WASHINGTON, D.C. — With only one in five children in the United States currently living within walking distance of a park or playground, 151 cities and towns – including Richmond Hill and Savannah – recently earned recognition from national nonprofit KaBOOM! as 2011 Playful City USA communities for their efforts to increase play opportunities for children.
For the fourth consecutive year, Florida paced the nation with 20 Playful City USA communities. Georgia finished fifth with eight such communities.
KaBOOM! selected Richmond Hill and Savannah for their outstanding dedication to play. Richmond Hill plans to develop and enhance the play experience for kids at Piercefield and Boles parks. The city will add new equipment to provide additional opportunities for kids to play in their neighborhoods.
Savannah engages citizens to evaluate the impact and appeal of playgrounds and parks throughout the city to ensure maximum effectiveness. The city also encourages play being a part of neighborhood and business development plans.
“The play deficit continues to harm our children and stifle their mental and physical development, while directly facilitating the ongoing childhood obesity crisis,” said Darell Hammond, KaBOOM! founder and CEO and author of The New York Times best seller “KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.”
“These 151 Playful City USA communities have joined KaBOOM! in making a collective statement that we will no longer accept the misconception that play is a luxury when the reality is that play is an absolute necessity for children.
“Richmond Hill and Savannah are committed to the well-being of children and serve as outstanding role models for the rest of America as we continue to strive toward the KaBOOM! vision of a great place to play within walking distance of every child.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is important to healthy brain development and allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive and emotional strength.
Today’s children spend less time playing outside than any previous generations, in part because only 20 percent live within walking distance of a park or playground.
This play deficit is having profound consequences for kids physically as well as mentally and socially because children need a place to play every day in order to be active and healthy.
A key platform in combating the play deficit is Playful City USA, a national program advocating for local policies that increase play opportunities for children.
KaBOOM!, the national nonprofit organization dedicated to saving play, created Playful City USA in 2007 to help local governments address the play deficit by ensuring their children have the time and space they need to play.
The 151 Playful City USA communities are eligible for grants via Let’s Play, a community partnership led by Dr Pepper Snapple Group to get kids active nationwide. The first Let’s Play initiative is a $15 million, three-year commitment to KaBOOM! The organizations will build or fix up 2,000 playgrounds by the end of 2013, benefiting an estimated 5 million children across North America.
For more information on the KaBOOM! Playful City USA program, including Let’s Play grants and applications for 2012, go to www.kaboom.org/playfulcityusa.