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2006 Shows Increased Advocacy for Play and Playgrounds

IPEMA's "Voice of Play" initiative works to improve the quality and quantity of children's play

By Tom Norquist, IPEMA President and Senior Vice President for Gametime

The International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) has seen an increase in promoting and protecting children's play from people and groups outside the IPEMA.

What an exciting and positive year 2006 has been for children's play and playgrounds. This fall, IPEMA (International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association) kicked off its Voice of Play initiative to increase the quality and quantity of children's play. This effort is designed to increase awareness about the profound developmental benefits of play, and to promote more time and safer places to play.

The Voice of Play effort formed from a growing consensus among IPEMA members that we need to send a stronger message promoting play opportunities in our communities. IPEMA, with its 123 playground equipment and surfacing manufacturers as members, has traditionally been known as a leader in playground safety, based on our third-party playground testing and certification program. In recent years, however, many IPEMA members have begun to see the association's role as a broader one, focused on increased advocacy for fun playgrounds that lead to healthier and smarter children.

The "Voice of Play" is integral to growing momentum to support play as an important aspect of a child's physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. This initiative adds a strong voice to the conversation surrounding the value of children's play and is a united effort of all IPEMA members to improve children's play time and playgrounds.

IPEMA membership includes 123 playground equipment and surfacing manufacturers.

The initiative includes a new website ( to serve as a clearinghouse of information for everyone who cares about kids and play. It includes resources for parents; community groups; school administration officials, boards and teachers; landscape architects and designers; and parks and recreation officials. The effort also includes an increased advocacy and outreach effort with a new Voice of Play board of advisors to raise the level of understanding about and commitment to children's play among all stakeholders.

We have also seen an increase in other group and individual involvement in promoting and protecting children's play time and playgrounds. People have taken note of the disturbing trend of decreasing time for play and have begun to speak up about the many benefits of play.

These efforts are widely varied, on both subject and method, but they all have the same goal in mind--making sure kids have the time and space to play. For example, this year the Cartoon Network hosted the first National Recess Week as part of their Rescue Recess campaign to raise awareness about recess as an essential element of the school day. The goal of National Recess Week was to begin the school year with fun events to encourage parents and community members to become volunteer recess monitors, while reinforcing the importance of recess in the child's school day.

This year was also the grand opening of the first and only museum dedicated to children's play, the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y. The museum's features include an indoor garden shaped like butterfly wings in flight, a gigantic caterpillar-like structure connecting old and new buildings, and a structure resembling a pile of children's blocks that houses an exhibit on the importance of play.

The children's television station Nickelodeon is also speaking out, continuing their "Let's Just Play" campaign with the third annual "Worldwide Day of Play", Sept. 30, a celebration that included a three-hour programming black-out on the channel, to encourage kids to go outside and play.

While these are just a few of the fantastic activities towards society better understanding the value of play in the full development our children, we look to continuing to improve and increase opportunities for play for children of all abilities.

Next year, when we look back at 2007, we are certain to have many more examples of milestones to celebrate for kids' sake.

IPEMA is a nonprofit, membership trade association. You can contact IPEMA headquarters at 1-888-944-7362, or visit

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December 7, 2019, 3:48 am PDT

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