This post is brought to you by Dr Pepper Snapple Group.
When KaBOOM! met with community members in April to brainstorm about their playground project, the objective was to build a “playground of their dreams.” Mission accomplished.
It’s been about a month since the playground was built at Camden Children’s Garden. In spite of rainy days — and days of sweltering heat — the playground has seen a flurry of activity. Families see it as an exciting addition to the Garden.
Andrew Adams and Mike Devlin agree. Adams, guest services manager at the Garden, and Devlin, the executive director, said the playground is filled with children day in and day out. It appears as though the Let’s Play project is having its intended effect.
Six-year-old Hope may have had her arm in a cast but that didn’t stop her from enjoying the new playground. While she passed on the monkey bars (especially since that’s how she broke her elbow!), everything else was fair game. That’s because she thought the playground was “awesome.” In fact, the hot slide wasn’t even a deterrent to going down over and over again.
Her grandmother was surprised when she learned that Camden was lacking play spaces. She had never visited Camden Children’s Garden — an “amazing place,” she called it — before and was pleasantly surprised by all it had to offer.
Hope was excitedly chatting with her new friend, creating a game that was purely from their collective imaginations. They pretended they could communicate with each other through tubes on either side of the playground. It was silly and fun — precisely what two six-year-olds enjoy.
The month since the playground was built has been a month of surprises and excitement and laughter and joy. Every day children pack the playground, Adams said, either coming with school groups or with their families.
Tanya was visiting the Garden with her two children. They were eating lunch near the playground, both children anxious to get to play. The playground is perfect for her kids to get out their energy, she said.
They weren’t the only ones eager to play. It seemed as though all the kids who were sitting with their parents couldn’t wait to step foot on the playground. There was so much to see and do, and the kids were more than ready.
Denise and her daughter were both checking out the playground equipment. “This is so much fun,” she said. “I am so glad they did this for the kids. They need a playground.” She was disappointed to hear that the kids of Camden didn’t have places to play.
In June, a few hundred volunteers converged on Camden Children’s Garden to pour their sweat into a new playground. They were there to make the vision of Dr Pepper Snapple Group and KaBOOM! a reality. The Let’s Play initiative is the program that led to their collaboration, one that provides playgrounds (or playground renovations) to communities throughout North America.
Teresa Crippen of KaBOOM! knows what playgrounds can mean for a community, and for the kids. “Playgrounds are more than somewhere to play, they are muscle-builders, friend-makers, and thought-expanders. Playgrounds, of course, can teach kids how to climb the monkey bars, but they also teach cooperation, sharing and can expand imaginations.”
It was easy to see those concepts playing out firsthand. Kids were engaging with one another, making friends in an instant…all because of a playground. They were enjoying all that Camden Children’s Garden had to offer, but nothing came close to the joy that the new playground brought.
The Butterfly House, for example, is another draw for the kids at Camden Children’s Garden, as they get the opportunity to be up close and personal with a variety of butterflies.
Kids are eager to play, all the time. So when an opportunity presents itself, they take advantage of it. That’s why it was so important to have a playground, where children can actively play, and actively engage with other kids.
Active play is important in the life of a child; it helps a child grow physically, emotionally, socially, and intellectually. It also is a factor in the development of gross motor skills, control, coordination, and strength.
Physical play does something else — it helps children think creatively, as well as forge strong connections with each other. That comes from learning to share, negotiating, and resolving conflicts.
But activity plays another role in children’s lives — it helps keep kids (and their families) healthy, which lowers the risk of obesity which, in turn, lowers the risk of obesity-associated health issues. In communities with no park or playground, the rate of childhood obesity increases 29 percent. Children who do have a park or playground within a half mile are almost five times as likely to be at a healthy weight than their counterparts.
The Dr Pepper Snapple Group Let’s Play program provides underserved communities with safe, accessible playgrounds and sports equipment. That makes active play possible for more children, thus helping eliminate the “play deficit.”
Gladis Zambrana put it best on Build Day when she explained what the playground meant to Camden. “It means ‘the community’…it means the community cares. It means you’re wanted. It means ‘it’s mine.’ That’s what this means.”
The kids know what the playground means. Their laughter, their excited chatter amongst new friends…that says it all.