Tag Archives: KaBOOM

Stoneham Family Fair – thoughts

I’m starting to recover, about a week after the big event. For those who missed the whole thing, I organized a family day to benefit rebuilding AP Rounds Playground with two of the most awesome partners imaginable: Tania and Lindsay.

We had 80+ish craft and food vendors, 11 sponsors, a train ride, a golf game, face-painting, balloon animals, soccer, and great music.  We had a dumpster, port-a-potties, police, a dedicated ambulance, the Stoneham Health Inspector, trash cans, and a DPW worker.

We had lots of people, and lots of great comments of how much our visitors enjoyed the event. We raised over $7000 towards rebuilding our neighborhood playground.

This is what three moms can accomplish.

We’re proud of what we did, but will we do it again? I’m not sure. I didn’t look after my two children as well as I would have liked and feel guilty. I didn’t look after my two chronic illnesses, and almost ended up in hospital. I got abused by two vendors on the phone, and answered emails and phone calls to the detriment of my business making websites.

Now it is time to recover, spend the rest of the summer playing with my children, and publish this cathartic blog post.

But then I’ll have to pick up signs, write “thank-you” letters, get receipts for the tax-deductible booth spot “fee”,  bank all the checks with the Town of Stoneham, work on some press releases,…


Playground Summer Challenge

What happened to playgrounds as neighborhood hubs? – a guest post by Jean Oram

HomeAs the national nonprofit KaBOOM! kicks off its 2012 Summer Playground Challenge — which challenges families to explore as many playgrounds as you can this summer and offers prizes for your playground visits —  playground lover Jean Oram shares how people can revitalize playgrounds and bring them back as neighborhood hubs.

Playgrounds used to be a social hub for neighbourhoods, particularly in the summer, but are less so nowadays. However, you could argue that playgrounds are even more important now when it comes to building healthy, playful neighbourhoods. With tall backyard fences and attached garages, neighbours are less likely to meet each other or their kids. Do your neighbours look out for your kids? For your house when you are away? Are they someone you know well enough to call on in an emergency? Playgrounds can serve as a way for neighbours to meet each other, unwind, and socialize. Not to mention all the great benefits to the kids playing in them! Below are some ideas for ways to revitalize playgrounds as neighbourhood hubs:

How Can We Revitalize Playgrounds and Bring Them Back as Neighbourhood Hubs?

  • By visiting playgrounds with our kids this summer we can make others feel safer about sending their kids out to play (safety in numbers). This relates to Lenore Skenazy’s, author of “Free Range Kids”, idea of reseeding playgrounds with kids.

  • Use KaBOOM’s free Playgrounds and Tag! apps, and the Map of Play to find local playgrounds wherever you are and keep your kids  playing all summer. You can also use these tools to set up playground playdates, and even rate playgrounds.

  • Spend time at playgrounds to show your local town or city that they are valued spaces worthy of maintaining. It also reduces the chance of vandalism and deters people from using them for reasons other than play.

  • KaBOOM!’s Summer Playground Challenge is a great way to motivate and inspire your kids to visit as many playgrounds as possible during the summer and win some cool prizes. Maybe you could even start a friendly neighbourhood competition!

  • We can show our kids that we value outdoor play and that we, as citizens, can take action and responsibility for our playgrounds by doing as Angelika Paul of Playground Hunt did – revitalizing, updating, and fixing up a local playground. Your kids will feel an accomplished sense of ownership for the playspace like you wouldn’t believe! My daughter asked the city for a garbage can at her local playground and feels pride and ownership in keeping it clean. It’s also one of the least vandalized playgrounds in town!

But the biggest thing we can do for playgrounds and our kids is to use local playgrounds this summer. So, let’s get out there! I’m the one inventing playground fun such as Under Whales (Under Ducks on the swings, only more swooshy). Come say hi. I’m always looking to meet other moms and dads.

Jean Oram is a mom, writer, skier, hiker, and playground lover. Her daughter loves the more challenging playgrounds while her son is most content in the baby swing. You can find her playing on her blog at www.itsallkidsplay.ca as well as pinning fun and games (literally) on Pinterest, sharing fun stuff on Twitter as @KidsPlay, and on Facebook. Let’s play! Get motivated to visit more playgrounds with your kids this summer by joining the 2012 Playground Challenge! The three top Challengers will win a trip for two to DC and all participants can win great prizes throughout the summer.

Second Playground Design Day

Yikes, it’s been a long time between posts! Will you accept non-napping children and my visiting mother as excuses?

Actually, in the background all of us on the committee to rebuilding AP Rounds Playground at Broadway and MacArthur have been busy connecting with the very supportive and enthusiastic folks at Stoneham Town Hall, the Stoneham Board of Selectmen, the Stoneham Theater, the North Shore Family Network, the organizers of the Winchester FANSplash projectand of the Moulton Playground rebuilding project.

We had the second design day last week, this time at the Stoneham Senior Center. Thank you to all who came and sent in suggestions by email. It isn’t too late to put in your two cents (though we’d prefer a few dollars – ha!) and you can send suggestions to me at angelika@playgroundhunt.com.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking about the actual design evening. It was very successful with input from parents, children, and the Stoneham Little League.

The next step is that our very lovely and competent landscape designer from Garden Simplicity will draw up plans. In early July, we will then go before the Selectmen’s Open Space and Recreation Committee in the hopes that they will be just as enthusiastic as us in supporting this project.

As a parting shot I would just like to say that even though my family has lived in Stoneham for only 5 1/2 years, we think this community is awesome. It may start with a playground, but it takes the proverbial village to raise a family, build resources and strengthen the community.

If you would like to become involved with the playground project (or just to send in your support), email me at angelika@playgroundhunt.com, “like” us on Facebook, “follow” us on Twitter, and read the blog.

This blog post first appeared in the Stoneham Patch: http://stoneham.patch.com/blog_posts/designing-the-new-ap-rounds-playground






Have you rebuilt a playground? No, me neither. That’s why I’m still so thankful and in awe of the wonderful women who have joined in the Project to Rebuilding AP Rounds Playground. Rachel is experienced in property development and preservation and has managed projects worth 10s of million of dollars. Jessie is an experienced landscape designer. And both have led and facilitated design charrettes.

We had the first (of two) design charrettes this week on Tuesday, and I have to admit, I was very impressed with how it went. I made some cookies and muffins and brought two kids – that was pretty much the extent of my contribution to this event. So here is a quick write-up of what went on, and we hope to see even more people at the next Design-a-Playground Event on Thursday, June 23 at 6pm at the Stoneham Senior Center.

Posterboard of existing structures and snacks

Tania made a beautiful poster board with photos her son took of the existing playground structures at AP Rounds. And to keep the conversation going… do you have any thoughts on the equipment that is currently there? Please add comments to the -er- comments section below 😉

We did a short round of introductions and broke out the crayons, pencils and paper. The first break-out session task was to draw or write down what you would like to see at the new AP Rounds playground.

Alex drew a lot of circles. Jen added little squiggles. Yes, it’s a bit tricky to understand what a 20month old is saying, but Alex assured me that Jen would also like some monkey bars, a tire swing, a slide, and a sprinkler area. Good to know what the large number of circles meant. HA!

The second break-out session was supposed to be about figuring out what we should keep of the current playground equipment, but that was short and sweet, since everyone agreed that none of it should really stay.

Rachel, Tania, and Jessie did an excellent job getting the kids to stand up in front and explain their drawings. A picture says a thousand words, right? Well, sometimes you need some words, but here are some pictures of the pictures. It will be Jessie’s job as our volunteer landscape designer to integrate all of those thoughts into a coherent plan to present to the town Selectmen.

Tania, Rachel, Jessie and I brought various snacks and utensils (all paid for out of our own money, like everything else we have bought so far). Henry’s Catering in Malden donated a huge tray of very delicious stuffed shells. And we are also sending a big thank you to Stoneham Town, for letting us use the Town Hall banquet hall and their projector.

Hope you can come to the next design session – we really want to hear from you! And while we could just get everyone to send in their pictures, it is a special time for the community to share, and the kids think it’s the best party ever to plan a playground.

This blog post first appeared on the Stoneham Patch HERE.

My favorite Playgrounds

I had the Julie Andrew’s song “These are a few of my favorite things” stuck in my head for the last couple of days. I’m hoping writing about my three most favorite playgrounds. And maybe it will help solidify ideas for the Design-a-Playground session we have coming up on Tuesday (Stoneham Town Hall, 3:30pm for those that are interested).

These playgrounds are in no particular order, but they are my go-to spots. Yes, I would rather drive into Boston than play at my neighborhood playground. And that’s what I want to change with the Rebuilding Rounds project.

Playground One: North Point

Pro: Huge playground with seperate fenced area for toddlers. A couple of weeks ago this area was perfect for Jen at 20months. The toddler area is friendly, colorful, has a sun shelter (there are no mature trees) and some water play areas. The adjoining “big kid” structure made out of wood was also partially playable by Jen and Alex. It is also very friendly and easily to supervise even though there are lots of nooks and crannies. The big hit for us last summer was the water sprinkler play area, and the excellent view of the trains, boats, and bridges.

Con: Parking. Exposed and windy

JenJen and the tot lot JenJen in the tot lot Shaded picnic area Big kid structure
Big toddler structure in the tot lot Alex on the big toddler structure Elinor and Lucy playing with the rope bridge in the tot lot Big kid structure
Big kid structure Alex on big kid structure Tot lot from spray deck Elinor on spinny pole

Playground Two: Cambridge Common/Harvard

Pro: The Cambridge Common playground is beautiful and very playable. Lots of imaginative structures and really nice use of natural components. Alex played with the pulley platform for about an hour – there are a basic pulley and conveyor belt, lots of large wooden block to move around, and some interesting experiments to do with sand. There are no defined big kid/little kid structures, but the elements are used to whatever level each child is comfortable with.

Con: Much of playground is covered in sand, which is probably not accessible. The playground is fenced, but it is not possible to supervise the entire playground from any one location.


Playground Three: Grimmons Park

Pro: Fenced with extra fence around toddler section. We mostly liked the water feature and played there for a good hour. The toddler area was also good for Alex (Jen wasn’t walking when we came here). There was an excellent looking big-kid structure that we didn’t venture near. The playground is bright, cheery, colorful, has grass for picnics, a water feature, and rubbery-cement surface throughout. (Note to self: must research this material).

Con: Recently redone and the trees are very small still (little shade), and all the parking nearby is resident-only.

It would be great if you could go to these playgrounds too. There are about 400 other playgrounds on the Playground Hunt MAP, but most of them are pretty average. These three stand out to me. But, please let me know if you know of any other super playgrounds (near Boston) the design team and I should check out as we rebuild AP Rounds Playground in Stoneham.

This post first appeared in the Stoneham Patch

Play Deficit

We’ve got the first design day coming up for the AP Rounds project, so I’ve been thinking hard about what makes a playground great. For Us. Of course every child plays differently, and of course every caregiver has different needs, but we really want to build playground up there on the hill that will fight the “Play Deficit” researched and explained by Kaboom:

How the Play Deficit is harming our children

The lack of play is causing physical, intellectual, social, and emotional harm to our children.

Physical harm:

In neighborhoods without a park or playground, the incidence of childhood obesity increases 29%.  In fact, children with a park or playground within half-a-mile are almost five times more likely to be a healthy weight than children without playgrounds or parks nearby.

Intellectual harm:

Without ample play, we will continue to see a decrease in creativity and imagination, as well as vital skills including curiosity, social skills, resiliency, and the ability to assess risk. Children in China, Korea, Finland, Singapore, and Japan are provided with playful schooling opportunities prior to second grade and have among the highest scores on international PISA exam for 15 year olds, ranked (1, 2, 3, 5, 8) respectively. The U.S. was ranked at #13.

Social harm:

Children who don’t play don’t learn how to work in groups, share, negotiate, resolve conflicts, and advocate for themselves.  The lack of these skills has dramatic long-term effects. Children deprived of play show increased problems with social integration, including greater likelihood of felony arrests by young adulthood.

Emotional harm:

Studies have shown that schools without recess face increased incidence in classroom behavioral problems, including violence, emotional outbursts, and their students show a lack of ability to interact with peers and authority figures.  Outside the school, play deprivation can have serious long-term consequences. Physician, psychiatrist, and clinical researcher Stuart Brown, studied more than 6,000 felons and found that 90% of convicted murderers lacked “play features” in their childhoods.

So, it starts with a playground, but hopefully we are also building the community


I’m sure you’ve noticed that it’s been a bit quiet on the Playground Hunt blogging front. And really there are no excuses, other than that life got busy. I started a marketing company, which is weird, because by training I’m a scientist – Ph.D. and everything. But it does mean that every spare moment when Alex and Jen are asleep I try and help local businesses grow. It actually really suits me – I like helping people, but one of the reasons I started this blog is that Jen and Alex would have a record of all their adventures.

So, really back to basics and re-starting blogging about the basic joys of having a couple of high energy kids who like to be kept busy and visit new places. Yes, I’m still trying to get the local community together to rebuild Rounds Playground, so here’s a quick plug for that:

So now I’m off to dig through my photos of the last couple of months and put together a summary of everything we’ve been up to. We’ve been to some sledding, a few playgrounds, a few sandcastles, a lot of trips to the Wenham Museum, the Science Museum, and the Children’s Museum… We’ve also done lots of painting and gluing and coloring and baking… but I’ll put photos in the next post. Baby-steps to getting writing again 🙂

Building a Playground

KaBOOM is an organisation that helps communities build playgrounds. Their “Build a Playspace” page has a “Start a Project” button. I pressed it. Gulp. Rounds Playground on Broadway in Stoneham is my neighborhood playground. It’s no fun, it’s old and rusty,  and Alex asked if I could fix the big gash in the only slide. How could I say no?

Luckily KaBOOM! has already helped people like me build thousands of playgrounds across the United States. They provide resources to plan each step of the project, build a team, recruit volunteers, and raise money. I also like the bit about getting free advice from professional playground builders at KaBOOM.

I have put up a tentative build day of July 3, 2010. On this day the playground will get put up, all the structures, all the equipment, all the landscaping. One day. I’ll need help. I’m guesstimating 150 volunteers for build day and I would like to raise $50,000.
I hope you’ll join me! Sign up on the KaBOOM website to volunteer (there’ll be lots of jobs for all ages and abilities) and on the Playground Builder Email list to get updates when I post a new entry for this project.
Meanwhile, these are the KaBOOM Mile Markers I’m starting out on…

Mile Marker 1

Topics: Reasons why play matters, the “community-build model,” benefits of a community build model, play equipment appropriate for specific ages, abilities, and types of play, playground safety hazards in old equipment, make the case for a new, community-built playground.
View presentation

Mile Marker 2

Topics: Create a project vision and mission statement, form a planning committee, choose a playground site, choose a surfacing and equipment vendor, estimate the project budget, establish a project timeline, create a fundraising strategy.
View presentation

Mile Marker 3

Topics: Organize and hold the first playspace meeting, start fundraising, finalize planning committee teams, determine the necessary site preparation, create a project website.
View presentation

Mile Marker 4

Topics: Holding a Design Day, working with an equipment vendor to select a design, press materials and media involvement, accelerating youth involvement through the Design Day and service learning projects.
View presentation

Mile Marker 5

Topics: Recruiting Build Day volunteers and captains, creating a contingency plan for bad weather and emergencies, mapping the build site and the Build Day “matrix,” creating a maintenance plan with the landowner and staff, leveling the site and removing old equipment.
View presentation

Mile Marker 6

Topics: Planning final fundraisers, writing and sending out a media advisory to notify local newspapers, radio, and TV stations, ordering side project materials, confirming delivery schedule for equipment and surfacing, training build day captains. 
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Mile Marker 7

Topics: Equipment and surfacing delivery, organizing materials one to two days before the Build Day, motivating volunteers, rehearsing the ribbon cutting ceremony, taking pictures of the site and securing the area.
View presentation

Mile Marker 8

Topics: Sending official thanks you’s, starting your maintenance program, hosting a final planning meeting, supervising, playing and enjoying, RALLY!-ing for play.
View presentation