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Darell Hammond: 5 tips from his new book on how KaBOOM is ressurecting play

   /   Apr 25th, 2011Education, News
photo courtesy of KaBOOM!Most adults reflect fondly on the days when long hours spent at school were punctuated by a sunny and loud recess break. Playtime is an essential component in a child’s development, providing venues for creativity, allowing space to socialize informally, and giving opportunity to let loose energy.

But in a competitive world where children have high academic expectations, and where many communities are unable to demarcate space or time exclusively for children’s play, the importance of play seems to have fallen out of focus. The results are significant — including higher rates of obesity and mental-emotional disorders like hyperactivity.

Darell Hammond founded KaBOOM! nearly sixteen years ago to help create access to playgrounds and other play spaces for children all over the United States. Hammond has recently published KaBOOM: How One May Built a Movement to Save Play to share what he has learned while advocating for play’s critical role in child development. Hammond will be speaking about his book on Wednesday, April 27 at the New York Public Library (if interested please RSVP to April DeSimone, april at e4creaction dot org).

Five takeaways from KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play:

  1. Social change involves personal transformation: Hammond wants readers to know that anyone can make an impact, regardless of where you’re from. He grew up in a group home and didn’t graduate from college. Many people think you need some sort of special pedigree or a fancy degree, but change comes within.
  2. How an organization becomes successful: In 15 years, KaBOOM! raised $200 million, mainly from corporations, and leveraged the efforts of a million volunteers. These achievements were not without failure, but Hammond was intent on learning from those failures through maintaining an attitude of humility and vulnerability. Also, KaBOOM was taking an innovative approach to a social problem by creating public-private partnerships, before it was commonplace.
  3. Do more and do better: KaBOOM is not just intent on becoming a main playground builder; they are also focused on building better playgrounds, and giving people the tools and community-base to do things on their own. For example, in some cases people have simply organized a front-yard “playborhood.” And sometimes the best playground can be found in a front yard, with a stick, and an empty box.
  4. Our culture needs to reevaluate the importance of play: Play is not a luxury, Hammond insists. It’s through play that kids build the social skills, muscular development, and creativity that’s necessary not only for a joyous childhood but also a productive adulthood. And it needs to be child-directed, child-initiated play, unstructured play.
  5. Parents’ attitudes matter: Hammond laments that, these days, kids don’t roam far, because parents won’t let them out of their sight, and this contributes to indoor screen time (and more video games and TV). What’s required for substantial changes in playtime is a twin engine approach: to have more playful kids, we also need more playful adults, so that they understand what their kids are getting out of it. But adults also need to let kids simply play, even if there are rewards and failures: skinned knees and dirty clothes. A happy child is generally a muddy and messy child.

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