A new study by researchers in the School of Health Professions at the University of Alabama Birmingham documents a major disparity in play places for children depending on the average incomes of families in the surrounding area.
The researchers found that parks, playgrounds, and open spaces in affluent areas tended to have clean restrooms, cleared walking surfaces, accessibility to play structures, and a safe environment. In contrast, parks, playgrounds, and open spaces in less affluent areas had limited open areas, static rather than dynamic playground features, and a lack of security.
Gavin Jenkins, an assistant professor in the department of occupational therapy at the University of Alabama Birmingham and the lead author of the research, said that “children learn through play, and studies have shown that access to safe, well-designed parks provides health benefits to children. Understanding the quality of play environments will help communities ensure that all children have access to imaginative, stimulating, play environments.”
Amy Maher, an occupational therapy student at the university and a co-author of the study, added that “improving parks and playgrounds would encourage families to use the play spaces, and that in turn would give children more access to active play, which is central to child development and social, emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being.”
The article, “Disparities in Quality of Park Play Spaces between Two Cities with Diverse Income and Race/Ethnicity Composition: A Pilot Study,” was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. It may be viewed here.