Making Playful Spaces

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How can we Make Our Urban Experience More Conducive for Play?

When we design cities, are we paying enough attention to making them fun, playable places? In most cases we aren’t. But it’s time to start thinking about how we can thread opportunities to introduce play as part of the fabric of our built environment and as a fundamental component of our urban areas.

KaBOOM! and ideas42 advocate for this type of model in their new report, “Using Behavioral Economics to Create Playable Cities” [PDF].  KaBOOM! is dedicated to building parks and playgrounds in communities that need them most and ideas42 is a nonprofit that crafts solutions to social issues using the tenets of behavioral economics. The two organizations call on policymakers, planners, and developers to rethink the way play areas are situated in our cities.

The report highlights time and inconvenience as key barriers or “bottlenecks” preventing families from getting out to parks and playgrounds. Parks are considered a major outing for parents; but these playful sessions can swallow up entire afternoons if you account for the time it takes to plan, prep, and travel to distant parks.

To further remedy the “hassle factors” of park visits, let’s create play areas in close proximity to all families – including those in park-poor, underserved communities. In addition to the increased use of informal mini-parks, let’s also remember to facilitate intergenerational play [PDF], and create flexible, community-oriented spaces.

It’s not too late to start planning more explicitly for children and intergenerational families in our cities. Let’s design our cities to spark the imagination of children and engage them in healthy lifestyles.

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