Is There a Playground this Scary Near You?

Written by Linda Lodding, illustrated by Suzanne Beaky

Darell Hammond, CEO of KaBOOM!, an organization devoted to saving play for America’s children, wrote the featured HuffPost article below. KaBOOM!’s mission is to create great community playspaces, ideally within walking distance of every child in America. And here’s what Mr. Hammond has to say about our newest book, The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister: 

“This book is a joyful and funny reminder to kids and parents alike about the importance and power of play. …Our children will all be happier and healthier if we lessen all those lessons and get out to play.”

Want to know a frightening fact? In neighborhoods without a usable park or playground, the incidence of childhood obesity increases by 29 percent.

As part of our recent Scary Playgrounds! Let’s Find ‘Em and Fix ‘Em contest, my national nonprofit KaBOOM! asked folks across the country to submit photos of rundown, decrepit playgrounds that are in desperate need of fixing up.

By entering, contestants helped further our effort to create a nationwide Map of Play, which charts the location of thousands of playgrounds across the United States. It should be a joyous geography, showing where our children climb and run, laugh and shout, learn and grow.

But alas, scary playgrounds don’t do children much good. Knowing where they are helps us find the Play Deserts — that is, areas where children have no viable outdoor play opportunities within walking distance.

The winners of our Scary Playgrounds! contest are committed to turning these decrepit playgrounds, pictured below, into vibrant community playspaces that encourage healthy, creative, unstructured outdoor play. We at KaBOOM! know it can be done. The slideshow also includes “before” and “after” shots of scary playgrounds that, with the help of community volunteers and funding partners, we have transformed over the course of just one day.

Do you live near a playground that’s overrun by rust, weeds, and disrepair? A playground that seems haunted by the ghosts of the children who once scrambled, screamed, and scurried around there? Add it to our Map of Play by downloading our free mobile app or visiting We offer construction grants and an online playground project planner so you can get started transforming your own neighborhood playground.

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