Today's children spend less time playing outside than any previous generation, but 213 cities and towns, including Pico Rivera, earned recognition from national non-profit KaBOOM! as 2012 Playful City USA communities for their efforts to increase play opportunities for children.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is critical to healthy brain development. It allows children to use their creativity while simultaneously developing imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive and emotional strength. Yet today’s children spend less time playing outside than any previous generation in part because only 1-in-5 live within walking distance of a park or playground. The resulting play deficit is having profound consequences for kids physically, socially and academically.
Presented by The Humana Foundation, Playful City USA is a national program advocating for local policies that increase play opportunities for children and is a key platform in combating the play deficit.
KaBOOM!, the national non-profit organization dedicated to saving play, created Playful City USA in 2007 to help local governments address the play deficit and it is through mayors, city council members, parks and recreation departments, school districts and community leaders that the program succeeds in benefitting children.
"To be named a Playful City USA once again is a great honor for the City. It shows how committed we are to the children of this community by creating opportunities for them play," says Pico Rivera Mayor Bob Archuleta. “Our children deserve safe and fun places to play and that’s what we plan to achieve here in the City.”
Hailing from 41 states, the 213 Playful City USA honorees range in size from six-time honorees such as Orlando and Phoenix to first-time recipient Independence, Oregon (population: 9,607). These Playful City USA communities are making a commitment to play and physical activity by developing unique local action plans to increase the quantity and quality of play in their community.
“Some of the most innovative concepts and cost-effective programs are being developed in Playful City USA communities,” says Darell Hammond, Founder and CEO of KaBOOM! and author of The New York Times Best Seller KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play. “Cities like Pico Rivera are key allies in the fight to combat the play deficit and serve as outstanding role models for government and community leaders across the country.”
In the sixth year of the annual program, 19 Playful City USA communities received recognition for the sixth consecutive year, while 24 earned honors for the fifth time, 27 for the fourth time, 29 for the third time, 45 for the second time and 69 claimed their first Playful City USA designation.
For the fifth consecutive year, Florida paced the nation with 29 Playful City USA communities. California earned second-place with 24 communities, while Texas finished third with 14 Playful City USA communities.
Each of the 2012 Playful City USA communities demonstrated creative commitments to addressing the play deficit. Playful City USA celebrates and highlights these unique initiatives developed by communities across the country. A primary goal of Playful City USA is to encourage cities and towns to share ideas, concepts and programs in an effort to increase play opportunities for children. City initiatives include:
· Ferguson (Mo.) - The city hosts Sunday Parkways, a free community play street event in neighborhoods on Sunday afternoons. Streets are closed to cars in order to allow residents of all ages and abilities to play in the streets.
· Houston (Texas) - The Volunteer Initiatives Program engages residents through service and community projects to promote volunteerism in neighborhoods and city playspaces. By utilizing Love Your Block Grants, citizens have the opportunity to revitalize neighborhood parks, transform civic spaces and advocate for quality open space.
· Pico Rivera (Calif.) - The city recognizes the need for play and is regularly researching ways to improve existing playspaces or add new opportunities. In September 2011, more than 200 volunteers rallied together to transform an empty lot into a beautiful playspace using the community-build model.
· Providence (R.I.) - The parks and recreation department offers extensive programming for all children and families to play together, including the free Fun Bus initiative that travels to various communities to engage children with fun games and sports equipment.
· Starkville (Miss.) - The parks commission, local school district, civic groups and businesses continue to collaborate to set tangible goals to invest in play. These partnerships created a joint use agreement resolution to open school playspaces for public use during non-school hours.
The 213 Playful City USA communities are now eligible for $15,000, $20,000 and $30,000 grants via Let’s Play, a community partnership led by Dr Pepper Snapple Group, to get kids and families active nationwide. Grant recipients will be announced on June 4, 2012.
For more information on the KaBOOM! Playful City USA program, including Let’s Play grants and applications for 2013, visit www.playfulcityusa.org.