As parents or caregivers, we continuously look for opportunities to keep our kids engaged while we go about our everyday activities – grocery shopping, laundry, doctors’ visits, even walking to and from school. Children spend 80% of their time outside of the classroom, and it is important that they have access to high-quality, engaging experiences during that time, no matter where they are in the community.
In 2017, the Dunham Foundation joined five other funders (Steans Family Foundation, Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, CME Group Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, and the McCormick Foundation) to pilot the Playful Learning Landscapes (PLL) project. This initiative transforms everyday spaces into a place for children and caregivers to interact, explore, and learn through play. Originating in Philadelphia, cities across the country and internationally have implemented the initiative.
In Illinois, three communities feature PLL pilot installations –North Lawndale and Little Village, both in Chicago and Aurora, one of the only suburban sites across the country.
A cornerstone of the PLL efforts in Illinois is the co-creation of the installations with a community-driven design, incorporating community members’ visions to help decide the best content for the installations. Content is developed intentionally to strengthen adult-child interactions and maximize the potential for positive child development outcomes. The experience helps to seed ideas in areas such as math, literacy, and social and emotional development and build skillsets in parents that will positively shape how they interact with their children on an everyday basis.
We currently have two installations featured in Aurora – the first at Hesed House and another just outside the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry’s Community Garden. Future installations will focus on other areas of child development, such as social and emotional learning and literacy – we hope to have Aurora become a Playful Learning City!
To learn more about this exciting project, visit playfullearningillinois.org!