Playgrounds: Hazardous or Risky?

Adolescent Girls Riding Slide ca. 2000Play is play. It has elements of being self initiated and process oriented, and it should be fun! However, what happens when play becomes ‘dangerous’ and we suddenly stop playing and remove our kids from that immediate danger? Do we panic? Do we scream? What do we do?

The first thing we need to understand is that there is a difference between hazards and risks in the play environment. Hazards can easily lead to a dangerous situation whereas risks in a risky environment may not necessarily lead to a dangerous situation.

Hazardous = As unsafe as possible (it is clearly dangerous, and the chances of injury are high)

Risky = As safe as possible: Given the situation and the possibilities, there is an element of risk, but it is not hazardous.

Think about it as a stop light:

Green light: unstructured play on a brand new play space, with a mixture of natural and artificial play parts that are all safe and usable by all children. Within that space there are no hazards and children are playing naturally, jumping off small objects, running in various directions, and having fun.

Yellow light: the same as above except there are more opportunities for children to take risks. For example, the rocks they are jumping off may be higher, there may be a few logs they can walk and balance along, or they may have opportunities to play going from high to low objects. There may be some dirt, rust and or bugs present. However, these opportunities to take risks in this environment are present but are not hazardous.

Red light: Here the play space would have rusted, jagged artificial structures, old boards would allow for a child’s foot to easily poke through, and nuts/bolts would be exposed in multiple areas of movement. This environment would be a hazardous environment where it would no longer be risky to use this play space, but in fact hazardous.

Ultimately, it is up to you as a caregiver, parent, or playground supervisor as to what you choose to expose your children to. However, it is important to always ask yourself before allowing your child to play, “Is this play environment risky or hazardous to my child?”

 

Ryan & RioBy: Ryan Fahey, B.Ed, BKin

Ryan is a new regular blogger for the US Play Coalition. He is working to develop our Play Ambassador program and spread the word about the Value of Play.


Talking PLAY in Singapore!

DSC_3402  DSC_3408  Fran presenting at GUSA Congress in Singapore 11-2015

Earlier this month, several members of our steering committee were featured at GreenUrbanScape Asia 2015 – the region’s leading event for urban design, landscape and greenery. Co-chair Fran Mainella was the keynote speaker for the parks and recreation track of the conference held in Singapore. Her keynote address was “The Value of Play – A Key to Success for Cities and Nations.” Additionally, Fran offered a breakout session called, “The Play Prescription – An International Health Solution.”

Steering committee member and Playground Maintenance Training (PMT) Instructor Ken Kutska led a full PMT program as well as a session entitled “Facilitating the Balance between the Need for Safety and Risk: Whose job is it?” Both Ken and Fran participated in a panel discussion moderated by our own Tom Kalousek.

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Check Out Our 2015 Grant Winners

Grant funding is a distinctive feature of our annual Play Conference, and we are proud to have awarded $35,000 in funding to date. Through competitive funding opportunities, we offer both Action and Research Grants to playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement.

Our 2015 Research Grant Recipients from Appalachian State University have used our funds to pilot a 2015 researchgrantpediatrician prescription program for outdoor play targeting children.  Currently, we have 3 local pediatricians providing patients and their parents with “Outdoor Activity in Nature” prescriptions and info on local places for play and why play is important.

One of our 2015 Action Grant Recipients is Play at the Core from Right to Play.  This year, using our Action Grant Funds, Play at the Core has RTP action grant 2015piloted two different parent engagement formats—with the aim of familiarizing, and fostering confidence in using play-based learning practices in the home. They work in under-resourced Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in some of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in New York City located in the Bronx, Harlem, and Washington Heights.

Our other 2015 Action Grant Winners were from Missouri State University. Their project looked at 2015 action grant MSUproviding appropriate play experiences for children with autism.  They worked with 28 children, grades K-12, with ASD from the Rivendale Institute of Learning and Center for Autism in Springfield, MO, and approximately 25 undergraduate Kinesiology majors at MSU.

 


Inviting Parents Back onto the Playground

LTC Generation Swing_mom_kid2The new Generation Swing by Little Tikes Commercial brings a whole new dimension to swinging.

The new face-to-face adult/toddler Generation Swing means that parents and caregivers are no longer relegated to the sidelines, pushing or simply watching their child swing. Now adults can experience the joy of swinging along with their children.

The unique design encourages social development and intergenerational play. It’s even great for siblings, grandparents and other caregivers! Everyone knows how important it is for children to get out and play, but we often forget that adults can also get involved and increase the benefits for everyone. When a toddler makes eye contact with their parent, both experience a rush of joy. This emotional connection through play is known as attunement play, which is strengthened when parents and toddlers are able to swing face-to-face, both experiencing the joy of swinging together.

Learn more about the Generation Swing here.


The Habit of Play

Often times our days are filled with busy calendars. Our routines and commitments keep us so busy that we forget what is actually important. Play is often overlooked and replaced by other “productive” habits which are usually outcome driven.

However, if you are reading this you probably are already bought into the idea that play can invigorate your day, enrich your week, and if done frequently can change your life for the better. In a book I just read called The Power of Habit, the author describes this well. He claims that, “Our lives are nothing more than a series of habits”. He is right. Our lives are really just a series of habits and decisions we choose to create and sustain. When we move or change jobs we often replace old habits with new ones. If this is true, it is also true that we need to be mindful in incorporating play into our daily lives as we become adults of habits. Our habits become more engrained as we age and become harder to change. However, if you are going to increase the prevalence of play in your life you need to start slowly placing it into your life by replacing existing habits that are tightly established. This intentional change can happen to allow you to have time in your schedule dedicated to “Play.”

Whatever that form of play looks like is totally up to you! You could incorporate any form of play you want ONCE you have made a habit of allowing time for it to happen each day.

I know that in my own life I have to be very intentional about including play into my daily routine. For me, working out is a form of active play! I literally think of the gym as a giant playground. If you were to see me in a gym working out you would totally see that I am clearly playing and enjoying the process more than the outcome.

I have also made a conscious effort to set aside 15-20 min per day just for unstructured play time. That could be for walking in the park, writing poetry (creative play) or singing when I am cooking a nice meal.. Some days I find it challenging to include play into my schedule but once I know I have that 15-20 min I choose to make the most of it!

The important thing to remember from this blog is that you are totally in control of including play in your daily routines, and you are fully capable of including play in your lifelong habits. It is up to you. I choose to enjoy and enriching life filled with play each day. Will you choose playful habits?

 

Ryan & RioBy: Ryan Fahey, B.Ed, BKin

Ryan is a new regular blogger for the US Play Coalition. He is working to develop our Play Ambassador program and spread the word about the Value of Play.


A New Concept in Accessible Water Play

Central Park_Rosemount_MN_2014 (1)  Gilroy Gardens_Water Oasis_Waterpark (3)

A modular water play concept developed by Vortex Aquatic Structures, Water Journey™ combines up to 4 different play areas (Jet Dance, Labyrinth, Race, and Tide Pool), all inspired by the behavior of water in nature.

Water Journey™ provides an accessible play experience to children of different age groups and levels of development. Using water to provide sensory experiences of all kinds, Water Journey™ fosters mechanical explorations while also encouraging social interaction.

Water Journey™ promotes the use of play as a modality to stimulate motor, cognitive, sensory and social development. Children learn the relationship between actions and associated reactions as the water encounters the various game features such as gates, pumps, streams, jets and water mills.

Proving a hit at Gilroy Gardens in California, General Manager, Barbara-Lea Granter commented, “Water Journey™ is very popular with boys age six to eight – something we didn’t expect. They like the science of it, and to see the impact on the water. Guests are bringing their own rubber duckies and boats to place in the water and watch the water flows.”

Find out more about Water Journey™ here.

 

Jason Broadhurst is Director of Marketing for Vortex Aquatic Structures International.


#Playful Kids

monkeybars2Recently we sat down with Evie Houtz, Program Specialist for Be Active Kids in Raleigh, NC. Evie is a mother of two playful kids. She is a role model for living an active, healthy lifestyle! Here is what Evie had to say when we chatted with her about Play!

“As Play Ambassadors, it is our job teach our children how to be playful and physically active just as much as it is our job to teach them morals, values, social skills, and educational concepts.   Physical activity is any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure.   Physically active children will develop gross motor skills that later help them to take part in games and sports with their peers.  Physical activity helps children build strong hearts, muscles and bones, improve thinking skills, develop positive self-esteem and confidence and just have fun.

Kids of all ages need both structured and unstructured physically active play throughout the day.   Structured activities are adult led and have a specific learning objective.  This type of physical activity includes games like Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light and organized sports like t-ball or soccer.  Young children should get between 60-90 minutes of structured physical activity throughout the day.  Many of these structured activities help the child to learn a motor skill or increase competency in movement.  In addition children should take part in at least 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity or free play.  This type of physical activity is child centered, child led and child initiated.  Unstructured physical activity includes things like fort building, climbing trees, running around pretending to be magical beings or super heroes, or creating a city out of boxes.  Unstructured free play helps a child to be more creative, learn to experiment, to work cooperatively, and to think more critically.  Both types of physical activity should be spread throughout the day.

In helping a child to play more, know that you have many items you around you each day that can be used for active play.  We all have milk jugs that can turn in to targets or balls, sticks that can used as swords, plastic bags that turn into juggling scarves and mud that can be thrown to ward off the bad guys.  It takes some creativity, courage and a little out-of-the-box thinking, but it is so important. Getting kids active is essential to their long term health and well-being.   Studies have shown that the motivation to be active (exercise) in adulthood can be influenced by childhood experiences.”

For more ideas or how to use inexpensive items to increase physical activity, check out the Be Active Kids 8 one-pagers.

 

By: Ryan Fahey, B.Ed, BKin

Ryan is a new regular blogger for the US Play Coalition.  He is working to develop our Play Ambassador program and spread the word about the Value of Play.


US Play Coalition to partner with Nickelodeon for Worldwide Day of Play

Saturday, September 26 is Nickelodeon’s 12th Annual Worldwide Day of Play! The US Play Coalition is a partner for this FUN-omenal day! We are teaming up locally with the City of Clemson to have a Clemson Community Play Day from 12-3pm at Ashley Dearing Park in Clemson, SC. What are you doing in your community for the Worldwide Day of Play?!

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US Play Coalition brings PLAY to Greenville Drive baseball game

The US Play Coalition was highlighted along with LiveWell Greenville at the Greenville Drive game on Sunday, September 6.  Students from Clemson University’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management (PRTM) program lent a hand by staffing pre-game kids activities…and150 PRTM EDGE students were supporting us in the stands…not to mention all these PLAYful friends that joined in the fun! Check out the highlights from a GREAT day at the ballpark that ended with a WIN for the Greenville Drive!


Helping Teens Understand the Importance of Play

This month our executive director, Stephanie Garst, has had a few opportunities to share the importance of play with teens.

As a guest for the Clemson University Summer Scholars program on “Environmental Sustainability through Parks and Recreation,” Stephanie spent the morning with high schoolers from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and even New York.  They trekked to two local parks near campus to learn about the importance of play as a valuable and necessary part of a healthy and productive life, including its role in obesity prevention, education, and promoting connections with the environment. Tying in parks as areas for play, the students played childhood games and explored the playground, reflected on their respective childhood play experiences, worked with each other to invent and play new games, and discussed why PLAY is important in their lives.

Stephanie also welcomed over 100 South Carolina 4H leaders to Clemson University for their 2015 State Congress. She led them in a rousing version of Boom Chicka Boom, facilitated this epic game of RoShamBo Rock Star and challenged them to bring PLAY into the work they do for 4H.