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  • Life Lessons You Can Only Learn Playing on the Playground

    Playtime for children is a fundamental part of our early years. Many parents and educators see playtime as a way for children to have fun and enjoy their time as kids. However, research is increasingly showing that this early experience can have a profound, positive impact that can last well into a child’s adult life. There are many benefits of play for children. Playtime, recess and time in the playground give children a chance to move around, interact with other children, extended their skills, learn new things and work on physical, social, emotional and sensory development.
  • Sun Safety for Kids on the Playground

    Playgrounds help children get outside to enjoy the fresh air and the sun. Playing outside is a great way to get children to exercise and to socialize, but there’s a pretty big danger for anyone who looks up: the sun. Being outside in the sun can help children get vitamin D, which is beneficial to their health. Unfortunately, sun damage and sun burns can easily occur. When children play on the playground, especially, they can easily lose track of the time and get a significant sunburn.
  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Inside Design: Branch Out

    I’ve worked in the playground equipment industry for decades and one of the best aspects of my job is getting to see firsthand the pure joy that play brings to children. My team and I work hard ensuring we’re continually innovating and designing equipment that keeps children excited about free play.

    For a while we’ve been intrigued by the renewed interest in nature play and frankly, a bit disenchanted by the current state of post and platform playgrounds. Having discussed these two factors extensively, our brainstorms and design sessions eventually led us to Branch Out. Launched in January 2016, Branch Out is a large play component inspired by the play that happens in trees.

    In retrospect, I think designing Branch Out was an extremely fascinating process. While the tree seemed like a good starting point, we were always very sure about not wanting to replicate it. After all, why create something that already exists? Plus, we can’t compete with the beauty of our planet’s natural landscape. Our goal, instead, with Branch Out was to draw more people to the playground and in doing so, we focused on bringing to life an inclusive play component and creating meaningful play experiences for children of all ages in an open, efficient layout.

    Designed for children ages 5-12, it has the scale to become the central hub of any playground. However, it is transparent, non-directional and open. And with play happening on multiple levels and directions, people to can imagine their own story as they play.

    Additionally, the complexity of elements and absence of an obvious play path foster physical and cognitive engagement, effective hand-eye coordination, decision making, greater individual challenge, risk management, a deeper understanding of the surrounding and the opportunity for social interaction among children.

    Our team designed Branch Out as a play component that encourages kids to embrace new challenges and play activities. It is my hope that this piece will encourage kids and adults alike to step outdoors and head to a playground.

    What other aspects of nature play would you like to rediscover on the playground?

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