Mapping your playspaces will give you an overall picture of the status of play in your neighborhood or community. Doing a playspace audit takes this concept to a whole new level. To advocate for more playspaces and higher quality equipment, you’ll need to make your case with data and facts. Your audit should identify the number of playspaces, locations, quality, and accessibility. An audit is an essential tool for identifying deficits of play in your community. In addition, an audit will allow your network to measure progress in reaching your local vision.
Count how many playspaces there are in your town. NOTE: If you have, at a minimum, one playspace for every 500 children, you are on your way to a good start. However, quality and location are equally important to reach the vision of a great playspace within walking distance.
Contact your local parks and recreation department to find out what type of mapping they do of playspaces. Most parks and recreation departments map their parks through a GIS system so it is just a matter of finding out which ones include playspaces. If you are hitting a roadblock at parks and recreation because of conflicting priorities or unresponsiveness, contact your local elected representative to obtain the information on your behalf. This map will offer you a good place to start your audit. In addition, you will want to include playspaces connected to schools and other privately owned playspaces that are accessible to the public.
Now it is time for your team to divide and conquer and hit the road as citizen inspectors. Remember, there are certified playground inspectors who are responsible for ensuring that every piece of playground equipment meets national safety standards. That is not your job. You are to use a critical eye and note the functionality, appeal, quality, and accessibility of the space. Your bottom line: Would you allow your children or nieces and nephews to play there? Why or why not?
To begin, you will want to create a Playspace Survey so that you have a consistent method for reporting. In addition to including a checklist of available equipment in the survey, consider asking the following questions below. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a start to get you thinking. And remember to always leave space for subjective comments. That is where you will get most of your candid responses.
Lastly, make sure to bring a camera. Pictures say a thousand words when advocating!
Can children with disabilities get to the playgrounds and use the equipment, restrooms, and seating?
What is the quality of the space? What is the condition of the surface? How much of the area is grass? How much is blacktop? Is the space isolated or well trafficked?
Are there hazards of play, including sharp points, corners, and edges; protrusions or projections; head entrapment and tripping hazards?
Is the equipment in the playspace engaging and up to date? What’s missing, and what could be added or updated? NOTE: One easy way to tell if a space is up to date is if there are many children enjoying the site! Ask them what updates are needed.
Is the equipment age-appropriate? Most playground equipment in the early 1990s was designed for school-age children from six to twelve years old. The information in this guide is targeted to children age two to twelve, but adolescents need places that are age-appropriate, too!
Once you’ve completed this checklist, map your playspaces and summarize your findings in a one-page overview so that you can easily educate others about the state of play in your community. If you want to get creative, put together a PowerPoint presentation that incorporates photos of the spaces you have examined, particularly those that may need immediate attention. In addition, you can use your final assessment to determine where the gaps in play are and begin to take action steps to advocate for new and improved playspaces in areas where there is a deficit.
Lastly, don’t forget to enter your playspace in our KaBOOM! Map of Play. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it will help us build a directory of playspaces for anyone visiting your neighborhood. Check out the playspaces in your area, too!