The most obvious and easiest concept to keeping children healthy is having regular access to a playground. Playgrounds are beneficial to a child’s physical health.

Playgrounds are essential for children’s physical, mental, and social development, but did you know a playground is also the arena in which they develop their moral character? Children learn how to treat other people on the playground, making it important to help them develop ethics.

Fitness and fun

The Surgeon General reported obesity was 18.5% and affected about 13.7 million children and adolescents. On city playgrounds, children have space and freedom to engage in heart-healthy activities. They can run around wildly while playing monsters and aliens or clamber around the playground equipment while pretending to be monkeys at the zoo, all while building strength, endurance and increasing their cardiovascular health.

The health benefits of playgrounds

A playground is a gathering space for the community as a whole. A well-designed playground supports the health and development of the whole child and the whole community. Studies have also shown children burn more calories outdoors, preventing obesity and strengthening bones and muscles.

A local playground needs your help

Located a few steps off of Center Street, you will find Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, founded on Jan. 3, 1921, at the heart of the Kingsport City Schools district. Kingsport City Schools, Abraham Lincoln Elementary School and the Abraham Lincoln Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization joined in partnership to rectify the extreme and immediate need for a functional playground at Lincoln Elementary. Principal Suzanne Zahner said, “It is important for all children in Kingsport to have access to a safe place to play, imagine, and enjoy the physical activity at their school.”

The PTO president formed a playground commission that became known as The Lincoln Playground Project. The committee appointments included parents, teachers, administrators and city leaders. The LPP spent three months surveying students on playground elements, textures, colors and concept designs under the direction of Lincoln physical education instructor Martha Hyder-Hall. Hyder-Hall is an outstanding educator and devoted to the well-being of her students and the school.

“Recess provides many benefits to the whole child and has also been shown to promote student’s endeavors in all classrooms within the school,” she said. “Playground structures are integral to engage students in movement activities during recess actively.”

PTO Chair Denny “Trey” Darnell wants to stress that it is essential to have a functional and safe playground not only for students of Lincoln but also for the surrounding community as the play area is open to citizens of the city of Kingsport as well as all residents within the Appalachian Highlands region [outside of school hours].

“We want the community to see our play space as a safe site to play, imagine, and to simply enjoy physical activity through the expansive open play and physical activity areas surrounding our two new play structures designed to allow all individuals with differing abilities to enjoy healthy play,” said Darnell.

How to donate

With just a few days left in the PTO fundraising window, Kingsport businesses, community members and Lincoln alumni have donated over 93% of the PTO’s desired funds. The PTO will continue to raise funds through Oct. 31. You can donate by visiting alespto.com or facebook.com/alesplayground.

Healthy Kingsport’s view

The reason for this is simple: Children who go to the playground daily get considerably more physical activity than those that do not, which means they are improving their health and physical fitness through their playtime. Playgrounds also push children to use problem- solving skills to determine how to play and use specific equipment differently. As children interact together, they often come up with new games to play. This helps them use their imagination and critical thinking skills, especially when working together to develop rules and other points.

About Healthy Kingsport

Healthy Kingsport’s mission is to create a sustainable community culture of healthy living by promoting awareness, influencing policy and enhancing infrastructure. The organization’s vision is a community where healthy living is the norm.

Aiesha Banks is the executive director of Healthy Kingsport. She can be reached at abanks@healthykingsport.org.