This week is Screen Free Week. Formerly known as TV Turnoff week, this is a week to encourage kids to have less time in front of a television, computer screen, video game, or handheld device. Studies have found that kids aged 8 to 12 spend 7 ½ hours a day, on average, in front of a screen. Today’s organization isn’t directly involved in Screen Free Week, but it does have a mission to encourage active play!
Kaboom was founded in 1996 by Darell Hammond. He was inspired after two young children suffocated in a car in Washington, D.C. in 1995. A Washington Post article about the incident indicated that the children had no playground nearby, so they climbed into an abandoned car. Darell was inspired and he became a man with a vision: “Play is the best natural resource in a creative economy. Kids need more of it—it is not a luxury but a necessity for their lives.”
Kaboom’s mission is to create great playspaces through the participation and leadership of communities. Kaboom ultimately envisions a place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Depending on where you live, you may think they are close, but throughout the United States, only 1 in 5 children live within walking distance of a playground. You can watch an inspiring video about their mission and program on their website.
Recently, Kaboom has moved from just focusing on building playgrounds themselves to advocacy for play and providing online tools to assist communities in planning their own play spaces. You can find their “do it yourself” playground planner on their website. This planner offers everything from free websites to bring your team together to a vendor directory with reviews. There are also side projects included, such as adding shaded areas and benches to help make an existing playground more inviting.
This year Kaboom is celebrating their 15th birthday! In June they will be building their 2000th playground! They estimate that since their founding, they have saved play for about 3.5 million kids just with the playgrounds they have directly built.
Kaboom offers many ways to become involved.
- Your community can apply to be a community partner to help plan and build a playground. New playgrounds are funded through community fundraising and corporate sponsorships. Playgrounds are planned in advance and then built by 200 to 600 volunteers in one day.
- Communities or organizations can also hold a play day in your local community. This is a day of community games and activities meant to encourage play. Click here to learn more about Play Days.
- Use the online tools provided on Kaboom.org to build or improve a local playground.
- Help develop the Map of Play. This interactive map allows you to search for playgrounds near you, review them, and add additional playgrounds that aren’t listed. Soon an iPhone app will be available to allow to do this right from the park.
- Visit Kaboom.org and find even more ways to take action for play in your community.
- As with any organization, Kaboom also accepts donations. Monetary donations help Kaboom spread the word and offer additional online resources to advocate for play in America.
You can learn more about Kaboom on their website, www.kaboom.org. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. You can also read more about founder Darell Hammond in his book about Kaboom.