A great article about how building playful spaces leads to more, and better, play.
Can playgrounds make kids smarter? Yes, say the experts, and landscape architects everywhere are responding. Welcome to outdoor play’s new reality.
All work and no play makes jack a dull boy. Granted, Jack does not lack for innovative toys and gadgets. But what Jack really needs is better playgrounds. These days, reality is exchanged for a simulation of reality, and the sandbox is abandoned in pursuit of the virtual. Cognitive scientists, however, are finding that the unstructured activity children engage in at the playground fosters the social and intellectual abilities they need to succeed in life. Monkey bars and swing sets present opportunities to develop new skills, encourage autonomous thinking and promote flexible problem solving – but they also shape the brain. This is good news. With technology taking over so much of our lives, increased pressure on children to compete academically at a much younger age, and helicopter parenting restricting play for fear of potential danger, many experts – such as David Elkind, psychologist and author of The Hurried Child – are drawing attention to the “reinvention of childhood.” It is time we also reinvent the playground.
A first-hand account of being involved in a large community-organized play event.
As much as I love Philadelphia, I never considered it a breeding ground for innovation, but over the past few years, the city has built up enough of a tech scene to spawn an entire week dedicated to celebrating it. To kick off its fourth year, Philly Tech Week gave locals the chance to play Tetris on the Cira Centre, a building conspicuous for bearing a grid of color changing LEDs that sometimes display the Phillies logo. It’s the second game Drexel University professor Frank Lee has brought to the Cira Centre, topping his giant Pong game last year. “What was gratifying for me about the Pong project last year was not that it was the world’s biggest videogame display, although that’s kind of cool. Rather, it was the sharing of the moment by the two people playing, the hundreds of people watching, and thousands of people across Philadelphia watching,” says Lee. Similarly, giant Tetris is more of an art project than a feat for the record books. Lee aims to create a social benefit, what he calls an “aesthetic of a shared moment.”
Just a fun side note: being part of a large collected effort, whether it’s volunteering at a beach cleanup or playing group Tetris, is very beneficial to mental health as well.
This past Saturday was International Pillow Fight Day, for example, and it received a lot of positive feedback from grown-ups who participated, even with the occasional mention of a hard hit. So pull out the cubes and let’s get it on!
We’re too late to join Elisabeth Stone on her group session she had back in February, but I still loved this idea of making a 21 day challenge to get outside!
21 Days in the Woods is a connection project to get you and your family out in the woods once a day for 21 days. It is well-structured and adaptable to any age range. When you purchase your immediate download of the workbook, you can choose to work through it now or later
An older article, but too charming and innovative not to share on the blog:
A patchwork quilt aims to combat separation issues and distress in hospitalised children by allowing them to helping them to communicate with their families using augmented reality.
Each of the quilt’s 20 squares is decorated with a unique multi-coloured animal or plant design and can be linked to an individual friend or family member. Loved ones can then leave messages for children to access with Aurasma, an app which uses the camera on a phone or tablet to recognise the unique image and overlay content — a picture, photo or video — so that it pops up on the screen.
The quilt is designed to serve as both a comforting, tactile object and a method of communication
Having fun, exciting spaces to play is important for both kids and grown-ups, so it’s nice to see what’s out there for kids, and hopefully grown-ups will follow suit.
When you’re a kid, visiting an amazing playground is the greatest experience ever. And these fantasy-themed playgrounds around the world have us wishing that we were kids again so we could run around in them like small, crazy people.
Sometimes all it takes is one person to start a neighborhood to start talking and engaging with one another. Someone moves in and throws an open house. Or even a garage sale. So how can art, or an artist, inject “love and play” into a community, particularly when the younger generations trust each other less than ever before?
San Francisco-based artist Hunter Franks is on a three-week mission across several different cities to explore just that, and hopefully get some “creative intervention” going in these urban areas.
One Franks’s planned activities is something called “Vacant Love,” which aims to transform abandoned or neglected buildings with messages of affection. Another, called the “Free Portrait Project” asks residents to sit for a Polaroid photo taken by Franks, and during the 120 seconds it takes for the picture to develop, entertain a brief interview about their lives. Other interventions include two-way advice booths, for citizens to both give and take advice from one another, as well as an activity that asks people to write sticky notes about their loves and fears on a public wall. Franks will also be expanding his SF Postcard Project, in which he gathered postcards written from low-income San Francisco neighborhoods and mailed them to homes in ritzier ZIP codes.
What activities have you seen, or even been engaged in, that got a neighborhood members involved and communicating? For some, even a Little Free Library can get the ball rolling. Tell us your experiences in the comments below.
Taking time to destress and be creative has great benefits, both physically and mentally. Take knitting, for example:
It turns out that knitting has incredible health benefits. It makes people feel good in just about every way. A bit of research has revealed a wide range of ways in which knitting helps humans cope, physically and mentally.
1. Knitting is used for therapy. It’s a powerful distractant, helping people manage long-term physical pain. For those who are depressed, knitting can motivate them to connect with the world. It is a conversation starter, allowing people to interact politely without making eye contact. It builds confidence and self-esteem.
2. Knitting is supremely relaxing, which is extremely important for reducing stress and anxiety. Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, wrote The Relaxation Response, in which he recommends the repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or muscular activity to elicit “the relaxation response” – decreased heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure. Knitting is likened to meditation, sometimes described by knitters as “spiritual” and “Zen-like.”
I have always felt like I SHOULD learn how to knit, but I actually find the idea of having to keep count and keep track of where I’m at stressful, but maybe I should just give it a try. Thoughts? Leave them in the comments below.
I love this idea of essentially creating exercise Easter eggs for people around the city. It makes people think of their surroundings in totally new, possibly more sporty ways.
The UK government is backing a new fitness initiative that includes putting calorie-counting labels on staircases so people can keep track of how many calories they burn while taking the stairs.
The project, which was developed by StepJockey, includes an app and a website to help people count the calories burned when taking the stairs. The project is backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, the Department of Health, and NHS London.
The initiative was inspired by food labels that inform people of the calories they are consuming. According to their website, the initiative is “about the other side of the equation,” which entails labeling the physical world to promote fitness and weight loss.
People can “rate” unlabeled staircases by sending enough information for StepJockey to calculate how many calories would be burned when using it. The details can then be printed on a poster that they can put up near the staircases.
I love the concept of interacting with the real world and have crowd sourced information. Plus it’s fun to see spots pop up and know you’re part of the "in crowd," plus some friendly peer pressure to get active.
BRINGING PLAY BACK TO THE STREET: Get ready! This summer – June & July, 2014 – Champa Street in Denver, from 14th Street to the 16th Street Mall, will be transformed into a street arcade like you’ve never seen. This isn’t your father’s old-school arcade. Powered through a combination of the Denver Theatre District’s LED screens, building projections, street art, social media and a website, this immersive arcade is going to be a gaming experience for all!
ON THE WEB: The public will be able to interact with video game characters through personalized Twitter profiles powered by local improv comedians from Bovine Metropolis.
ON THE STREET: Once you’re on Champa Street, you’ll feel it – the pulse of the arcade bringing downtown to life. To play at the arcade is to be immersed in each game. The entire two city blocks will be full of street art and custom structures that will transport players to a modern game world. The enormity and excitement is going to blow people away.
GAMES: Built by the Denver-based, award-winning creative team of Legwork Studio and Mode Set, the games will allow players to use a smart phone and their body as controllers while playing on the huge Denver Theater District LED screens, as well as projections on buildings. Microsoft Kinect devices will be utilized so participants feel like they’ve jumped right into the video games.
This sounds like a really great way to get people playing together in public spaces.
(Word to the wise, if you have a play-based Kickstarter event, toy, program, or other play-related thing you are trying to get attention for, let me know about it as it is pretty much guaranteed to get some blog time.)