Washington's "Snowmageddon" Prompts Play in Unlikely Places

Snowmageddon. That's what many in the Washington, D.C. Metro area have called the recent onslaught of wintery weather that has descended upon our city. Amidst all the rants about business closings, school closings, street closings and everything else that has come to a halt, one incredible thing has emerged: play.

Over 2,000 people joined the Official Dupont Circle Snowball Fight on Saturday with the sole purpose of fun in mind. To give those of you outside the D.C.-area a better image of how incredible this event was, Dupont Circle - usually a place of hurried business and focused work - came to a standstill as snowballs flew from every angle. Traffic was slowed and many of the drivers who were able to make it through, stopped, got out of their cars and joined the fun. The snowball fight was a great way for people to release the stress of work and cabin fever, as well as an opportunity to socialize with friends and meet new people. It was truly phenomenal to see the joy and laughter that emerged from what had been predicted as a devastating weekend. It seems adults need to play just as much as kids do.

A bit further north in Silver Spring, Md., just outside the Washington city limits, we once again saw residents - many of whom experienced power outages - venturing out to have a little fun. From every vantage point, you could see students, couples and young families building forts, sledding, throwing snow, eating snow, snowboarding and playing with the neighborhood kids. You could even see kids trying to use the playground equipment in some very new ways. It turns out three feet of snow makes for excellent safety surfacing! The snow, despite its debilitating hit to most city services, gave us the chance to experience the city in a whole new way, allowing us to run and jump and swing and take over the streets to play.

As First Lady Michelle Obama prepares to announce her office's campaign against childhood obesity, my mind keeps thinking about just how important it is for children and adults alike to get moving and thinking in different ways. I strongly believe that the simple activity of unstructured play can help overcome many of the barriers to healthy development that today's children encounter.

A snowball fight, for instance, can help a child to increase his levels of physical activity, as well as teach him important social and intellectual skills. Exactly how much force does it take to pack and throw the perfect snowball? What exactly do you say when you accidentally throw a snowball in your friend's face? A snowstorm that renders cars, buses and trains idle can provide a unique way for community members to get reacquainted. A snow day from work and school gives parents an opportunity to spend much-needed playtime together with their kids.

Neighborhoods, especially in low-income areas, are full of children who hunger for play - and the impact on their young lives is both immediate and profound. Unfortunately, a KaBOOM!-commissioned 2009 Harris Interactive study found that 59% of parents and 69% of low-income parents report there is no playground in their neighborhood. KaBOOM! has turn-key programs that address this problem, helping to make a fast but lasting impact in child-rich but playground poor communities. We have already helped thousands of communities across the country turn the tide on childhood obesity by ensuring that children have the time and space to play every day.

I hope you join us in answering the First Lady's call to action, strengthening the movement for play and making sure that our nation's kids can lead active, healthy lives.