It's not the same as saving Earth from an invasion of aliens bent on world domination, but climbing the jungle gym at several local parks does offer something video games don't -- actual exercise.
Yet the challenge children's playgrounds have had in attracting kids is first pulling them away from their Xbox or PlayStation.
So parks officials are starting to fight fire with fire.
Salt Lake County's Evergreen Park is constructing a children's electronic playground set that includes blinking lights, an LED controller and its own computer server to ignite the same senses in kids that video games do. It will reopen in August after a makeover.
Salt Lake County Parks & Recreation Project Manager Morgan Selph turned to Danish playground equipment manufacturer Kompan, which produces play sets that offer different electronic games built into the climbing and spinning on the set.
Evergreen Park has built two separate electronic playground sets, the Swirl, which has spinning bars that kids can grab, and the Nova, a spinning platform similar to a merry-go-round. The Swirl has a separate electronic controller that a child stands on and then chooses one of three games the other kids can play. In Colour Catch, for example, a child assigned to a different color must find a flashing button to press for points. In another game, Direction Correction, kids run on the Nova's spinning merry-go-round and line up a yellow dot with a light display in the center. The games also record high scores like video games do.
"These are physically challenging games, and that's what appeals to the older kids. And that's the challenge -- to get older kids back to the playgrounds," said Bob Ross, president of Play Space Designs, which sold and installed the playground.
Using a computer server that's housed in a box to the side of the playground, data about how many games are played, what the high scores are, even how many calories are burned per day, can instantly be transmitted to the county offices.
"And if they want new games, they can just send them wirelessly (to the playground), and that keeps them fresh," said Play Space Design's Diana Ross.
The percentage of American children ages 6 to 11 who are obese grew from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008, according to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years.
Among preventive measures, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to parents that children should not spend more than two hours per day on entertainment-related activities such as watching TV. Yet The Kaiser Family Foundation found that children and teens 8 to 18 years old spend more than 7.5 hours each day on entertainment media.
"Getting kids outside and doing stuff is so important," Selph said. "You can have fun outside. Video games are fun, but these kids aren't having as much outdoor experience."
(Contact Vince Horiuchi at vince(at)sltrib.com. For more stories visit scrippsnews.com)
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Back-to-school shopping brings many unknowns, but one thing parents can count on is that it's going to be costly.
It can be tough to pry an iPad out of a child's tiny hands, but there are many applications, or apps, that make tablets and smartphones a good companion and teacher, and not just an addictive electronic baby sitter.
Backpacks can cause your child back pain.
|•||Ohio School Boards Association|
|•||Ohio Department of Education|
|•||Ohio School Athletic Association|
|•||Kentucky Center for School Safety|
|•||Kentucky Athletic Association|
|•||Indiana Academic Standards and Resources|
|•||Indiana Department of Education|
|•||Indiana School Directory|
|•||Advancing Excellence in Education (Indiana)|