Cities that promote play are at an economic advantage because people want to live, work, spend time and money in positive play environments. A sense of community can be established when families and children are able to play in public locations (Ehrenhalt, 2014). Play deserts occur in places where children have limited play opportunities. Crime, community facilities, and obesity are some of the factors leading to play deserts (Sharaievska, 2014). Location may also hinder opportunities for play. At least four things are needed to create communities of play.
#1) Safety. The basic ingredient for play is that it must be safe. Communities of play are environments where great care has been taken to ensure children are protected from harm. Safe play communities have low or no crime.
#2) Clean and welcoming facilities. Families seeking play communities for their children want clean spaces that are attractive and welcoming. The well-being of children is maximized when there are facilities conducive to play. Clean water, playgrounds, spaces, equipment, toys, and more are needed to attract children and families (Juster & Leichter-Saxby, 2014).
#3) Access. Play environments must be accessible to people with diverse abilities. In my community, we recently renovated our community playground so that it could be more accessible to children with motor delays and people who use wheelchairs. The results have been more inclusive play for all our children. Such a valuable investment.
Access to play communities that are close to home and work are necessary to making play a priority for families. Schedules are busy and there are many things to do each day which may push opportunities for play to the bottom of the to-do list. Families do not need an extra errand to transport children far away to play.Community planning is necessary for the development and maintenance of play communities.
#4) Supervision. Children require adult supervision. Parents, grandparents, family members, teachers, parks and rec staff, city employees paid to supervise community activities, and other adults designated to ensure the safety and well-being of children are necessary to play communities. Public spaces for play should be managed by qualified adults trained to properly supervise children.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states in Article 31 that children have the right to: “rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.” Children benefit when they are able to play in safe, clean, accessible, and supervised environments. Childhood is enhanced where there are nurturing and caring communities of play.