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Imaginative Play

  • Engaging young minds with custom playgrounds

    At Playworld, we’re always looking for ways to help little folks laugh, learn, and grow. Our playgrounds often serve as foundations of children’s play, allowing them to develop skills and discover the world around them. Research shows that imaginative, make-believe play helps develop a variety of mental abilities, including sustained attention, memory, logical reasoning, language and literacy skills, as well as creativity.

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    To entice even the youngest of minds to the playground, it is critical to create unique, modern spaces that kids will want to explore. Custom playgrounds can provide children with exciting play spaces that spark their curious imaginations. Thinking “custom” means a bigger price tag? Don’t worry, there are many ways to customize a playground for any budget. All you need to get started is a stellar idea to infuse personality into the play space.

    Playworld, along with our network of distributors, will listen to your needs and soak up inspiration from your local community. These unique projects provide a creative atmosphere for children and can help playgrounds fit effortlessly into their surroundings.

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    For example, children living at Joint Base Charleston, an Air Force facility, are flying high thanks to a new, custom playground. The play space features two areas, one for kids ages 5-12 and the other for those ages 2-12. A rocket-themed play structure was a completely custom piece designed specifically for this community of air base families. The structure for younger children features play panels with custom graphics that resemble the design of the C-17 Globemaster planes that call the air base home. The playground allows young kids to play in a space that fits seamlessly into their community. The familiarity also provides children with a comfortable environment while giving them a platform for imaginative play. For the young kids residing on the base, the sky is limit at their airplane-focused playground.

    From playgrounds featuring planes and trains to hockey, whimsical gardens and everything in between, Playworld can help make today’s dream tomorrow’s reality.  Learn about some of our  custom playground projects and start designing yours today.

  • 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?

  • Scattered showers with a 100 percent chance no one else will be at the playground

    Chantal Panozzo is an American writer who spent almost a decade in Switzerland. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and many other publications. The author of Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known, she is a mom to a four-year-old puddle jumping daughter. Together, often dressed from head to toe in rubbery wonderfulness, they continue to embrace the European lifestyle they once lived, even from their new home in the Chicago suburbs.

    My daughter and I both love Peppa Pig for the same reason: she joyfully jumps in muddy puddles. Being British, Peppa Pig goes outside when Americans don’t. My daughter—even though she’s also American—plays outside in less than optimal weather too. She can’t help it—she was born and spent her first three years in Switzerland, where playtime was almost always synonymous with outdoor time.

    Oh, to enjoy the weather. To really and truly sing in the rain instead of watching someone else do so in a movie. To see your breath in the cold air. To feel a snowflake on your tongue. But as I have learned after moving back to the U.S. after spending almost a decade in Europe, embracing the weather is un-American. We hide in our heated and air conditioned houses year-round, allowing our temperature-controlled surroundings to create the perfect climate for couch sitting while we wait for the four perfect days a year we consider the great outdoors great.

    As a mother in Switzerland, I didn’t think twice about dressing my infant daughter in an enormous snowsuit and placing her atop a picnic table at 7,000 feet above sea level while my husband and I drank in the cold Alpine air like its own après ski offering. We snow shoed through knee-deep mountain trails with our daughter on our back. We sat outside at Swiss cafes year round while our daughter sat bundled in a specially designed sleep sack attached to her mountain stroller. We hiked in the rain. We hiked when it was hot. We hiked when it was cold. And when our daughter learned to walk, she hiked in every kind of weather too.

    So imagine my surprise when we moved back to the States and I took my daughter’s collection of rubber rain pants, boots, and big coats to her new Montessori school only to find that they spent more time on her coat hook than on her. Weather has power over American children, not vice versa. The notes from the school told us just that when they reminded us of the appropriate temperatures for outdoor play.

    If you observe what most American kids wear, you wouldn’t know what season it is. Sweaters are worn in the summer since air conditioning allows us to forget its summer. Mary Janes are worn on snowy days since walking outdoors is not something a car culture encourages. And rainy days don’t inspire rain boots and rubber pants, but YouTube videos of British pigs jumping in puddles while American children, ever dry and climate controlled, watch them have all the fun.

    Recently, I visited a Finnish father of a 3-year-old, who had moved to New York City after living in Helsinki, Düsseldorf, and London.

    “I don’t get it,” he said. “My new son’s school tells me I overdress him. I’m just dressing him properly for the weather so he can play outside.”

    “Do you have those European rain pants too?” I asked.

    He nodded and I smiled. “Perfect. Let’s go to the park.”

    It was cold; there were scattered showers in the forecast but also a 100 percent chance that we didn’t care. As the kids joyfully went up and down the slides in a Central Park playground, my Finnish friend and I looked around, but there wasn’t much to see. We were in a city of 8.4 million, yet thanks to a few dark clouds, we had the playground to ourselves.

  • Ramona Quimby in 2016

    This week iconic children’s book author Beverly Cleary turns 100. For the uninitiated, 91 million copies of her books have been sold since 1950. One of her most famous characters is Ramona Quimby, a feisty child whose upbringing was nothing short of “free range” by today’s standards.

    In a Washington Post article recognizing the milestone, Cleary said, “I don’t think I joined this century. I think children today have a tough time, because they don’t have the freedom to run around as I did — and they have so many scheduled activities.”

    Cleary points to the idea that when she was growing up, the majority of mothers worked inside of the home and that all mothers kept their eyes on all children in the neighborhood. She cites this as one of the reasons for the characters in her books being out and about without adult chaperones.

    In her books, Ramona isn’t overscheduled or coddled. She has fun by stretching her imagination and taking initiative. But Ramona isn’t just having a good time in the books. When things go awry along the way, we witness her learning from her various missteps.

    In 2016, Ramona’s parents would likely be reported to the authorities for letting her wander the neighborhood on her own. I don’t remember once reading about her parents scheduling a play date, hovering at the playground or carting her from music lesson to sports practice. Instead, I recall an adventurous, free spirited girl who inspired me to think for myself, question authority and be comfortable with not always fitting in.

    Do you remember reading books in the Ramona series? Which of Ramona’s free range adventures do you remember most fondly?

  • What kids need from adults?

    You might think kids today have it good – endless amounts of information at their fingertips, devices to occupy their time, emojis so they can talk in code to their friends and almost no one has to walk to school anymore.

    But you know what I think? Being a kid today is hard. Think about it. Most kids and teenagers have boatloads of homework, but before they can tackle that work, they have to take a music lesson and go to soccer practice. Some kids even have scheduled play dates. But what about just letting loose and having time for free play? That, my friends, is why being a kid today is hard. There is too little time to relax and be carefree – and really important aspects of development happen when adults back off and let kids explore through unstructured play.

    Honestly, every time I speak to an adult about early child development and developing all sorts of skills, I’m left thoroughly confused. Folks want their kids to be quick learners but don’t want them to spend time doing stuff (read: playing) that might actually benefit them. The general thinking is that play and learning are two separate things, which, in my mind, is nothing short of crazy. Or, as I believe the kids are saying, cray cray.

    For me, the issue of play is serious and this conversation with Erika Christakis struck a chord.

    Her new book, The Importance of Being Little, is a plea for adults - educators and parents alike -  to forgo the mind numbing flashcards, old school worksheets and teaching Mandarin to preschoolers in favor of good old-fashioned play (um, when did play become old-fashioned and can we please change this?).

    Christakis writes, "the distinction between early education and official school seems to be disappearing."

    Why can’t more people get on this page and forget the widely accepted norms? I often wonder why we’re complicating things so much when the answer’s really quite simple. Let your kids play!

    What kids really need right now is for adults to start acting. We need to stop forcing them into so called “meaningful” activities when all they really need to (and want to) do is to play in the mud or roll in the grass. Want to explain the theory of gravity? Don’t just have them read about it in a musty textbook. Go to the playground and have them drop several objects from different heights of playground structures. Above all, make sure you work towards creating relevant and rich play experiences that foster a sense of security and emotional well-being among your kids.

    Stop looking at play as an option; make play a priority!

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