Healing Comes from Play

In a neighborhood about five miles from the Back2Back Cincinnati site, 25 children call an apartment building with a rundown playground home. Those children recently took part in social, emotional, and educational activities with Back2Back staff over the summer. Staff took effective and often used strategies, implemented them with the children there, and left an imprint. 

Two days a week, staff showed up providing play with a purpose activities, reading groups, social and emotional connection groups, and a meal. Trauma-informed staff made space and time for vulnerable children, reminding them their needs matter and that fun is mandatory. Then, two days a week, staff tore down the breaking, under maintained playground. They ripped down fencing, weeded, fixed slides, put in new swings, rejuvenated one neglected playground, turning it into two brand new play areas for the building’s inhabitants.   

Shortly after the playgrounds were finished and the summer programming ended, a mother approached the staff team. “I never let my kids go outside before,” she admitted. “Now they can, and I know they’re safe.”

Another part of the playground was a basketball court with no hoop; staff put in a new hoop, and a teen boy lit up when he saw it. “We haven’t had a court I could use since 2020,” he shared. “It’s how I clear my head, and now I can come back out here when I need to.”

To the outside person looking in, it was just broken down equipment – certainly not ideal, but not a priority for repairs. But Back2Back staff saw potential in the broken slides, the lack of a hoop, and overgrown areas of greenery. They took it in and envisioned the healing that can come from play.

“We wanted to create a space where children could actually be children,” explained Chris Cox, Back2Back Cincy Director. “We wanted to help improve the area around them, making it safer to be outside and to be kids.”

Since the completion of the two playground upgrades, neighborhood play is increasing community engagement. Children are connecting more with their peers; parents feel at ease knowing their children are enjoying equipment and space that will keep them safe; and an entire building of families are reminded that, even on the most difficult days, they are seen, their needs are known, and they will be met.