Safe Play Spaces are a Vital Part of Childhood Development

I had never given the word play much thought. As someone who has always been a playful person – I collect vintage toys, love animation and have, I think, a great imagination- the concept of play started changing for me when our clients Kool-Aid and Kraft Foods Foundation began getting involved with KaBOOM!, a non-profit whose mission is to build safe playgrounds for kids in underserved communities throughout the country.

The playgrounds come in many shapes and sizes but all provide the same thing: a place for fun, team building and all the other elements that make play integral to a child’s development.They are erected in one day with the community’s input and involvement, and with volunteers helping to contribute financially.

As part of Delicious Difference Week, Kraft Foods’ global week of community service, our team – Greta Peters, Danielle Kimiatek and I – participated in building a playground at Trevor Park in Yonkers, N.Y. The community was in dire need of a place for kids to play after the former playground was destroyed by a hurricane last year. It didn’t strike us how crucial an alternative place to play was to the town’s youth, however, until we were driving back home that day.

We pulled up to a traffic light and saw a group of kids sitting on the front porch of a house, holding what looked like a real handgun. I heard a click and my heart stopped, but nothing came out. Real or fake, they seemed to be playing some version of urban Russian Roulette. I could only hope that tomorrow they would be playing with our swings and not their lives.

Our trip to Yonkers becomes especially poignant as we geared up for another playground build on October 28 in Newark, N.J., this time with Kool-Aid. We reached nearly 100,000 children across the country during Delicious Difference Week through the small step of building a playground. Working with KaBOOM! has taught us that unstructured play is more than just a way for kids to socialize and release energy, but a crucial part of their mental, emotional and physical development. What our team experienced in Yonkers cemented the truth that all children should have access to play, and it felt great to participate in a campaign that’s providing this access to children across the country.

Posted by: Liz Anklow, Executive Vice President