With research proving play is critical to the overall well-being of children, 217 cities and towns, including Mt. Juliet, earned recognition from national non-profit KaBOOM! as 2013 Playful City USA communities for their efforts to give children the childhood they deserve by providing ample opportunities for play.
Today’s generation of children play less than any previous generation despite the vast benefits of play. The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that play is essential to the social, emotional, cognitive and physical well-being of children.
Sponsored by the Humana Foundation, Playful City USA is a national program from KaBOOM! that celebrates and promotes local policies that increase play opportunities for children and is a key platform in combating the lack of play among children.
“Since our designation as Tennessee’s first playful city in 2010, we have maintained our focus on developing PLAY along with our city’s homes and businesses. Last year, we made the decision to designate the entire month of July to our Parks and Recreation Department and PLAY. Our citizens enjoy the KaBOOM! sponsored renovations to our beloved Planet Playground and I expect they will be equally as excited about the continued growth of our Parks Department. As one of the fastest growing cities in Tennessee, we understand that continued growth requires unrelenting commitment to PLAY in MJ.” Rocky Lee, Parks Manager
KaBOOM!, the national non-profit organization dedicated to giving kids the childhood they deserve by bringing play to those who need it most, created Playful City USA in 2007 to help local governments address the lack of play and it is through mayors, city council members, parks and recreation departments, school districts and community leaders that the program succeeds in benefitting children.
“Kids need to play actively, every day, at home, in school and in their communities, yet play is disappearing,” said Darell Hammond, Founder and CEO of KaBOOM! and author of The New York Times Best Seller KaBOOM!: A Movement to Save Play. “Children spend nearly eight hours a day in front of a screen; almost half of all poor students are deprived of recess; and to make matters worse, only one in five children live within walking distance of a park. Playful City USA communities like Mt. Juliet are creating innovative programs and initiatives and deserve recognition because of their efforts to give kids the childhood they deserve and best prepare them for their future.”
Hailing from 43 states, the 217 Playful City USA honorees range in size from seven-time honorees such as San Francisco and Spartanburg, S.C., to first-time recipient Ellsworth, Kan. (population: 3,100). These Playful City USA communities are making a commitment to play and physical activity by developing unique local action plans to increase the quantity and quality of play in their community.
In the seventh year of the annual program, 16 Playful City USA communities received recognition for the seventh consecutive year, while 23 earned honors for the sixth time, 25 for the fifth time, 29 for the fourth time, 41 for the third time, 46 for the second time. KaBOOM! recognized 37 communities with their first Playful City USA designation.
For the sixth consecutive year, Florida paced the nation with 32 Playful City USA communities. California earned second-place with 26 communities, while Texas finished third with 15 Playful City USA communities.
Each of the 2013 Playful City USA communities demonstrated creative commitments to addressing the lack of play among children. Playful City USA celebrates and highlights these unique initiatives developed by communities across the country. A primary goal of Playful City USA is to encourage cities and towns to share ideas, concepts and programs in an effort to increase play opportunities for children. City initiatives include:
KaBOOM! also selected Mt. Juliet for its outstanding dedication to play. Mt Juliet is committed to the Play in MJ campaign and is using the fun of play to engage its citizens in healthy and active lifestyles. The city is planning to increase access to parks and playgrounds in the community by improving and creating new places to play.
The 217 Playful City USA communities are now eligible for $15,000, $20,000 and $30,000 grants via Let’s Play, a community partnership led by Dr Pepper Snapple Group to get kids and families active nationwide. Grant recipients will be announced in the fall.
For more information on the KaBOOM! Playful City USA program, including Let’s Play grants and applications for 2014, visit www.playfulcityusa.org.