Play Matters

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KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization that focuses on the importance of children’s play, has released a report, Play Matters, as part of its Playful City USA campaign, which recognizes communities that improve the quality, quantity and accessibility of play for children.

The thesis of this report is that children increasingly need healthy play options, because of the growing number of overweight children, the increase in depression and anxiety disorders among children and frequent reports of poor social skills and violent habits among schoolchildren. The report suggests that a lack of play will have negative effects on children, suppressing their creative energies and imaginations.

The organization analyzed initiatives in 12 communities, selected because they involved significant new financial and human resources for children’s activities, contributed to change in their respective communities and could be replicated in other locations. KaBOOM! hopes the profiles will encourage more communities to promote the importance of healthy play.

For example, 71 schoolyards were reconstructed with more colorful and engaging equipment for play in Boston under the Boston Schoolyard Initiative led by Mayor Tom Menino. These areas are accessible after school hours to more than 90,000 children 14 years old and younger living in the 15 neighborhoods where the renovations took place.

In Boulder, Colo., the Freiker (short for FREquent bIKER) program sets incentives through a points-and-prizes system and motivates children to cycle and walk to school regularly. The report states that the number of bike-riders in the community has increased with the program. Three thousand participants have already traveled 150,000 total miles, burned over 3.5 million calories, saved thousands of gallons of gas and stopped 150,000 tons of CO2 emissions from adding to pollution.

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