September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Research shows that 18 percent of children aged 6-11 years in the United States are obese. This means that one in every five children suffers from obesity, although some kids are more prone to the condition than others. Childhood obesity increases health risks, and diseases such as diabetes that were once perceived to only affect adults are starting to affect children as well.
Here are a few ways to engage your community in the fight against childhood obesity.
Promote fitness-focused play
Playtime on a safe, engaging playground can be a major contributor to physical activity and to overall health. In fact, the latest playground equipment designs are becoming more fitness focused, with features designed to help kids build stronger bones and muscles and improve balance. We can provide kids with fitness benefits to aid in their overall development as well as prevent obesity.
Encourage imagination and interaction
Experts say that kids consider playtime a source of happiness. In addition to the physical benefits they provide, playgrounds can also serve as sources of interaction, engagement, discovery, and cooperation as well as increased creativity. These added benefits offer kids an enjoyable alternative to sedentary activities such as playing video games, which are all too often accompanied by consumption of high-fat snacks and sugary sodas.
Build community support
Healthy living should start at the family level, with nutritious food choices and adequate water consumption. However, the community can also help in the process by raising awareness and offering outdoor activities that are fun, affordable, and safe. By building playgrounds, schools, churches, and neighborhoods can encourage physical activity while also fostering a stronger sense of community among kids and parents.
Childhood obesity is a national problem, but it can be prevented. Studies show that kids who are physically active have better health, participate more in class, and score well on tests, so encourage the families in your community to unite behind the cause of raising fit, healthy kids today.
The evolution of playground equipment has spanned from welded-together pipes to the scientifically designed structures presently available in the market. Today’s playgrounds take a positive approach to providing children with creative play, enhancing their imaginations, and promoting activity and fitness. Here are a few of the design trends we’re seeing today:
1. Themed playgrounds
Themed playgrounds have become popular accessories for both parks and schools as the playground becomes less a collection of isolated features and more of a holistic learning ground. Whether it echoes a dinosaur camp or an enchanted castle, a themed playground gives facilities an extra sense of energy and make them favorite choices for most kids.
2. Natural playgrounds
If you’ve ever climbed a tree or rolled in a pile of leaves, you’ve experienced natural play. However, these activities are increasingly becoming outdated with the rise of the internet and video games. It’s for this reason that natural playgrounds and spaces are becoming popular: to break technology’s stronghold on kids’ imaginations and overcome what author Richard Louv calls “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Natural playgrounds provide kids with a place for imaginative play while encouraging them to reconnect with nature.
3. Inclusive playgrounds
We’re seeing more playgrounds that are accessible to all members of the community, including kids with disabilities and even grownups. Inclusive playgrounds are helping whole neighborhoods to become more active and healthy. Studies also show that kids who see their parents and other adults engage in exercise are more motivated to do it themselves.
4. Safety-first playgrounds
When it comes to playgrounds, safety is something that never goes out of style. Kids and parents are happier when the playground is safe, and the whole community benefits. We all know it’s impossible to prevent injuries completely, but taking the necessary steps to reduce the risk is important. Recreation managers are choosing safe surfaces, ensuring adequate shade, and selecting age-appropriate structures for their spaces.
As many recreational managers consider updating equipment and adding structures to their playgrounds, it’s important to remember that coming up with a theme to fit a new playground doesn’t have to be difficult. In truth, almost any motif can be a success; all you need is a little imagination and some creativity … and of course, a partner who can help turn your vision into a reality.