May 27, 2010

Where do the children play?

"But tell me, where do the children play?" Cat Stevens asked in his famous song. It's a good question. A recent report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that only one in five homes has a park within a half-mile. Half of the children surveyed said that it’s difficult to get to a playground or park from their house.

Apparently, we have a long way to go toward realizing our vision of a playground within walking distance of every child. The CDC asserts, “Youth without access to opportunities for physical activity during nonschool hours are less likely to be as physically active as their peers.” It goes on to say, “Preliminary evidence also suggests that access to parks, playgrounds, and recreation centers may lead to other healthy lifestyle choices, such as using modes of active transportation—like biking or walking to a park location.”

Parks, playgrounds, and recreation centers won’t crop up overnight (even our build-in-a-day playground model takes months of planning and preparation)—so what can we do for the kids who need to get moving now? On the bright side, the report indicates some other measures we can take:

  • Requiring, or at least recommending, recess at a state level.
  • Promoting active transport to school through such programs such as KidsWalk, Walk to School, Walking School Bus, and Safe Routes to School.
  • Enacting urban design and land-use policies aim to support physical activity in small geographic areas, such as improving street lighting or enhancing aesthetics.

We’ll keep doing what we do best—that is, building playgrounds. In the meantime, joining forces with educators, politicians, urban designers, community leaders, and concerned parents will help more children get moving (and playing) sooner. Ready, set, go!

Download the CDC report here (PDF).

the buzz in play, urban planning, recess, childhood obesity, physical activity, health