Play matters for all kids

Oklahoman Published: August 23, 2014
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Play’s the thing

A major barrier to healthy development among children — especially those impacted by natural disasters — is toxic stress. Feeling protected and secure by having a safe place of shelter, clean water, food and a caring environment are essential to helping children grow into healthy, successful adults.

In times of natural disaster when all of these fundamental needs are lost, play helps bring a sense of normalcy and provides an emotional outlet for children. The healing power of play becomes even more critical in creating a safe and caring environment, helping them cope with emotional trauma.

Following the 2013 tornadoes in Moore and Oklahoma City, it was important that children could play. KaBOOM! teamed with Nike to spearhead first-response relief efforts. We wanted to ensure these kids were able to get the play they needed to help them deal with stress, develop resilience and journey toward normalcy.

Together, we built five play spaces across Moore and Oklahoma City, two of which included playgrounds built this year at elementary schools destroyed by the storms, Briarwood and Plaza Towers. Recently we built the final playspace with the help of more than 200 volunteers. Building these playgrounds served as a testament to the transformational impact play can have on kids, families and communities during times of recovery.

KaBOOM! believes that play matters for all kids. Whenever disaster-impacted communities begin the rebuilding process, let’s remember to prioritize the needs of kids by ensuring that play is part of the first-response plan.

Darell Hammond, Washington, D.C.

Hammond is founder and CEO of KaBOOM! (www.kaboom.org).