KABOOM! Issues Guidance for Safe and Equitable Playground Reopening Link copied!

June 23, 2020

Washington D.C.

Today, KABOOM!, the national nonprofit working to end playspace inequity for good, announced new, actionable guidance for safe playground reopening. Developed by the KABOOM! Playground Reopening Taskforce comprised of public health, community development, parks and recreation and facilities experts, the guidance provides practical recommendations to playspace owners, operators and managers as they plan to reopen public playgrounds — once this is deemed safe by local health authorities.

Accompanying the guidance are findings from a national analysis of the scope and impact of playground closures, both now available for downloading at kaboom.org. Due to necessary measures put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, the analysis finds that currently, playgrounds are closed and out of reach for at least 23 million kids across the United States.

As playgrounds across the country reopen, it is important that health and safety remain the priority, and strategies to reopen playgrounds be grounded in equity. The need for an equity-based approach is heightened by the disproportionate impact of playground closures on kids living in under-resourced communities of color.

“Disasters and crises deepen the inequities that communities already experience,” said Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins, Vice President of Programs at KABOOM! and Chair of the Playground Reopening Taskforce. “This specific, data-informed guidance will support a safe and equitable reopening of playgrounds so disparities in access to play don’t widen.”

Playground Reopening Guidance

The KABOOM! Playground Reopening Task Force — which includes national experts in public health, community development, urban planning, parks and recreation, and public facilities — came together in June to develop useful guidelines and recommendations to inform the reopening of playgrounds. These guidelines will provide those in charge of playspaces with the necessary resources to support the safe reopening and use of these spaces, in accordance with the latest public health recommendations published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

For playground owner/operators, the Taskforce outlines three overall steps that are critical to ensuring a safe reopening process:

  • Prioritize Equity. Ensuring that communities hardest hit by the pandemic receive adequate resources to reopen requires being intentional and data-driven. Review local data and prioritize resources like signage, hand cleaning stations and other safety measures to playgrounds in areas where case counts are highest.
  • Plan for Reopening. Enforce the specific limits on usage outlined in the guidance to encourage social distancing, clean all equipment thoroughly, and ensure safety surfacing is maintained and compliant with safety standards.
  • Enable Safe Playground Reopening. Post accessible and visible playground signage with safety guidelines, engage community members to provide hand washing and sanitizing stations if possible, and train staff and volunteers to support safe and healthy behaviors.

The guidance also includes detailed safety recommendations for parents and caregivers, as well as a full list of useful resources from other leading organizations. The full guidance is available for download at kaboom.org/reopen.

“Parks and playspaces are essential community infrastructure and critical for the healthy development of kids,” says Kristine Stratton, CEO of National Recreation and Park Association. “Ensuring public health and equity must be the top priority as families return to their neighborhood parks and playspaces. These guidelines equip park and recreation professionals and playground owners and operators with the tools they need to make safe and equitable decisions about how to reopen playgrounds.”

Playground Closures Analysis

KABOOM! collected data from a range of public sources — including state and local public health orders and school closures — to better understand the status of playground closures across the country and the number of kids impacted. Our examination includes both a national view as well as an in-depth look at how authorities are handling closures at the local level, using the state of Maryland as a case study.

Key findings of the analysis include:

“While the current environment calls on us to reopen playgrounds in safe and equitable ways, we cannot lose sight of the journey ahead,” said Hutchins. “We must redouble our efforts to end playspace inequities, and we should start with communities that have experienced a long history of disinvestment.”

KABOOM!, the National Recreation and Parks Association and the Outdoors Alliance for Kids will be hosting a webinar with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention experts on Wednesday, June 24 at 1:00 p.m. ET to discuss the ideas and resources for prioritizing equity, cleaning, establishing capacity limits, supporting physical distancing, and educating parents and caregivers about safe playground use.

KABOOM! Playground Reopening Taskforce Members

  • Allison Colman, Director of Health, National Recreation and Parks Association
  • Kimberly Driggins, Executive Director, Washington Housing Conservancy
  • Lori Freeman, CEO, National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)
  • Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins, Vice President of Programs, KABOOM!
  • Michael McAfee, President and CEO, PolicyLink
  • Julie Morita, Executive Vice President, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Catherine Nagel, Executive Director, City Parks Alliance
  • Dr. Keshia Pollack Porter, Associate Dean for Faculty and Professor of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Kate Robb, Senior Program Manager, Environmental Health, American Public Health Association
  • Nonet Sykes, Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.
  • Jennifer Vey, Senior Fellow and the Director of the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking, Brookings Institution