RECLAIMING PLAY WHILST SUPPORTING CLIMATE ACTION

Urban consumption, production and lifestyle habits have all contributed to the looming global climate crisis because of the pressure they place on ecosystems. However, encouraging cities to become more climate resilient can prove beneficial to climate change mitigation efforts. One way to contribute to climate resilience, is to intentionally design public play spaces that can adapt to the realities of climate change.
 

Children play an integral role in shaping their own environment, and for them to do so, they need access to safe and healthy places to play. However, many cities are currently not equipped with the necessary infrastructure to meet this demand. This is because many public parks and open spaces are often designed with a focus on fun, aesthetics and function, and a lot of them are not built with climate change mitigation efforts in mind. Over time, as temperatures rise and extreme weather events increase, these parks and playgrounds become unusable because they weren’t designed to withstand the impacts of climate change.

You may be thinking: what's the big deal? What does climate resilience have to do with public play spaces? Why is it even important? Well, it’s significant because play is an essential part of childhood development. It is a key element of a child's overall health and well-being, from cognitive development to emotional growth. So, if cities do not have play spaces that are also climate resilient, long-term, it reduces opportunities for children to play.
For example, play spaces like public playgrounds are places where people can freely engage in physical activity. It offers children a space where they can play and interact with each other. However, with rising temperatures and more frequent heat waves, it will become challenging for parents to find safe places for their kids to play outside at all times of the year.

For example, play spaces like public playgrounds are places where people can freely engage in physical activity. It offers children a space where they can play and interact with each other. However, with rising temperatures and more frequent heat waves, it will become challenging for parents to find safe places for their kids to play outside at all times of the year.


There’s already a shortage of public spaces for play in cities around the world—and we're only going to see more people living in urban areas over the next few decades. This means that as cities get denser, it will be even more difficult for children to find spaces to play, and it becomes worse when the spaces available aren’t built to withstand climate change.

When considering climate change mitigation efforts to implement, the local climate conditions in those areas should be understood. For example, if an area is prone to drought, drought tolerant plants or permeable materials like pavers instead of gravel or mulch can be used in order to reduce irrigation needs.
 

Another way to improve climate resilience, is to invest in urban nature and integrate nature-based infrastructure in the environment. This can be done by planting trees and creating green walls. For example, trees provide shade, which helps lower temperatures, and can also help mitigate the effects of climate change by improving air quality. Green walls are vertical gardens that beautify the play space while helping combat climate change by improving air quality. Doing this not only helps to address the climate crisis, it also contributes to the economic and social value of the environment.

As much as play is important for the development and wellbeing of children, the climate resilience of the environments they play in, are equally as important. Once cities and urban practitioners become more intentional about creating climate friendly play spaces, opportunities for play to impact climate change are created. This is why this year’s edition of the Real Play City Challenge seeks to award placemaking initiatives that enable nature-based play, or advocate for climate action whilst reclaiming play in cities, benefiting both people and the planet. If you’re a playmaker that’s advocating for climate change whilst creating more opportunities for play, apply for the Real Play City Challenge and showcase your work on this global platform.

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