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How Play Changes from Toddlers to Teenagers

By David Reeves

toddler_playOne of the most interesting aspects of raising or caring for children is the opportunity to watch the way they change and develop, and much of this is seen in the way they play. Young toddlers spend time learning fine and gross motor skills while playing in tandem, but not necessarily with, their peers. This gradually progresses until pre-teens and teens are more interested in the social aspects of their play, having mastered the motor skills long before. When considering playground equipment, an understanding of these changes is crucial.

The Evolution of Play

How does play evolve? It seems to develop alongside the child’s physical and emotional growth. Children begin truly playing, rather than just exploring playthings, in their toddler years. From around the time they start walking until they hit the preschool, children are spending most of their time perfecting their gross motor skills. Walking, climbing, dancing and jumping are all favorite activities. Throwing and kicking balls are also popular playtime. Children this age may play with other children to the point of dancing at the same time or mimicking movements, but you will observe little in the way of cooperative play.

kid_playThat begins to change around age three. During the preschool years, children begin to “pretend play” in earnest. They enjoy playing with other children and engaging in pretend activities together. While the motor skills are fairly well developed at this point, children can still be a bit unsteady on their feet, so they prefer smaller items to climb on.

Once children hit the elementary school ages, from six to nine years old, they become increasingly social, yet are still fine-tuning those gross and fine motor skills. During these years, risk-taking behavior is common. Children want to jump higher, run faster and climb higher than they have in the past. Their play is largely group-oriented, even if the group is somewhat small.

Once children hit the pre-teen years, from nine to 12 years old, they start to develop some independence in their play, yet still enjoy playing with other children. These are the years when children may begin to outgrow some childhood pastimes, like dressing up or playing pretend fantasy games, in favor of more strategic play activities and games, like organized sports or more difficult board games. Once they hit teenage years, play is almost entirely social, although some kids still enjoy physical challenge. Organized sports are quite popular with teens. Continue reading

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How Playgrounds Foster the 5 Types of Play

ImageDifferent play structures on the playground engage children in different ways, whether it engages their imagination or their intellect. Well-arranged play environments should enhance children’s development by integrating learning and play in a way that’s fun but also boosts development. Here is a rundown of a few types of play and play structures and how they contribute to different experiences for children.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) categorizes play into five different types: creative play, games with rules, language, physical play and pretend play. For the most part, physical play structures, like playground equipment, contribute to children’s physical development by providing places to jump, climb, run and move around in general. Strength in gross motor development, as a result, improves in children who regularly partake in physical play.

Outdoor play structures can also include activities that allow children to engage the other types of play, such as games with rules, pretend play and creative play. Creative play is characterized by activities that let children express their feelings, ideas and thoughts by using their imaginations. Playing pretend on various play structures often features make-believe, role-playing, drama and fantasy games.

Elevated Play Components

playland-zamzee-4Elevated play components are equipment that can be approached or exited from above or below grade. For example, a climber that a child could ascend or descend is considered an elevated play component. These play structures, as you may guess, build balance and strength: two abilities that children use during play on these particular types of playground equipment. Other elevated play components, such as slides, use gravity to produce a sense of rapid descent.

Many elevated play items can be roped into fantasy and creative play as well. If an entire play structure is imagined to be a castle, pirate ship, spaceship or something similar, children are bringing in elements of drama, make-believe, role-playing and ultimately pretend play. This sort of play develops imaginations and steers young minds to think in creative, abstract ways. Continue reading

Zamzee for Groups Program Curriculum Launched Today

ZamzeeCurriculumToday we announced a new product launch, the Zamzee for Groups Program Curriculum! The Program Curriculum is a complete syllabus for increasing physical activity presented in a lesson-plan-style format that is teachable by any instructor using Zamzee for Groups. It makes it even easier for program leaders to use Zamzee to motivate, measure and manage physical activity.

Over the course of 2013, Zamzee piloted our group program in hospital clinics, schools and community programs. We worked closely with program leaders to use Zamzee to help improve kids’ health. After integrating the learnings from our pilots, in October we launched Zamzee for Groups. Zamzee for Groups is a powerful reporting system which makes it easy for program leaders to get accurate data about physical activity and motivate kids to move more.

After the launch of Zamzee for Groups, we continued to monitor our programs and consider ways we could make it even easier for program leaders to use technology to increase physical activity. The Zamzee for Groups Program Curriculum was developed to help instructors quickly get their Zamzee for Groups programs up and running. It makes it simple to use Zamzee to kickstart a physical activity program or strengthen an existing class. Continue reading

Using Technology to Get Kids Active

Technology is a big part of kids’ lives these days, from the classroom to playtime. But the digital revolution hasn’t yet become mainstream in kids’ sports and exercise. Especially for kids who don’t like moving, you have to wonder: could there be a better way to use technology to inspire kids to get active?

Right now, youth exercise is pretty closely correlated with traditional youth sports teams. That makes sense because, in the United States, 75% of boys and 69% of girls play organized sports. But what about those other kids, the 25% of boys and 31% of girls who don’t participate in sports teams? Right now, we don’t have many good options to cater to these kids and get them moving. Moreover, even if a kid participates in sports when they are younger, they don’t always stick with the team when they get older. This video by the Women’s Sports Foundation makes a compelling and scary case for why girls, in particular, keep leaving the game.

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Self-Tracking to Improve Kids’ Health: Pew Research Report

Americans are increasingly using smartphone apps and activity trackers to monitor their health, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. From weight-loss apps to exercise trackers to pregnancy monitors, self-tracking with technology has become a way of life for 21% of Americans adults. But what about American kids?

Research has shown that self-tracking helps improve health outcomes, particularly those related to weight control, blood pressure and blood sugar. This is great news for those of us involved in the fight against sedentary behavior and it’s associated health risks. Fitness is already the most popular type of self-tracking, capturing 38 percent of the health app market (which itself is 19 percent of the overall app market). These tools will only become more mainstream and more robust as venture capital financing for self-tracking has been strong: investments in this sector increased 20 percent from January through September 2012 alone.

Despite the strong interest in adult self-tracking, investment in the children’s market has been scarce. It’s a shame because there are huge opportunities in the kids’ sector: habits formed in childhood are strongly linked to adult behavior. Buy an adult a gym membership in January, and chances are good they’ll fall off the bandwagon by March. Teach a kid to love physical activity, and chances are good they’ll love being active for life. Continue reading

5 Ways Zamzee Gets Your Kids off the Couch

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Does your son like videogames more than shooting hoops outside? And maybe your daughter would rather chat with friends than practice soccer. Or vice versa. That’s okay. Many kids don’t enjoy participating on competitive sports teams. But research shows that kids who are more physically active enjoy better social, emotional and physical health – whether or not they’re “on the team.”

Here are 5 ways Zamzee makes exercise fun for kids who don’t love sports.

1.  Zamzee lets kids earn rewards for moving. And any movement that gets your heart racing counts – dancing, skate boarding, playing tag with friends –  even if you’re not a star athlete or a jock. On zamzee.com kids get to pick rewards to work towards, like gift cards or popular toys. This incentive makes it easier for kids to overcome the initial hurdle to get their bodies moving. Receiving a package in the mail from Zamzee for accomplishing a movement goal is motivating and fun.

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Why Zamzee Focuses on Getting Kids Active (it’s about more than obesity)

Zamzee is a game that gets kids moving: our goal is to fight sedentary behavior by making physical activity more fun for kids. But you might be curious about why Zamzee doesn’t focus on weight or BMI, or help families count calories. That’s a really good question, which we’ve thought a lot about. Here’s why we’ve chosen to focus on physical activity, not just obesity.

Over and over again, new research shows that being physically active is one of the best things you can do for your health – both now, and as a preventative for your future well-being. We know that physical inactivity is bad for you. But did you know that physical inactivity causes 6-10% of all deaths caused by heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer?1 Yep, it’s the truth. The World Health Organization says that physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death, and The Lancet attributes physical inactivity to 5.3 million deaths per year globally.2 And we all know that physical inactivity can be a contributing factor to obesity. Continue reading