Children at play a new way to judge winning cities

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comJuly 13, 2013 

In this photo from June , Aaron Shaftel of Cincinnati, Ohio, holds son, Peyton over the fountain at Coligny Beach Park on Hilton Head Island.

DELAYNA EARLEY — File photo Buy Photo

Chalk one up for hopscotch.

A British psychologist has concluded that a return to old-fashioned games like hopscotch and hide-and-seek boost self-confidence and help children skip past their constant worries over body image.

Maybe my generation is not as crazy as we thought, having stayed outside till dark chasing lightning bugs, kicking cans, rolling bats, dodging balls and chanting for Red Rover, Red Rover to send someone right over.

Stick ball, kick ball, freeze tag and bikes. Touch football, pick-up basketball, tree-climbing, swimming and skating. We didn't play on teams, we ran in hordes.

Isn't there a pill for all of that?

Or a video game? The big news this past week was the release of the "NCAA Football 14" game.

The British psychologist is not alone in exploring why it's not unusual for 7-year-olds to be on a diet.

Six cities in South Carolina have turned play into hard work, and they've been rewarded with the "Playful City USA" designation.

The vision is simple in Spartanburg, Greenville, Charleston, Rock Hill, Camden and Marion. They want to see children playing outside.

"The barriers to play include increased screen time, reductions in school-based playtime, more traffic, less open space, run-down play areas, and caregivers' fears about safety," says the national nonprofit organization that is pushing play as something important.

The organization is called KaBOOM!, and it's sponsored by the Humana Foundation. It has been citing playful cities since 2007, including 217 this year that do these things:

  • Create a local play commission or play task force

  • Design an annual action plan for play

  • Conduct a playspace audit of all publicly accessible play areas

  • Identify current spending on capital projects and maintenance of playspaces

  • Proclaim and celebrate an annual "KaBOOM! Play Day."

  • They have enacted at least three policies, programs, or initiatives aimed at increasing access to play at school, in neighborhoods, and through community engagement.

    Play, they say, "is emerging as a civic responsibility."

    They want a playground within walking distance of every child.

    And why not?

    Haven't we seen in Beaufort County that our greatest successes are gathering spaces where kids can play: the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, Harbour Town, The Sands, the beach, bike paths, sand bars and parks?

    Shouldn't Beaufort replicate the success of the Pigeon Point Park, and Hilton Head repeat the joy of the Coligny Beach Park dancing water fountain?

    The Spanish Moss Trail was an instant success, but who knew the new J.E. McTeer Bridge over the Beaufort River would be such an attraction? When Michael Frederick was running on the bridge to train for the Boston Marathon, he said it was so full of runners and walkers he called it a "Wellness Center."

    Maybe Hilton Head should dust off its plans for that signature tree house it was considering along the marsh of Broad Creek.

    Maybe the "trivial" is the new "important."

    Chalk one up for hopscotch.

    Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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