Play Spaces, all play and all fun

Playground Makeover

Who doesn’t love a good makeover? Playgrounds and play spaces should be inviting, conducive to a variety of activities, and safe for kids of all ages, yet schools are often built with little to no money allocated for play spaces. Playgrounds built back in the day start to show their wear and tear. Whatever the circumstances, if your child’s school playground leaves something to be desired, a fresh coat of paint, new basketball hoops—or a bigger transformation—may be in order. How can we expect our kiddos to be active if the space we provide them doesn’t encourage activity?

The good news is, playground improvement is an issue ripe for parent advocacy! Don’t be afraid to call on your mom or dad squad to rally together and speak at a school board meeting or ask the district for funds. Even if money isn’t available to hire professionals to make over the space, there’s a lot you can do with a little creativity and a lot of volunteers.

If you build it, they will come

Here are some tips for getting started on spiffing up your play space:

  • Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of elbow grease: Enlist as many volunteers as you can from the school community as well as local businesses.
  • See if your school or district allows shared use of the playground with the community outside of school hours. In exchange, see if the park district, a nearby church, a non-profit or a parent group will help fund the renovation.
  • Hit up a local home improvement store to donate paint or other supplies. Simply repainting and repairing the playground so all the equipment can be fully utilized can make an enormous difference. Another good use of paint is painting games on the blacktop to allow for more structured play activities, such as four square, hop scotch and basketball. You might also consider building new benches or a garden bed for students to plant vegetables and herbs. These projects can be tackled by volunteers and are functional while also beautifying the space.
  • Make sure the space provides access for kids with disabilities to enjoy as well.

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, make the best of what you have, adapt what you have to what you want, assess and modify. Commitment and involving the students is important. This gives the students a sense of ownership and pride.

– Robert Pollock

Director of health, physical education and athletics at Alexander Hamilton High School in Westchester County, NY, on what he learned by working to beautify and improve the safety of the school’s courtyard for basketball and soccer.

Playground Tip:

Remember to introduce the idea of improving the playground with other parents and school administrators early on. Check out Your School Healthier: Making Change Happen for tips on engaging school leaders.

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