The behavior a child learns as a toddler could stick with them their entire lives, which is why Child Care Associates — the largest child development nonprofit organization in Texas — has an idea they hope will shape minds and change a generation in low-income neighborhoods. Inside Southside Child Development Center is a kaleidoscope of kids. It’s a medley of motion, music and moments of pure delight. But, outside those walls is reality.
“In urban landscapes, there’s less and less places for adults and children to be outside, play and engage with nature,” Child Care Associates CEO Kara Waddell explained.
Many financially struggling communities have outdated playground equipment, which is sometimes fenced off from the world for safety.
“Children don’t get out anymore,” Waddell said. “They don’t have those free and open natural play areas as where they can go out in the safety of a backyard or maybe a community area nearby.”
It’s a necessity for some neighborhoods; leaving a generation connected more to television screens than nature.
“They don’t run anymore. They don’t play. You don’t see kids playing tag,” parent Cecilia Aguiliga said.
Child Care Associates hopes to change that and break the cycle.
“We’re introducing across all of our childhood development centers, starting with this one, the opportunity to change out some of the old playground equipment that need a little bit more life, but reinvigorate them,” Waddell said.
The toddlers and infants at Southside will soon have a state-of-the-art “Playscape.”
“[These are] outdoor playgrounds that are specifically built around nature,” Waddell said. “Our parents have been excited and they are going to be an intimate part.”
The Playscape has many features that include a stage to promote imagination and movement, a tricycle track that is much like a miniature Texas Motor Speedway and a sensory station.
“By springtime, we’ll have a new, fresh, outdoor playground for infants and toddlers in some of our highest need neighborhoods,” Waddell said.
Child Care Associates will build 23 Playscapes for child care centers around Tarrant County.