• Larry Jones: Independence is a Playful City!

  • Today’s generation of children play less than any previous generation despite the vast benefits of play.

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  • 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. Yet 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 across the nation live within walking distance of a park.
    The city of Independence, knowing play is critical to the overall well-being of children, has worked to give children the childhood they deserve by providing ample opportunities to play throughout the city. As a result, the city has earned recognition from national non-profit KaBOOM! as a 2013 Playful City USA.
    KaBOOM! selected Independence for its outstanding dedication to play.
    In 2012, Independence focused on enhancing infrastructure for supporting walking and biking throughout the community and ensuring safety measures such as emergency blue light phones along the Little Blue Trace Trail, school crosswalks, and trail markers were in place. The city also released a smart phone app (Get Healthy, Independence!) for locating parks and trails in the city, and held more than 60 community events to promote park usage.
    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. This year only 217 cities and towns across the country earned the recognition.
    KaBOOM!, which is 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. It is through mayors, city council members, parks and recreation departments, school districts, and community leaders that the program succeeds in benefitting children.
    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 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.
    Nonprofit groups within Independence 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.
    Larry Jones, MPH, is the director of the Independence Health Department.

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