The City of Alexandria was named one of 213 Playful City USA Communities by KaBOOM! for its efforts to increase play opportunities for children. Playful City USA, sponsored by the Humana Foundation, is a national program advocating for local policies that improve children’s play opportunities.
Alexandria was selected for its outstanding dedication to play. The Alexandria Childhood Obesity Action Network (A-COAN) launched the Project Play initiative this year to raise awareness about the importance of play, improve play environments for more than 6,000 Alexandria children, and ensure that every child has access to a quality playground. A-COAN, in collaboration with the City, Alexandria/Arlington Smart Beginnings, and ACTion Alexandria, developed a playspace assessment tool and assessed 86 public/semi-public playgrounds that served children of all ages. A-COAN’s Project Play Task Force is in the process of developing recommendations based on the assessment.
This recognition also lauds the work of the Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities (RPCA), which has renovated three playgrounds this year and successfully raised enough public-private funds to build a Miracle Field that will provide a rubber-like outdoor field with a cushioned surface for people using wheel chairs, walkers, and similar equipment, making it safe for people of all abilities to play. In addition to providing physical places for play, RPCA provides year-round activities for children ages 3 to 17.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is critical to healthy brain development. It allows children to use their creativity while simultaneously developing imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive and emotional strength. Yet today’s children spend less time playing outside than any previous generation in part because only one in five kids live within walking distance of a park or playground. The resulting play deficit is having profound consequences for kids physically, socially and academically. KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to saving play, created Playful City USA in 2007 to help local governments address this play deficit.
As a Playful City USA community, Alexandria is now eligible for $20,000 in grants from Let’s Play, a community partnership led by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, to get children and families active nationwide. Grant recipients will be announced on June 4, 2012.
For more information on the KaBOOM! Playful City USA program, including Let’s Play grants and applications for 2013, visit www.playfulcityusa.org. For more information on the Childhood Obesity Action Network, contact Carrie Fesperman Redden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703.746.4914.