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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

10 Ways That Play Strengthens the Community as a Whole

Photo by Dan Keck (Flickr)

When I think of what makes my local community successful, I think of its economic conditions, social interactions, environmental stability, and cultural diversity. Play also contributes to the success of my community. As we promote play, let's consider the ways that play and playgrounds support a community's well-being.

Boost Cognitive Function

Everyone in the community benefits cognitively from play. When children play, they develop important cognitive skills like language, problem-solving, and strategic planning. Playing also improves memory and reduces dementia in adults.

Encourage Creativity

I love watching my girls and their friends make up new games as they play. Creativity is important for our kids' development, but it's also important for adults because it improves innovation, problem-solving, productivity, and positivity.

Develop Social Skills

I'm always looking for ways to prompt my girls to practice friendliness, compassion, and inclusion. They can learn these skills on the playground as they collaborate, cooperate, share, and play fairly with a variety of children. Adults, too, develop social skills and strengthen bonds with family members and neighbors as we play together in our community.

Improve Mental Health

Whenever my girls or I feel stressed, frustrated, or out of sorts, we play. The physical activity and fresh air clear our heads, reduce stress, and improve our moods. These same mental health improvements are available to everyone in our community as we relax, make connections, and play.

Stay Physically Active

To better our physical health and fight obesity, we need exercise, which we get as we play. One study showed that a park improvement project in Chicago resulted in a 37 percent increase in movement and physical activity. Walking, biking, or hiking around the neighborhood, joining a community rec center, or playing basketball, tag, or tennis are all fun, playful activities that encourage our families and neighbors to get more exercise.

Celebrate Diversity

One of my favorite neighborhood playgrounds features an inclusive design. Kids and adults of all ages and abilities can meet for fun and play. In this environment, neighbors learn to demonstrate compassion, celebrate diversity, and value all humankind.

Promote Teamwork

When one of our local playground areas needs a makeover, the entire community pitches in. We band together to pull weeds, repair broken equipment, and paint benches. We can feel proud to be part of a community effort that promotes teamwork and draws us together as neighbors.

Create Healthy Habits

We want our kids to adopt a playful lifestyle now so they can continue to enjoy the benefits of play when they reach adulthood. Let's prioritize play and make it a habit as we empower our kids and communities to transform their health, wellness, and well-being.

Preserve the Environment

While walking the perimeter of a local playground recently, my girls and I spotted squirrels, birds, and dozens of tree and plant varieties. All of these playground features beautify our communities, improve air quality, and preserve the environment for future generations.

Strengthen the Local Economy

Playgrounds and play boost the local economy through reduced environmental cleanup expenses and community health-care costs. Local restaurants, coffee shops, and shopping centers near playgrounds also enjoy higher sales, and properties located next to parks increase in value by as much as five percent. For these reasons, we can support play as we strengthen our local economy.

To help our communities succeed, let's play more. When we support our local playgrounds and encourage our kids to play, everyone wins. How does your community benefit from play?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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