Boy on Jungle Gym

GOAL V Active Kids At Play

Goal V: To increase physical activity, local elected officials commit to mapping local playspaces, completing a needs assessment, developing an action plan and launching a minimum of three recommended policies, programs or initiatives.*

  • All playspaces are mapped.
  • A needs assessment of playspaces is completed and an action plan is developed; plus Bronze benchmark.
  • At least three recommended policies, programs or initiatives from the action plan are launched to increase access to physical activity; plus Bronze and Silver benchmarks.

What are playspaces?
Playspaces are where children and youth can play and be physically active.  Playspaces can include publicly accessible playgrounds, indoor and outdoor recreational facilities, skate parks, parks, fields, trails and greenways.

What does it mean for playspaces to be inaccessible?
There are multiple ways to define lack of access, including but not limited to the following definitions:
-There are no playspaces in the neighborhood.
-There are limited playspaces in the neighborhood.
-The playspaces available to constituents are not safe and determined inaccessible.
-Constituents in the area of need cannot walk a reasonable distance (approx. ½ mile), or travel by car or mass transit to available safe playspaces.

There are other research-based definitions for lack of access.  Local elected officials can determine which definition best fits the needs of their city, town or county and can use this information when assessing lack of access to playspaces in their community.

What does it mean for playspaces to be safe?
There are multiple ways to define safe playspaces.  Definitions may include components of injury prevention, crime statistics and/or environmental concerns.  For example, a safe playspace could mean one in which youth or adults are less likely to be physically injured while using the playspaces.  A safe playspace also could have few incidences of crime in and/or around it.  Finally, a safe playspace could mean limited exposure to environmental hazards, such as air or water pollutants. A community may choose components of one or all of these definitions to define safe playspaces. Tools to assess safety can be found on the Resources page.

Why are playspaces important?
Creating and enhancing access to safe playspaces can provide opportunities for children and youth to be active.  Regular physical activity during childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem, and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 1  Yet the majority of American children and youth are not meeting the recommended levels of physical activity. 2  Children who don’t have neighborhood access to a park or playground are 26% more likely to be obese. 3 Research has shown that children who are physically active and fit tend to perform better in the classroom, and physical activity can improve cognitive performance and classroom behavior. 4 As rates of obesity and related diseases continue to rise across the country, local elected officials can expect to see a range of associated financial and social impacts across their cities, towns and counties, including direct medical costs, lost productivity, absenteeism and disability.

 Are you currently a KaBOOM! Playful City USA?  You may be well on your way to achieving LMCTC’s Goal V! Playful City USA is a free national recognition program of KaBOOM! that spotlights cities and towns that make physical activity and play a priority and use innovative practices to get children and families active and healthy. You can apply now to become a Playful City USA.

What roles can local elected officials play in promoting physical activity?
As a local elected official, you play an important role in promoting public health by removing barriers, increasing opportunities and providing information to increase physical activity.  Furthermore, active communities provide opportunities that can benefit the local economy, deter crime and support the local environment. Among other steps, you can expand opportunities for physical activity by ensuring that your constituents have access to safe, open venues (e.g., public parks, trails, playgrounds and indoor/outdoor recreational facilities) that are conveniently located for all youth and families.

Steps to Success:
Has your city, town, or county mapped public playspaces, conducted a needs assessment, identified gaps in access and developed an action plan to close these gaps?  Has your city, town or county launched at least three recommended practices from the action plan to increase access to safe, convenient places for physical activity?

To achieve this goal, you can take action by following the steps below. Consider engaging other stakeholders, such as parks and recreation departments, city planning officials, transportation officials, businesses, local architects, parents’ groups, youth and other community members.

  1. BRONZE: Map the location of existing public playspaces in your community and assess the quality of the playspaces and their accessibility and safety for constituents. Your map should include publicly accessible playgrounds, indoor and outdoor recreational facilities, skate parks, parks, fields, trails, greenways and other public spaces designed for physical activity.  Methods to help you map parks and recreation facilities include but are not limited to:
    • Encouraging the community to use KaBOOM!’s free mobile website to report the location of publicly accessible parks or recreational facilities in your community.
    • Partnering with a local college, university, or health department’s geographical information system (GIS) experts to determine the latitude and longitude or address of a park or recreational facility to illustrate existing offerings which can be used with corresponding population data and indicate where gaps to access may exist.
    • Using existing resources from local parks and recreation departments to determine the location of the parks or recreational facilities that are maintained for public use by your community. This information may be available to you for free.
    • Determining the location of recreational facilities in your county by using the Census Bureau’s County Business Pattern Database.  Please note some recreational facilities located in this database may not be publically accessible.
  2. SILVER: Using the map of local playspaces, complete a needs assessment to identify neighborhoods in your city, town or county where there are gaps in access to safe and convenient spaces for play and physical activity.  Consider areas where playspaces are not accessible and safe, and policies or initiatives that may be needed to improve accessibility of those playspaces. Develop an action plan using the information from your needs assessment.
  3. GOLD: Using your action plan, launch at least three recommended practices to increase access to safe, convenient places to play and be physically active in your city, town or county.  Such practices can include:
    • Creating joint use agreements with community partners, including businesses, schools, churches and indoor and outdoor recreation facilities. (A joint use agreement, also called a shared use agreement, is an agreement between two parties agreeing to terms and conditions for the shared use of property. Property could be a pool, school grounds, open space on private property, etc.).
    • Working on a recess policy in local schools.
    • Changes to zoning ordinances to promote physical activity, such as promoting parks and recreation or requiring sidewalks.
    • Developing or expanding safe routes to schools, or implementing additional strategies for walking or biking to school or work.
    • Expanding multi-modal transportation options.
    • Revitalizing existing places for play and physical activity by enhancing the safety and accessibility of playgrounds, parks, trails, greenways and public recreation facilities.
    • Increasing the number of playgrounds or other places for play and physical activity.
    • Implementing a sustainable play streets program or open streets program. (Play Streets programs close specific streets to traffic on a routine basis and open that space to the community to encourage physical activity.)
    • Implementing physical activity requirements for city- or county-funded youth programs, such as afterschool programs or summer camps.
    • Incorporating provisions to encourage walking and biking in the city/county master plan (also called a general plan or a comprehensive plan).
  4. Report your progress by updating your medal status survey.  In order to earn bronze, silver and gold medals when associated benchmarks are reached, a site must update their progress using their survey link to update their information. Sites received their survey link in their confirmation sign up email, however if it has been misplaced, please send an email to lmctc@nlc.org to request the link.

Goal V Webinars:
Webinars on Goal V were held in April and May 2013 and demonstrated how local elected officials through LMCTC can make progress on Goal V: Active Kids at Play by mapping their playspaces, creating a needs assessment, developing an action plan and launching policies, programs and initiatives that increase access to play.

The Goal V Part 1 webinar focused on mapping and assessing the safety and accessibility of playspaces, creating an action plan to promote physical activity. To download slides from the Goal V Part 1 webinar, click here. To view a recording of the webinar, click here.

The Goal V Part 2 webinar focused on identifying strategies to encourage physical activity in your community, including joint use agreements, safe routes to school programs, revitalizing playgrounds, and enhancing active transportation. To download slides from the Goal V Part 2 webinar, click here. To view a recording of the webinar, click here.

Recognition:
A bronze medal will be earned when all playspaces are mapped.

A silver medal will be earned when a needs assessment is conducted and an action plan is developed; plus Bronze benchmark.

A gold medal will be earned when at least three recommended policies, programs or initiatives from the action plan are launched to increase access to physical activity; plus Bronze and Silver benchmarks.

References:
1Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (November 2008). Physical activity and the health of young people – View PDF.

2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2011]. MMWR 2012;61(No. SS-4):[1-162].  View PDF.

3Singh GK, Siahpush M, and MD Kogan. “Neighborhood Socioeconomic Conditions, Built Environments and Childhood Obesity” Health Affairs 29, no.3 (2010):503-512. View PDF.

4Trost S. Active Education: Physical Education, Physical Activity and Academic Performance. A Research Brief. Princeton, NJ: Active Living Research, a National Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Summer 2009. View PDF.

Going Beyond Gold
After you have completed all five goals, keep up the momentum by signing up for LMCTC All-Stars, which offers a set of eight advanced strategies for cities, towns and counties to pursue. More information about LMCTC All-Stars is available here.

Resources:
To access resources to help you succeed in accomplishing the medal achievements, please click here.

Still need help?  Contact lmctc@nlc.org to receive additional assistance and connect with expert federal staff. 

*To better illustrate how the medal benchmarks build upon each other (i.e. the silver benchmark includes the bronze benchmark), in March 2014, the medal benchmarks were re-formatted to illustrate this more directly. No changes have been made to the goal benchmarks themselves; they were only reformatted.