Ronda Jackson: The Future of Play

For Part 3 of the Voices on the Future of Childhood series, we asked experts to offer their insights and predictions on what play will—or better yet, should—look like when families are released from isolation. 

Every kid should have access to a playground

Ronda JacksonRonda Jackson is Senior Advisor of Government Affairs at KABOOM!, a national nonprofit that works to achieve playspace equity.

The COVID-19 crisis is temporarily redrawing the map of childhood, and playgrounds are out. Mulch crunching underfoot, laughter in the afternoon air—these simple joys seem woefully out of reach these days.

Playgrounds are the only public spaces built specifically for kids. The images we see of empty slides and jungle gyms are evocative because we know on an intuitive level just how important these spaces are. Decades of research show that play itself is a developmental necessity and even helps kids manage toxic stress.

The experience of not having a safe playground within reach is uniquely universal for the moment. But the reality is that before this era of social distancing, many kids—particularly kids of color in neighborhoods facing disinvestment—didn’t have access to a playground in the first place.

The current crisis is creating challenges for leaders at all levels who have to prioritize public health and ensure immediate needs like food and housing are met. But it is also a unique opportunity to advance a vision for equity in access to high quality spaces for play: a world in which every kid has a playground nearby, regardless of their race, ethnicity, zip code, or family income.

When the immediate crisis passes, kids will return to the neighborhoods they left behind. Some will celebrate by running, jumping, and laughing with friends at their local playground while others simply won’t have that opportunity. We believe this is unacceptable. Now is the time to work toward a world where the developmental benefits and simple joy of gathering at a playground isn’t just a luxury, but a right.



See more posts in this series:

Voices on the Future of Childhood

Bo Stjerne Thomsen | Helen Hadani | Jill Vialet | Kathy Hirsh-Pasek | Kathryn E. Ringland |
Makeda Mays Green | Roger Hart | Ronda Jackson | Rosanna Lopez

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