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Is your city or town creating policies or investing in programs and infrastructure to keep kids active, playing, and healthy? Then it may have what it takes to be recognized as a Playful City USA community.

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Learn how to qualify for designation and become part of a national network of government, nonprofit, and private sector organizations working to increase play opportunities across the country and give all kids the childhood they deserve.

How playful is your city or town?

Playful City USA is a national recognition program honoring cities and towns that make play a priority and use innovative programs to get children active, playing, and healthy. Learn more about how your city or town can qualify for designation.

Facts about the 2013 Playful City USA communities

  • 217 cities in 43 states
  • 16 Founding Cities are recognized for a seventh year as Playful City USA communities
  • 37 cities and towns have earned Playful City USA designation for the first time

What is Playful City USA?

Playful City USA is a national program sponsored by the Humana Foundation recognizing communities that demonstrate a commitment to ensuring all kids get the balance of active play they need to thrive.

How do you qualify to be named a Playful City USA community?

We’re looking for communities that show a strong commitment to the cause of play beyond the playground – from creating policies to developing programs – to make play a priority.


Benefits of Playful City USA designation

  • Two Playful City USA highway road signs
  • Personalized marketing activation kit that includes press releases, a social media plan, and marketing materials to support national recognition and increase awareness
  • Webinars and peer-to-peer networking events to share and learn best practices from across the network and country
  • Exclusive access to Policy Map, an online tool that enables cities to leverage up-to-date city data that can be used in combination with KaBOOM! playspace mapping data
  • Opportunity to apply for grants and playground build opportunities offered by KaBOOM! that support targeted policies, programs, and infrastructure for your city or town
  • Increased stature and competitive advantage for state and national grant opportunities Opportunity to apply to attend 2014 Playful City USA Leaders' Summit


Playful stories from our cities

Partnerships for Play


When the recession hit La Mesa, California, the city didn’t let it stop their progress in transforming the community’s parks and playgrounds.

Led by the nonprofit La Mesa Park and Recreation Foundation, in 2005 the city initiated a Wellness Taskforce that resulted in a major capital improvement plan called It’s Child’s Play, with the goal of raising $1 million dollars to improve parks. The plan grew from the previous successes of the Foundation, including the building of a city sports complex, as well as a survey of residents that identified both their appreciation for La Mesa’s parks and also a strong desire to see improvements made to their facilities and equipment, with many community members naming playground renovation amongst their top priorities.   

After a strategic planning process the Foundation identified five of the city’s fourteen parks that were the most in need of refurbishing. Next, the Foundation approached the city to request their assistance in contributing to the project, getting the city to agree to install security lighting, renovate restrooms, and replace shade cover in picnic areas amongst other repairs.



Power off in Independence


As winter wages on, children and adults find themselves spending less and less time outdoors. A study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that individuals aged 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day using a smart phone, computer, television, or other electronic device. If the study were to include multi-tasking, such as texting while watching a television show or listening to music while tweeting, children in that specific age demographic average 11 hours of media each day. The study found that the most frequent users were African American and Hispanic youth between the age of 11 and 14. These rates increased in the winter months, when youth spent less time playing outdoors.

To get youth back outside during the winter months, we turn to a state that is no stranger to cold weather. In the Playful City USA community of Independence, Oregon, rain and snowy weather conditions are common and the city, school, and parks & recreation department all work together to create programming for kids to get unplugged and active. The Independence School District has a morning and wake-up exercise program at the local elementary school called TEAM Time. TEAM time stands for Together Everyone Achieves More.  TEAM Time works to get individuals body, brain and school connected.



Playful City USA 3.0: Plugged in for outdoor play?


Many of us frown upon the parents who stand on the playground sidelines, fiddling with their smart phones. But what if that parent were using her smart phone to report an overflowing trash bin? To learn about upcoming park events? To get other families to the playground?  

As several Playful City USA communities have found, play time doesn’t have to compete with screen time. These communities are using mobile apps, QR codes, and social media to drive citizen engagement around their parks, playgrounds, and other outdoor public spaces.

Mobile apps to get things fixed

As a case in point, Playful City USA communities Houston, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Tucson, Arizona are taking advantage of the crowdsourcing website and mobile app SeeClickFix to help citizens report maintenance issues in their public spaces. Of course, no one wants to bring their kids to a playground littered with trash or covered in graffiti. Using SeeClickFix, residents can report problems at their playgrounds and parks, or other areas in their neighborhoods, and then connect with neighbors, local government, or civic groups to get them fixed.

According to Christy Cornell, Sr. Staff Analyst with Raleigh’s Parks Maintenance Division, since 2010 the Division has worked with the city to address and close 436 unique requests that were identified through SeeClickFix. Reports have ranged from downed trees to illegal dumping, and staff have worked to make requests a priority, providing updates to the City Manager on a regular basis.

QR codes to inform and engage