April 4, 2023
KABOOM! recently partnered with Vanguard Strong Start for Kids and Childcare Aware of America (CCAoA) to understand the landscape of playspace equity in Philadelphia for children ages 0-6, and to identify priority areas for investment in playspaces.
Playspaces are a critical part of the infrastructure of childhood, but persistent inequities mean that far too many children of color and kids from low-income communities grow up without a safe, high-quality playground close to where they live, learn, and play. Solving this problem requires a data-informed approach that drives resources to communities where the need is greatest. It also takes creative partnerships with a range of stakeholders–all the groups, people, and systems who have a role to play in solving playspace inequity.
That’s why KABOOM! recently partnered with Vanguard Strong Start for Kids™ and Childcare Aware of America (CCAoA) to understand the landscape of playspace equity in Philadelphia for children ages 0-6, and to identify priority areas for investment in playspaces.
Places to Play Philadelphia
We are excited to announce our findings in an interactive Playspace Equity Story Map that breaks down overall playspace access, priority neighborhoods for investment, and the results of a playspace access survey of 125 early childhood education (ECE) providers across Philadelphia.
Playspaces are especially important for children ages 0-6 as they face unique barriers that limit their access to quality places to play. During these years, children rapidly develop critical skills they need for their future success, and research shows that playspaces help build the foundation for their physical, cognitive, and social-emotional growth. And despite the many benefits of providing kids with quality safe places to play, Philly’s youngest children lack access to playspaces while in childcare.
Our analysis showed that nearly one-third of Philadelphia’s census tracts and 40% of early childcare providers do not have access to a playspace. ”
The ECE survey also found that safety, walkability, and the quality/upkeep of playspaces were significant barriers to accessing nearby playspaces, a finding validated by anecdotes we hear from communities elsewhere.
Equipping decision-makers with the right data is a critical step to achieving playspace equity. We recommend four strategies in light of our analysis:
Address Playspace Inequity Where Kids Ages 0-6 Live, Learn, and Play
Nearly one-third of Philadelphia’s census tracts and 40% of early childcare providers do not have access to a playspace. To solve this, we need targeted investments in neighborhoods, parks, libraries, ECE centers, and anywhere else kids spend time–not just in schools. Our analysis identified a list of 15 priority neighborhoods where future playspace investments should be targeted.
Leverage public and private partnerships
Playspace inequity is a significant but solvable problem. It will take public, private, and nonprofit partners coming together to create more equitable systems and improve the lives of families, including pooling disparate sources of data to get a more accurate picture of who has access and who doesn’t.
Build on existing playful learning work
Philadelphia is a hub for Playful Learning: a research-backed approach to infusing play and learning goals into the built environment to support learning and developmental growth for children and families. Our map shows that there are 42 playful learning spaces in Philadelphia as of November 2022, thanks to the efforts of the Playful Learning Landscapes Action Network, The William Penn Foundation, KABOOM!, and many others.
Leverage mapping, data, and survey work
We encourage further work that uses data-driven and community engaged research methods to advance early childhood access and equity nationwide. It’s important to recognize that quantitative data is a valuable starting point for understanding the equitable distribution of playspaces in a city, but it alone doesn't provide a complete picture of a community. Residents of the identified areas need to be engaged to provide qualitative context and better understand the challenges they face and the solutions they envision.
Achieving playspace equity is possible within our lifetimes, but we must be bold, data-driven, and collaborative to see the work through. And we need your help: join us as we work to put data and equity at the center of efforts to ensure that every kid has great spaces for play.
READ THE FULL STORY MAP
Our vision for playspace equity in Philadelphia is to provide young children with a “surround sound” of play and early learning opportunities in the spaces where they spend time.
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