None of us gets enough of it.
We run, we hurry, we stress. We don’t sleep enough. We feel pulled in ten thousand directions. Having a four year old has reminded me, a lot lately, how important it is sometimes to just stop.
Stop and PLAY!
Take life less seriously for a little while.
Be silly. Let go.
It does wonders for my mood and stress levels, and it leaves me with a happily exhausted little girl who never fails to amaze me with her imaginative play.
It’s good for us. It’s good for you too. That’s the nature of play. It’s mutually beneficial. And now that my job revolves around play, I’m learning a lot about what it can do, and even more about who needs more of it.
I work at KaBOOM!
KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.
My specific job is working on our Map of Play. It’s a search tool for finding cool new playgrounds, but it’s also a way for us to track information about where playgrounds are located, who uses them, and what kind of shape they’re in. By doing that, we know a lot more about which kids don’t have access to safe playspaces, and we’re learning a lot about how that can impact them.
· Only one out of five children in the United States lives within walking distances of a park or playground. This statistic worsens in low-income neighborhoods (CDC, 2010).
· As levels of play have decreased, levels of obesity have skyrocketed; the prevalence of obesity in six to 11 year olds has more than tripled since the 1970s (Ogden, 2002).
· Free play gives children an outlet to express their emotions and feelings and helps them to develop a sense of who they are. (Santer and Griffiths, 2007).
So how do I help?
How do YOU help?
There’s a lot you can do.
If you have kids, get them outside every day. Get their bodies moving, their hearts pumping, their minds engaged in creating fantastic worlds defined by only their own imaginations. Let them set the rules. Stand back and watch magic happen.
If you want to make a bigger impact, make a change in a community, and help change the way people think about play, you can help improve the information KaBOOM! has about playgrounds, parks, and sports fields.
You can search on the Map of Play for a new playground.
Even better, you can check out the ones in your community. Add ratings and pictures to let us know which spaces need work. The information helps us understand where kids are in the most need, and that can make a big difference!
I’ve started adding playgrounds in my neighborhood to the mobile site with my iPhone, and I’m discovering a lot more than I thought I would. I’m noticing playgrounds I’ve passed one hundred times.
I’m taking the time to get out and play at new parks. I’m finding hidden gems all over, and some spaces that really need a loving intervention. Even better, my daughter and I spend a lot more time laughing.
Heather Hurd is a BLOGGER & the Map of Play Coordinator at KaBOOM! She works to promote the importance of play through the mapping initiative, focuses on outreach/community relationships that help build awareness around the importance of healthy, happy, engaged children in our country.