A Government Shutdown and Its Impact on Play

September 25, 2023

Think that a federal government shutdown won’t have an impact on neighborhood playgrounds? The federal government shutdown could have both long and short-term effects on play and our children. Funding needed to build, maintain, and renovate new playspaces often comes from the federal government in the form of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. Without the staff to help oversee the administration of these programs in a timely manner, critically needed outdoor recreation projects can stall or be placed on hold. If a government shutdown lasts more than a couple of weeks, this can have an impact on maintenance and new construction schedules that could even delay projects into next year, especially in places where the construction season is determined by the onset of colder weather.

Outdoor recreation projects aren’t the only thing in jeopardy. Programs like SNAP and WIC are also strained during a prolonged shutdown, which can have an impact on the nutritional health of children. Access to healthy food on a consistent basis is an important factor in how much physical activity children engage in, anything that threatens their food security is therefore a threat to the physical and mental health benefits of play.

Finally, for families whose income relies on one or more federal employees, the delay in compensation can destabilize the family dynamics that children will feel. Studies have shown that financial strains, even short-term ones, can increase a child’s sense of anxiety, social isolation, and uncertainty. These feelings can lead children to withdraw socially and not engage in their normal schedule of outdoor play.

Every child needs access to quality, engaging playspaces as well as the support systems needed to enjoy all of the benefits of play. KABOOM! works with systems, like school districts and municipal parks and recreation departments, across the country to give children that opportunity. Hopefully, leaders across the federal government will come together this week to avert a shutdown and avoid the negative impacts it would have on countless kids in every community.