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Best of 2013: 5 Ways Kids Inspired Us Through Play

Students, schools, and communities get stronger when we all reconnect with the spirit of play.


I have long been a believer in the power of play to bring out the best in every kid. But this year I noticed an interesting trend: the power of kids playing to bring out the best in all of us. This year more than any I can recall, has had a number of notable moments when a playful and inspiring message from, by or about kids, has gone viral. Here are five of the most notable:

1. Buddy Benches: Second-grader Christian Bucks worried about his classmates standing alone on the sidelines at recess. So he brought the buddy bench to his school. If a student is feeling lonely, they can sit on the bench, and another student will know to come ask them to play. "We show we care about others when we ask others to play," Christian said. "I also hope that new friendships will be made because of the buddy bench." Christian's story has been shared thousands of times inspiring buddy benches in other schools across the country.

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Want to Squash Bullying? C'mon, Let Kids Play

It's through play that we learn common sense and the kind of relationship skills that are key to success.

As the founder of a national nonprofit focused on play, I’m sometimes asked to offer parenting advice. Partly out of a superstitious fear that this will compel my otherwise lovable children to engage in suddenly reckless behavior, I generally decline. The other reason is that my parenting style tends towards a blend of things my own parents did and lessons learned from Barbara Woodhouse, the iconic, quintessentially 1980s dog trainer who wrote No Bad Dogs.

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Pediatricians Say Slashing Recess Hurts Kids, but Will Adults Listen?

The AAP says recess should "not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons."


When I was in elementary school, I got a nice 30-minute recess every morning, and another chunk of free time after lunch. When I tell my own school-aged kids about the epic kickball games that used to go down during those breaks, I feel like somebody's grandma reminiscing about a time when a loaf of bread was a nickel.

Our modern 10 to 15-minute version of recess—and some kids don't even get that—barely gives children a chance to use the restroom, let alone pick captains for a game of kickball. Now the American Academy of Pediatrics is speaking out against the trend of schools reducing or completely eliminating recess. In their recently-released policy statement—their first ever about recess—the AAP says "recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons."

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Should Your Office Hold Recess? A Contest for Playful CEOs

Some of the most important business skills might start on the playground. A play promoting nonprofit is hunting for the most playful CEO in America.

Would you give Michael Scott of The Office an award? Well, the nonprofit Playworks might if he were real.

Playworks is a nonprofit that promotes healthy activity and "meaningful play." The fun-focused group is holding a competition to find the most playful CEO in America. "When adults play, kids play," says Cindy Wilson of Playworks. Know anyone you want to nominate?

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Helicopter Parenting Comes in for a Landing

Helicopter parenting may be coming in for a landing as more and more parents are embracing a growing movement to restore play.

When I became a parent, I was stunned to discover the crazy world of kid-scheduling. Every afternoon, there had to be something: sports, play-dates, ballet, drama camp, and various other activities for little explorers, dancers, chefs, buddings entomologists, and acrobats. Granted I live in San Francisco, one of the helicopter-parent capitals of the world, but this seemed extreme and honestly, ridiculous. When I was a kid, we played after school. We rode bikes and explored backyards and canyons. We even, god forbid, walked home from school. Without adult supervision.

Too many parents today feel compelled to seek out constant opportunities to stimulate their children, worried, it seems that a free afternoon will stunt their children's intellectual and creative development. But there's growing evidence to suggest that parents should step away from the carpool and just let their kids come home and read a book or dig in the yard.

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