By Grant Walter, PLAYTIME Chief Operating Officer
KaBOOM.org is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping parents make time for play with their children. Its mission is “to create great playspaces through the participation and leadership of communities.” Ultimately, KaBOOM hopes that there is a place to play within walking distance of every child in America.
Now, let’s get the cynical stuff out of the way right here… Yes, PLAYTIME designs and manufactures soft playgrounds. Yes, we are a for-profit company and, therefore, it only makes sense that we think KaBOOM’s mission is fantastic.
But please set your cynicism aside for a minute and consider this: PLAYTIME is populated by a bunch of moms and dads who love to play with their kids! We also have some very active, involved grandparents working here. That means we “get it!” We know the challenges of making time for play when time is so precious!
I have two young kids. Between school, extracurricular activities, homework and just running around, my wife and I feel like we could collapse at the end of every day. Yet, it feels like there’s always some new expert saying, “Make time for play,” and all we can think is: “When?!”
Then, I read the stats and findings from KaBOOM’s research and thought, “Right now! I must do this now and always.”
Here are some troubling trends in play today from the KaBOOM report:
- A study comparing mothers to their children found that 70 percent of mothers said they played outside every day when they were girls, while only 31 percent said their children did the same. And 56 percent said they played outside for three or more hours, while only 22 percent said this about their children.
- Moreover, 85 percent said children today play outside less often than children of a few years ago. 85 percent said the top reason for this decline was time spent watching TV and playing computer/video games.
- According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, between 1999 and 2009 on a typical day, young people spend more than 7 hours on screen time. That’s almost four months out of a year!
- KaBOOM also found that there is a lack of quality play spaces for children: “Gaining access to quality play spaces is a major barrier impacting opportunities for children to play. In a recent poll, 59% of parents reported having no outdoor play space within walking distance of their home; in lower income neighborhoods, the number jumped to 69%.”
Doesn’t that make you just sad? Do you have a playground within walking distance from your home? If not, could you advocate for one? Is there a new development going up nearby? Might you approach the developer and inquire about their playground plans?
In another study, Michael M. Patte, Ph.D., Professor of Education at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, challenged city planners to make time (and space) for play: “Town and city planners need to consider the play lives of its youngest members when organizing community spaces. These spaces should be free, accessible, and child-friendly places for children to play.”
PLAYTIME does “put its money where its mouth is.” We donated a completely new play area to Brent’s Place, a home for immune-compromised children in Denver. Those children literally cannot play where other children play because even a mild cold virus could harm them significantly. We believed that those kids, especially, needed a play outlet.
What if you convinced your neighborhood association or a nearby developer or the town council to install a new play area? Think of the legacy just one playground would create in your neighborhood! Healthier kids, smarter kids, happier families, and a nicer place to live.
Let’s all make time for play! Our kids deserve it.