Play In More Places

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Photo: KABOOM!

Recently, KABOOM! launched a brilliant campaign to address the COVID-19 impact on children. The program is called At-Home Playground Kits. Here’s what they say about the kits.

Each kit includes items such as sidewalk chalk, pipe cleaners, crayons, coloring pages, origami play activities, and play prompts. The kits aim to promote physical activity while stimulating creativity. Our first deployment of these kits occurred on May 14, 2020, to families with kids attending public schools in Baltimore.

The At-Home concept is so inspiring, and I will be talking with my Rotary Club to do the same here in my hometown of Healdsburg.

We should not be surprised that KABOOM! should come up with this idea. Even though they are renowned for building play structures in neighborhoods that are play deserts, they are also very much involved with the notion of Play Everywhere. Here’s a quote from their highly informative and practical PlayBook.

Just as play benefits kids and communities in multiple ways, Play Everywhere has the potential to impact people’s lives and entire communities. When approached intentionally—analytically, deliberately, and holistically, with an understanding of the larger patterns, needs and challenges within a community—Play Everywhere can intersect with and support other community priorities, and help solve other community problems.

Reading through this empowering document got me thinking. The KABOOM! approach in this is mainly about urban placemaking. I got to wondering where else do children spend time that could use the same approach, i.e., providing practical advice and tools that are based on a deep understanding of child development? Almost anywhere, kids congregate, from after school programs to childcare, can benefit from better play experiences. What if a PlayKit is available to support Play Everywhere?

What would a PlayKit contain? Is there a model for that as well? Perhaps it can be like giant Legos with the same infinite creative potential. What are the design and performance criteria for a child configurable active play system?

  • Children must be able to construct and reconfigure the play experience without tools easily.
  • The elements of the system must be modular so that their constructions can vary in size and complexity to suit the needs of children from tots to teens.
  • The weight of the elements must be manageable by children. And conversely, the constructions they make must be able to support the weight of children.
  • Ideally, the elements should store easily, fit into a standard sedan, or at least, a pickup or van so that they can be placed where the kids are.
  • The system must meet applicable safety standards, including those for playground equipment and toys.
  • The system should be as affordable as possible.

Such a system is possible, and I’ve got some ideas about how to create such a kit. More to follow soon.

 

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