America’s kids are playing less than any previous generation. Only one in four adolescents get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity or active play per day, with the number of younger kids only slightly higher. Because of this, they are increasingly unhappy, unhealthy and falling behind: one in three kids is obese or overweight and one in five kids has a mental illness. Moreover, kids are not developing critical 21st century skills—such as collaboration, creativity, problem-solving, resilience and empathy—that they will need to succeed as adults in the global economy. Additionally, one of the major barriers to healthy development — particularly for the 16 million children living in poverty — is toxic stress.
In particular, low-income families and children face many structural obstacles to play. For example, declining recess, a lack of safe places to play, overly-structured schedules, too early specialization, and too much screen time have all replaced balanced and active play.
However, families and children also face behavioral barriers to play, as research shows that families want to play — and know that it is important - but often do not make the decision to play, even if a playground is relatively close by.
Play as a Solution
At KaBOOM!, we believe that the well-being of society begins with the well-being of children. This is why we’re such big advocates of balanced and active play, which is essential—and elemental—to enable children to thrive.
Just as a healthy diet balances proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and other nutrients, a balanced “play diet” should include a mix of all kinds of play, because different types have different benefits. For example, play-dough creations, blocks, and make-believe spark the imagination and teach problem-solving skills. Running, jumping, and climbing get legs moving and hearts pumping. And exploring playgrounds with families or playing hide-and-seek with friends helps kids learn to work together, collaborate, and share.
A balance of play means active minds, active bodies, and active together to realize all of play’s benefits.
Playability as a Solution
To enable kids and families to play more, KaBOOM! stays to address structural barriers to play by continuing to lead Build it with KaBOOM! playgrounds and provide grants. However, we are also promoting Playability, or the extent to which a city makes it easy for all kids to get balanced and active play. This is a kid and family focused pillar of urban development that will allow cities to address the behavioral barriers of play. The three components of Playability are to:
- Foster Play Everywhere
- Play should be integrated into dead time and unexpected places such as clinics, bus stops, and sidewalks. By fostering play everywhere, play becomes the easy choice.
- Make cities family-friendly
- Make play more inclusive and appealing to the whole family, across all generations.
- Create the corner store of play
- Create mini play destinations "around the corner," for a quick and convenient play opportunity.
Learn more about Playability