Playing is an essential part of development for young children. Its benefits go beyond learning to include better health and improved social skills. However, not every child lives in a community with enough accessible, safe, outdoor space to play.
The national nonprofit KaBOOM! is dedicated to bringing balanced and active play in the daily lives of all children. Their latest “play challenge” will award $1 million in prizes to communities that provide the best ideas to increase the playability of their neighborhood. For this challenge, there is one caveat, the idea to increase playability must be implemented in a nontraditional space, such as a sidewalk, vacant lot, bus stop, or street.
Like KaBOOM!, National Health Foundation (NHF) realizes that in some communities, a nontraditional approach is often necessary. Over the last year, NHF, in partnership with the California Medical Center and the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, has conducted an environmental scan of the Historic South Los Angeles community. Among a wide range of identified health disparities and poor social determinants of health this community faces, lack of safe, open play space is one of community residents’ greatest concerns. After carefully evaluating the needs of the community and receiving input from a team of South LA high school youth leaders, a robust community action plan was created to address this lack of safe, open space in Historic South LA, along with the lack of access to healthy food.
The community action plan will address the lack of safe, open space through a tested method, partnership with the 100 Citizens program, which places kinesiology students from local universities in local communities to facilitate exercise programs. There is demonstrated need for this partnership. Local organizations that offer physical activity programming have long waiting lists and too few resources to meet the demand. Implementation of these partnerships would take place in small pocket parks that currently have no programming. Through this action plan, NHF and its partners will support residents in taking advantage of their parks.
In July, NHF’s KaBOOM! playability idea was selected as one of the top 200 ideas submitted to the Play Everywhere Challenge. In line with the strategies of the action plan, NHF proposed to, in collaboration with Council District 9 and five youth leaders from a local high school, design a maze that will highlight historic events of South Central on the sidewalk in frontof the Constituent Center located on Central Avenue. Additionally, creative seating will be installed that will be abstract in shape, such as concrete orbs, or cylinders. The project will provide an opportunity to play and learn in a space that is safe and close to community resources, the Council District’s Constituent Resource Center on Central Avenue. Here there is high pedestrian traffic. As a main corridor of the community, high pedestrian traffic will bring many children through the maze to play. NHF’s KaBOOM! submission is building on the work already underway to enhance the local community’s physical environment and invite children and adults alike to get more physically active.