Boston’s Kit of Parks Named Winner in KaBOOM! Play Everywhere Challenge

Boston’s Kit of Parks Named Winner in KaBOOM! $1 Million Play Everywhere Challenge

Competition will fund play spaces in unexpected places in cities across America.

Kit of Parks was selected as a winner in the Play Everywhere Challenge, a $1 million national competition that will award innovative ideas to make play easy, available, and fun for kids and families in cities across the U.S. The Challenge is hosted by KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.

Landscape architects Nina Chase, ASLA  and Philip Dugdale, ASLA, in partnership with the City of Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, Franklin Park Coalition, Boston Society of Landscape Architects (BSLA), created a unique plan to design and build Kit of Parks, a portable kit of parts to build a park.

Designed to serve under-programmed public spaces in Boston’s neighborhoods, Kit of Parks is a self-contained play unit that can be hitched to the back of a bike and unpacked in under 5 minutes. Kit of Parks injects an immediate dose of color, whimsy, and experimental fun wherever it’s parked. In the fall of 2015, Chase and Dugdale designed and constructed a Kit of Parks prototype as a teaching tool for the BSLA. The prototype was funded by the BSLA and fabricated in Sasaki Associates’ Fabrication Lab.

Kit of Parks will be deployed in Franklin Park in the Spring of 2017. Kit of Parks was selected as one of 50 winners out of a pool of more than 1,000 applications nationwide.

The Challenge, developed in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Target, Playworld, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Endowment for the Arts, attracted an outpouring of creative ideas to spark kids’ imaginations and get their bodies moving. Kit of Parks idea came from a passion for getting kids more involved in outdoor play.

“We wanted to help start a conversation about the power of turning Boston’s urban environment into a platform for public realm experimentation and play,” said project co-leaders Chase and Dugdale. “We were inspired by pop-up parklets across the country. Kit of Parks is unique because of its mobility; it will bring play to a broader audience.”

“Winners like Kit of Parks are at the vanguard of building kid-friendly cities that meet the needs of families and enable kids to thrive,” said James Siegal, CEO of KaBOOM!. “By integrating play into everyday spaces in such an innovative way, Kit of Parks is a great model to inspire other cities across the country to follow suit.”

Research shows play is vital to healthy brain development and is pivotal to how kids learn problem-solving, conflict resolution, and creativity–in other words, the skills they need to succeed as adults. Yet today, too many kids, especially those growing up in poverty, are missing out on opportunities for play because of families’ time pressures, the lure of screens, and a lack of safe places to go. Meanwhile, evidence shows missing out on play time puts kids at risk for challenges ranging from obesity to anxiety to trouble adjusting in school.

“We at the Boston Parks and Recreation Department welcome new and nontraditional modes of play in the city, and Kit of Parks definitely fits the bill,” said Boston Parks and Recreation Department Commissioner Christopher Cook. “The uniqueness and fun factor of Kit of Parks has the potential to foster community engagement, build partnerships, and develop and expand programming in underserved neighborhoods.”

To learn more about Kit of Parks’ ideas for making play happen everywhere in Boston, contact Nina Chase at kitofparks@gmail.com. To learn more about the Play Everywhere Challenge, and view a gallery of winning ideas from cities across the US, please visit http://kaboom.org/playeverywhere.