During the summer holidays, does the average North American child:
a) Get in better physical health?
b) Get in worse physical health?
c) Stay about the same in terms of physical health?
Surprisingly and sadly, it is b. The average child gets in worse physical shape during the summer holidays. Yikes! Kids these days, eh?
What can we do about Children’s Physical Health During the Summer Holidays?
KaBOOM!, a nonprofit organization that has been working for almost two decades to build playgrounds (over 2000 to date!) across Canada and the US, has a fun summer challenge to help get us all outdoors and playing in playgrounds. (You may have read my previous post on reseeding playgrounds with kids to benefit kids, neighbourhoods, and more.) I was able to interview Kerala Taylor at KaBOOM! (the lady who dreamed up this wonderful summer challenge) to find out a more about KaBOOM! and why this organization feels strongly about playgrounds and neighbourhood play.
Interview with Kerala Taylor of KaBOOM!
It’s All Kid’s Play/Jean: Why does KaBOOM! feel playgrounds are important to children, families, and communities?
KaBOOM!/Kerala: A good playground exercises a child’s mind as well as his/her body, and kids learn valuable social skills as they navigate the equipment together. In a day and age where 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese and kids spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen, it’s absolutely crucial that we give them the time and space to play outdoors. A good playground is not only for kids, either! It can serve as an essential community hub where neighbors can gather and socialize. Playgrounds help make for greener cities; better schools; safer neighborhoods; and healthier, happier, and smarter children.
Jean: What do you hope your Summer Playground Challenge–visiting as many playgrounds as you can from July 2-August 12th–will accomplish?
Kerala: The Playground Challenge gives families a chance to play together, be active, explore their communities, and meet new neighbors. As they map the playgrounds they visit, they help other parents in their community identify great places to play. They also help us at KaBOOM! identify “play deserts” – that is, the areas where more playgrounds need to be built. This is a crucial first step in working toward our vision of a playground within walking distance of every child.
Jean: I love the idea of an app to help people find playgrounds–an especially great tool for traveling families. (I know I’ll be using this app a lot to find playgrounds when we travel.) Tell us a little more about the app and how it fits into the challenge. Do you need a smart phone to participate?
Kerala: Our new Tag! app will make it a breeze for Playground Challenge participants to photograph the playgrounds they visit, and, in the process, automatically input the GIS data so the playground can be added to our Map of Play. For every playground you photograph with the Tag! app you’ll be entered to win great prizes in a biweekly drawing.
Participation is much easier with a smart phone, but we’ll offer ways for folks without smart phones to take part as well.
Jean: What are some prizes participants can win in your Summer Playground Challenge? Other than the gift of the great outdoors, physical activity, and new friends?
Kerala: We’ll be offering $500 in great gift cards every other week – stay tuned for more details! And the most gung-ho Playground Challengers will have a chance to win one of our three Grand Prizes – a trip for two to Washington, DC.
Jean: I asked my daughter, age 9, who is an avid playground lover who is helping me test and add playgrounds to the Android beta Playground app, what she was curious about when it came to playgrounds. She asked, “How do you plan out a playground and decide what to put in it? Where do you find the materials?” Can you help us answer what makes a good playground?
Kerala: That’s a great question! We’re actually pretty unhappy with the general state of playgrounds today. As we’ve become increasingly litigious and paranoid about safety issues, we seem to have squeezed nearly every element of challenge and risk from our playgrounds, resulting in uninspiring, sterile play environments. Part of what we grapple with is how to add more innovation and “danger” to our playgrounds.
As part of our process, we always host a Design Day where we ask for designs from the playground experts – that is, the kids! We try to incorporate elements from their drawings into the final playground designs. After all, they’re the ones who will be playing on the playground, so they should have some input in the process.
Jean: That sounds like a ton of fun! I can’t wait for July so I can join the challenge. Last one to the top of the slide is “it” for Grounders!
A special thank you to Kerala from KaBOOM!.
I hope to see you out on the playground this summer as part of KaBOOM’s playground challenge. For more information on how you can join this challenge, visit their website. As well, I’ll be posting more about KaBOOM!’s app and challenge as the summer rolls on. Play on.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Over to you… One of my favourite things to play on the playground as a kid was “Monster.” (It was like tag but on the monkey bars. The the “it” player was a monster who couldn’t climb the monkey bars and had to stay on the ground and try to tag us monkeys up on the bars.) How about you? What was your favourite thing about the playground as a kid?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Kerala Taylor manages online content and outreach for KaBOOM!. She is also co-founder of Glimpse.org, author of How Things Break, and a blogger for BabyCenter.com. A proud new mama, she’ll be making sure her daughter gets plenty of healthy, unstructured, outdoor play.