Let's Play!

Seattle Children's Research Institute sponsored play area in downtown Seattle at Westlake Park

Seattle Children's Research Institute has partnered with the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) and Seattle Parks and Recreation to open a new play area in Westlake Park.

The year-round play area includes a soft, rubber-like surfacing and a Geode by Goric. This large, netted spherical structure and a collection of large domes are surrounded by a fence with bench seating in some areas. The design and elements involved were selected specifically with sight lines and function in mind, as the structures do not obstruct views to the retail spaces and through the park. The Geode is designed to be used by children up to 12 years old.

Why outdoor play is important

Currently, amenities for families, such as parks and play areas for kids, are lacking within the Downtown core, with a very low number of existing public spaces for children. Filling this gap has become critical with some 3,000 children calling Downtown home and the Downtown residential population increasing by 20% since 2000, and more than 70% since 1990. The play area will also serve as an amenity for the tens of thousands of children who visit Downtown every year.

In addition to bringing a fun and family-friendly environment, the new play space will also provide health benefits. A study led by Seattle Children's Research Institute found that children living in neighborhoods with favorable neighborhood environment attributes, including quality parks, had 59% lower odds of being obese.

"More than 30% of American children and teens are obese or overweight," said Seattle Children's Research Institute President Dr. James Hendricks. "Children need spaces like this play area so that they can be physically active, and research also shows that outdoor play time helps improve Vitamin D levels and mental health."

Being outdoors correlates strongly with physical activity for children, which is important for preventing obesity in the preschool years and on through adulthood. A study led by Dr. Pooja Tandon at Seattle Children's Research Institute found that nearly half of preschoolers in a sample representing four million U.S. children did not have even one parent-supervised outdoor play opportunity per day.