Safe Places to Play.

Cross-posted from TAPPED

During a House hearing on the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act yesterday, Rep. Yvette D. Clarke noted how all of these programs to encourage healthy eating and increased physical activity to fight childhood obesity ignore the simple problem many children have, especially in cities: No safe places to play. While it might seem to some that every child can go for a walk, their options might be limited and their safety might be compromised.

In fact, the CDC found earlier this year that only about one in five kids lives near a park, and only about half of children surveyed said they lived near a place they could easily exercise. Few high school students get even an hour of activity a day, and only 37 states require physical education. With the emphasis on academic achievement, recess time is shrinking. Cities with shrinking budgets, like Colorado Springs, are cutting funding for recreation centers and parks.

So Michelle Obama’s suggestion that she and Elmo go for a walk is nice, but for some children the only place for exercise is a crowded sidewalk full of adults that their parents might not consider safe. That’s part of the larger issue: Many neighborhoods don’t have environments dedicated or conducive to physical activity. Cities can struggle because not only do those amenities cost money, but they also raise the values of nearby homes and apartments, keeping low-income families away from the types of play centers they need. It just shows how the obesity problem, both for children and adults, is the product of a constellation of related factors that need a coordinated push by the federal government to solve.

  • Even parents who aren’t poor have fewer options–public funding for things like parks and rec is waaaay down from when I was a kid in the 70s. Not to mention that the culture has shifted so much that most of the parents I know are afraid to let *middle school kids* get themselves to and from school on their own. People are shocked that PK, who is nine, rides his bike a mile by himself in the morning.

  • Angie

    The problem seems to be more of just needed both parents involved. My husband and I both take our children outside daily to play. But we are people who love outdoors. We don’t send them anywhere alone. Sometimes we all go to the park. Sometimes its just jumping on the trampoline in the back yard. you decide where your family needs to go, then take them there.
    No money required to get outside and spend time with your child/children.

  • April

    Sometimes its just jumping on the trampoline in the back yard. you decide where your family needs to go, then take them there.

    OK, this totally ignores the argument in the OP. What if there isn’t a park nearby? And not everyone has a huge yard where they can fit a trampoline (which by the way, might not actually be the safest thing to play on).

    • thanks. beat me to it.

    • Zesi

      of course you’re right. and no, you can’t play outside if you don’t have the access to a good place to play, like a park or a yard or a neighborhood where people feel safe letting their kids run around in.

      but there are still a lot of people who live in places where they have yards (see: most homes in the south, citified or no) in reasonably safe places (at least at times when kids are usually out to play) and don’t. so perhaps this message will hit them. the harder thing is providing access to those who have none of that, but that point is already addressed in the article, though.

      oh—and i think some concern for children’s safety is really overblown. exercise/play has risk. children play football, run on concrete w/untied shoelaces, jump off swings, climb, do gymnastics (formally trained and not so), ride skateboards, bikes, horses, play football…and football. they will get hurt even if they’re not thrillseekers.