Now that you have some facts on the state of play down on paper (or in a brief presentation), it’s time to tell people who can help create more playspaces and improve the conditions in the spaces that already exist. Share your findings in the following ways:
Talk to elected and appointed officials! Using your data, ask the mayor to create more playspaces and put more resources into fixing equipment that is outdated, broken, or dangerous, and be specific about where you would like additional playspaces and which playgrounds are outdated. You should also brief the city council, the parks and recreation department, community policing, and other relevant agencies in a similar fashion.
Alert the media! Community newspapers are always looking for stories about what is happening in the neighborhood, especially with children. Call the newspaper, tell them what you found during your playspace audit, and ask them to write a story about it. Invite a reporter who covers children’s issues or education to visit some sites to see the conditions firsthand. Also consider writing a letter to the editor or an op-ed about your findings and recommendations for change.
Corral your allies! Share your findings with other groups and associations that are concerned about children’s well-being (e.g., PTA, Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, after-school programs, child care centers, faith-based programs, YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, etc.). The more people you have on your side, the easier it will be to make improvements.
Engage community service organizations! Civic associations such as the Lions Club, Kiwanis, Rotary, and many others have devoted members in nearly every community who are looking for great opportunities to help others, especially young people. Reach out to the leadership of these groups or ask to present at an upcoming meeting and propose that they sponsor the building of a new playspace or the refurbishment of an existing one.
Enlist the help of businesses! Make sure community leaders know about your findings, whether or not they have school-age children of their own. Local businesses may donate supplies to clean up a playspace. They may even “adopt” the playspace and provide a stipend for gardening, trash cans, and other necessities in exchange for a sign acknowledging their help. Business people also may have connections to the mayor and city council that can be helpful.
Bring everyone together! Now that you’ve documented the problems, and briefed key allies on the issues, it’s time for action. Bring people together for a one-day build or a cleanup day at a playspace that has become rundown. Invite the mayor to declare a “Play Day” in the city. Ask a church or other institution with land if they would make playspace available. The key is to have a strategy for taking action. Do what makes the most sense in your community.
"Play is hard to maintain as you get older. You get less playful. You shouldn’t, of course."
– Richard Feynman, American physicist, 1918–1988