HAZELWOOD (KDKA) — Two-hundred volunteers rolled up their sleeves and got to work building a brand new playground in Hazelwood over the weekend, and it only took a few hours.
It is part of a larger project all about play. While kids naturally want to play, parents and caregivers need to foster play by providing opportunities for kids to play in different ways, in different places and with different people.
Now there is a local organization working to make that happen for all kids and adults, called the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative. They were one of the organizations helping build the “Kaboom! Playground” on an empty lot in Hazelwood with the help of grants, surrounding it with plants and benches.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT: Kidsburgh
“The kids didn’t have a place to play, I would see them up and down the street. So it’s really good they have something in the community. It has been a long time,” said Taneka Harston, a parent and grandparent who lives near the playground in Hazelwood.
This playground is not what you would normally expect though — there are no slides or swings. With the community’s input, it was designed for imaginative play for kids from toddlers to teens.
Cara Ciminillo is the co-founder of the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative, which is a group of organizations working to raise awareness about the importance of play. Ciminillo said playgrounds help kids develop a lot more than just physical skills. Playing teaches kids about working together. Whether it’s running around on a playground or doing make-believe with pretend play, playing is learning disguised as fun. According to Ciminilo, “…brains are building neuron connectors or connections and what that is doing is building a really solid brain architecture.”
Play is not just for kids either. It is important for adults too. Our brains need a break from work and stress, and while we may not come to a playground, things like going out with friends, hiking or just exploring new places are all parts of adult play. It is essential to play at every stage of your life. Ciminillo says whether you are 2 or 92 years old, play builds strong bones, helps with healthy development when you’re 2, but also keeps your mind agile when you are 92.
To further encourage play, the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative is creating the “Hazelwood Play Trail,” linking — both metaphorically and physically — places where kids can play in the community. Some of those places include the new Kaboom! playground, other existing playgrounds, a community garden, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the Center of Life where kids can create music.
The play trail is still a work in progress, but the plan is for it to be marked with things like signs, possibly stencils on the street and maybe even an app so you can find the locations like a scavenger hunt. For more information on the new playground, as well as a list of the top ten playground in the region and other ideas of ways to play, you can visit their website at kidsburgh.org.