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Unstructured Outside Play

  • Play like a champ: making every Sunday ‘super’

    On Sunday, the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos will go head to head in Super Bowl 50.

    Super Bowl Sunday is no doubt an awesome day to hangout with friends, crack open a drink and snack on wings and hoagies. But I think Sundays in general are an ideal time for sneaking in some much needed play.

    Even the NFL agrees. The organization runs NFL PLAY 60, a campaign designed to tackle childhood obesity by getting kids active through in-school, after-school and team-based programs and partnerships with like-minded associations.

    So how can you make this and every Sunday super? Aim for play!

    Weather or not
    Sort of like the US Postal Service, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night, should keep us from playing. Commit to making Sunday a play day regardless of the weather or season.

    Dress for adventure
    Instead of sporting your “Sunday best”, opt for sweats or other casual clothes. Head outside with the family and see what happens. Make mud puddles your friend.

    Who’s the boss?
    Let the kids decide how they want to spend their time outside. Start shifting away from adult-dictated and supervised play to kid-directed free play. As a dad, I’ve seen many positive changes when I empower my boys.

    How do you ensure playtime for your family on the weekends?

  • Playground trends to watch out for in 2016

    Do you remember being a kid, tearing through the neighborhood with your friends for hours? If you were anything like me, afternoons were spent at the playground, riding bikes and maybe a quick pick-up game. But things have really changed when it comes to children’s freedom to explore and play. If you were to fall asleep on a playground in the ‘70s and wake up in 2016, you’d probably have a tough time guessing what happened to the carefree, playful vibe.

    I’m an optimist and think we can get back to a place where kids can play with their friends and learn about the world around them in an organic, fun manner. I also look at my peers and think a lot of adults would benefit from letting loose and absorbing the advantages of play.

    So, what might a playground or free play look like in 2026? It’s hard to predict what anything will look like a decade from now but I am starting to see a positive shift.

    Check out my take on play trends and predictions for 2016:

    Adult playgrounds
    Gymtimidation. That funky odor. There are lots of reasons that keep people from hitting the gym. Getting a great workout doesn’t need to happen within the walls of a fitness facility. I’m much more motivated to get my workout outside and know I’m not the only one who likes a little fresh air. In fact, playgrounds for adults are being planned in several states across the country. You might want to reconsider your gym membership and head to a park instead. I’m not sure the schoolyard monkey bars were this tough.

    Pocket parks
    Do you know that cities nationwide are working towards creating family-friendly, kid-friendly environments that promote play everywhere? They’re doing this by building pocket parks – transforming unused corners and roads into hubs of recreation.

    Free-range parenting
    Step away from your child. A lot of people are beginning to realize that it’s ok not to hold their child’s hand all day. More parents are embracing free-range parenting, the concept of raising children in the spirit of encouraging them to function independently in accordance of their age.

    Forest-kindergartens
    I recently read an article on Swiss Waldkindergartens, forest kindergartens, where children spend all day playing outdoors, regardless of weather. The Swiss don’t begin studying math or literacy until the first grade and are using this first year of school to focus on the social interaction and emotional well-being found in free play. I dream that we’ll embrace this type of thinking here in the States sometime soon. To combat the development issues facing our kids, parents should embrace the idea of an unconventional learning system.

    Return of recess
    This trend has my Playworld team jazzed. I was an energetic kid – a trait I passed down to my own sons – and I have a hard time picturing any one of us chained to a desk all day. I truly believe recess is critical for children. The absence of recess in American schools has been a trend for the past several years. But things are looking up. New Jersey’s Senate and Assembly have unanimously passed a legislation that would require a 20-minute daily recess for all students in kindergarten through fifth grade. I’m hopeful that other states across the country will follow suit.

    What play-related trends have you excited?

  • Achieving healthy New Year's resolutions through play

    It’s that time of year again. The resolve to better oneself is underway. However, as time passes we find our enthusiasm dwindling. Have you ever wondered why New Year’s resolutions are so easy to make but so difficult to keep? More often than not, it’s because we fail to introduce a fun element to the resolution, making it seem like a chore.

    Play is one of our best bets at achieving a resolution. It brings us joy and enhances our quality of life. Here are some resolutions play can help us accomplish:

    Losing weight
    Losing weight is one of the most popular New Year resolutions. Joining a gym is another equally popular idea. How about skipping the gym and spending an hour playing outside every day instead? Chances are that we’ll enjoy it a lot more and get some fresh air, all while improving our fitness. Plus – it’s free.

    Improving relationships 
    Play can improve relationships. Playing with our partners, children, friends and family can be a great way of spending quality time together and reinvigorating our bond with them

    Eliminating stress
    We work too hard and play too little. Spending even 30 minutes a day playing or doing something recreational can take our minds off our worries and improve our state of mind

    Higher productivity 
    Everyone wants to be more productive. Taking part in unstructured play on a regular basis impacts the brain positively by increasing motivation and memory, driving efficiency, resulting in increased creativity and productivity

    Volunteering
    We often think about how we want to contribute towards society and create a positive impact. Play is the simplest and most meaningful solution. Several underserved communities around the country do not have access to unstructured, outdoor play. Identifying such communities and working with them to build play spaces and recreational zones is a great way to start volunteering

    How are you planning to incorporate play to achieve your New Year’s resolutions?

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