children and adolescents took an instant liking to the structure. They had never seen anything like PlayForm 7 and have been turning up in large numbers to play on it since its installation.

    Thanks to Playworld’s local distributor in Singapore, CT-Art, for finding the perfect location for PlayForm 7 and making this installation happen.

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