05/09/2012 12:02 pm ET Updated Jul 09, 2012

Honor Maurice Sendak with Play

The news of Maurice Sendak's passing has caused an outpouring of tributes from writers, actors, politicians and other public figures across the globe. While they are all touching, the one that struck me the most was from rapper Talib Kweli: "Maurice Sendak. Thank you for your contributions to my imagination. Rest in Peace."

Sendak's 1963 classic Where The Wild Things Are has long been a favorite of mine because of the creative imagery, fantastic adventures and, most of all, because of how this timeless story shows us that children need to be free to roam, explore and invent in order to understand their place in the world that surrounds them. It's no wonder that it was remade into a major motion picture in 2009.

Unfortunately, since Sendak first wrote his masterpiece, play -- the vehicle for exploration and imagination -- has been steadily disappearing from our children's lives. Today's kids have less time and fewer opportunities to play than any previous generation. This play deficit is having devastating consequences on the health and well-being of children, and our society as a whole will pay the price if we don't do something to reverse the trend.

The decline in creativity associated with this Play Deficit has already had an impact on our competitiveness in the world. In the book The New Division of Labor: How Computers Are Creating the Next Job Market, the authors examine how computers are reshaping the job market and how human skills are rewarded in the marketplace. The book reveals how this new marketplace places a premium on the skills fostered through play. Likewise, in a 2010 IBM study of 1,500 CEOs, creativity, which is unleashed on the playground, was deemed the most important leadership quality in today's complex social and economic environment.

At KaBOOM!, our vision is a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. We know that children benefit exponentially through play and have worked with our partners over the past 16 years to bring 2,094 engaging playspaces to communities across North America. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only one in five children live within walking distance of a park or playground.

We can't close this gap alone. Nobody is going to be able to solve the play deficit by themselves. We need parents, educators, politicians, artists, actors, musicians and athletes to come together in play and help us build more and better communities across the country. That's why we have just launched Our Dream Playground. Our Dream Playground is a new online project planner designed to help you build the playground of your dreams. It's a free resource, brought to you KaBOOM!, offering step-by-step instructions to help you bring play to the kids in your community.

A playground can be built in a day, but it takes months of planning and hard work. To get there, KaBOOM! has broken this complex process into eight key steps based on knowledge we have amassed since our founding in 1996. We want to make it easy for project leaders and their teams to reach these mile markers. From coming up with the initial concept to volunteer recruitment and fundraising, all the way to site selection, soil testing and, ultimately, building a great place to play, we also connect you with mentors and other experts to take the guess work out of playground building.

Badges and points offer further incentives and a fun way for users to add flair to their profiles. Badges, like member levels, show off how you support the cause of play. Badges are earned through participation in Our Dream Playground activities like volunteering time, donating to a project, or hosting an event. Ultimately, badges and points will be connected with KaBOOM! grants, rewarding our super-users with financial resources.

So, help us solve the play deficit. Check out Our Dream Playground. If you can't take on building a playground yourself, help out on one of the existing projects. We'll even give you a special Maurice Sendak Tribute Badge for logging onto the site. Do it for the kids. Do it for Maurice Sendak and the legacy of imagination and creativity that he leaves behind for this and future generations of children.