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Author Archives: Kevin Cook

  • Scratching the June itch: keeping kids focused with play

    We anticipate it every year. Summer is quickly approaching and school is coming (or for some already has come) to an end. A few months off from school bring a more carefree attitude, fun activities and family vacations. However, this can also be a challenging time for teachers and parents who are struggling to keep children focused on academics for the final days of school. Kids tend to get antsy. They want to be outside playing and dreaming about how they’re going to spend their summers. But there’s still work to be done and teachers need their students to be at their desks and prepared to finish out the school year.

    Fortunately, there’s a fun and effective solution to helping kids stay focused during this last stretch: play! Allowing children to engage in active playtime provides them with an outlet for their energy. Besides letting them rest and recharge, it offers them the opportunity to communicate, cooperate and compromise, all skills they need to succeed academically as well in life.

    Think about it this way – would you like to sit at your desk all day long and not be allowed to take a break? Probably not. Well, it’s not any different for kids! We have to provide them with the playtime they need if we want them to perform well academically.

    Schools in Finland have successfully implemented this strategy throughout their school year. For every 45 minutes of instruction, children receive a 15-minute break. In fact, an American teacher who taught in Finland recently highlighted his experience. He noticed a drastic difference between implementing the American approach of prolonged periods of classes followed by a short break and implementing the Finnish approach. The Finnish approach resulted in a classroom full of focused, eager and happy kids, whereas the American approach led to a classroom full of restless and distracted kids.

    The more we provide kids with opportunities for free play, the more attentive they will be in the classroom – not just at the end of the year, but every school day. It’s important for play to be incorporated into children’s daily lives as it serves as an important platform for growth and discovery.

    Are you making sure your kids play enough?

  • 2016 US Play Coalition conference

    The annual US Play Coalition’s Play Conference 2016 took place last month at Clemson University and focused on the importance of outdoor play of all types, including manipulative and nature play. Other central themes of the 2016 conference included redefining play, culture and community.

    The highly anticipated industry event brought together play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, landscape architects, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents to discuss and promote the value of play for people of all ages and abilities. In addition to the keynote speakers, the Play Conference 2016 included networking opportunities, dozens of educational sessions and other presentations. My coworker and Playworld distributor in Singapore, Patrick Lee, spoke on how play is being managed outside of the USA.

    This year’s theme was “rebooting play” and the latest research, initiatives and practices in the field of play were presented. One hot topic at the conference was ensuring play is available everywhere for everyone – even in unexpected places like pop-up playgrounds and closed-off streets. In fact, my friend and colleague David Flanigan, director of grants management for KaBOOM!, introduced the idea and truly crystallized the play everywhere concept. If you haven’t already heard, KaBOOM! recently launched The Play Everywhere Challenge, a national competition that will award $1 million in prizes for the best replicable, scalable innovations in city redevelopment and design that help make play easy, available and fun for kids and families.

    I was honored to have the opportunity to speak about making parks relevant.

    Communities change continuously. If their parks and outdoor spaces do not change in parallel, societal needs and what is offered for outdoor recreation will be mismatched. My presentation focused on the trends that affect outdoor spaces, park and recreation funding trends and I shared examples of low cost ways to change the perceived value of outdoor recreation to the community.

    Unlike some events where there are people from the same field discussing various issues, this conference continuously brings together professionals from different disciplines to discuss the important issue of play.

    What issues related to play concern you the most?

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