A study of approximately 500 playgrounds
in Chicago found that access to high-quality playgrounds varies by neighborhood.
The study, “Playground Safety and Quality in Chicago
,” in the February 2013 issue of Pediatrics (published online Jan. 21) took place from 2009 to 2011 and assessed playgrounds in four main categories: age-appropriate design, ground surfacing, equipment maintenance and physical environment.
The authors used these criteria to assign each playground a safety score. At the start of the study, most playgrounds were in fair condition. The majority met the criteria for age-appropriate design and physical environment. A failing grade was most likely due to problems with ground surfacing, such as not enough wood chips to cushion falls, or equipment maintenance issues. The authors also found that neighborhoods with a higher percentage of people living in poverty had both fewer playgrounds and more failing playgrounds. When a playground was found to have problems, the appropriate authorities were notified, leading to more playgrounds receiving a passing grade at the end of the study period.
The authors conclude that strengthening community partnerships and training surveyors to conduct yearly examinations of playgrounds can create a safer urban play environment for children.