By Dianne Bruce
Fun for Families!
11 AM – 5 PM – this Saturday, Elm Park
Young children learn the essential skills they will need to become successful as adults through play! Building block towers develops skills in architecture and engineering. Finger painting develops an understanding of our senses, color and art. Playing hop-scotch develops number recognition and early math skills. Playing tag develops social and team development skills. Playing outdoors develops an understanding of science and nature.
Unfortunately the focus of young children’s play time is vanishing. Studies and statistics in the United States have been mounting and it is clear we are facing a national crisis. Children spend far too much time in front of a screen — 7 hours 38 minutes a day on average, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2009. In the last two decades kids have lost eight hours of free play a week and 3000 US schools have eliminated recess. With an increased focus on academic study and test preparation, starting at very early ages, children today do not get valuable play time to feed their imagination.
Today’s science shows that children learn imagination, critical thinking skills and crucial problem solving skills through play. Through the Day of Play we will create six “play” areas where young children, ages 3-10, will participate in activities that are carefully designed to experience the real power of fun and games that lead to learning! Elm Park will be filled with six ”Play Areas” where children 3-10yrs old will engage in fun activities that lead to learning. In the Creative Arts Area children will design banners, hats and participate in a community weaving project. This encourages cognitive, linguistic and social development. In the Construction Area children will have the opportunity to “touch a truck” and other construction equipment.
We will have recyclable materials like cardboard boxes and plastic coffee cans for children to construct towers and bridges. This encourages gross and fine motor skills in addition to cognitive development. The Science Area will include science, technology, engineering and math related activities that will include a nature scavenger hunt, WPI robotics demonstrations, learning to become a citizen scientist and simple experiments. The activities are designed to encourage curiosity which leads to a love of learning critical to academic success.
Physical Play activities include I am Moving, I am Learning, Alphabet Yoga, an obstacle course, demonstrations and sidewalk games. We will also be creating the largest Simon Says game in Worcester. In addition to encouraging physical development we believe that it is critical that young children be encouraged to engage in physical play in an effort to stem the increasing obesity and diabetes rates in our children.
In the Language Area we will have children’s authors reading from and signing their books. There will also be related activities that will reinforce the stories that they hear. Literacy and linguistic skills are developed through listening to and retelling stories. In the Music/Dance Area we will have ongoing entertainment. At this time we have engaged Chuck and Mud, Vic and Sticks, a World Drum demonstration. All of the performances will have an interactive component. The South High School Marching Band will also perform across the park. Children will have the opportunity to make an instrument out of recyclable materials and join the parade. Music and dance encourage development across cognitive and physical domains.
Our goals for the Day of Play include bringing greater community awareness to the importance of child development and school readiness as a community responsibility. We are hosting the event at Elm Park to bring families from across the community to a green space they can use in the future for fun physical activities that may serve to reduce our growing child obesity issue. Families will be provided with simple, inexpensive activities that they can recreate at home to prepare their child for school.
Our program booklet will also provide information about community based services that can assist families if they have questions or concerns about their child(ren)s development. Through our website and Facebook/Twitter feeds, we will be providing monthly updates to keep the learning going long after the event.
Parents hear over and over that they are their child’s first teacher. Every parent wants the best for their children. They want their children to enter school ready to learn and succeed. How can parents prepare their children for school? PLAY! It is how children learn. It is how children make sense of their world. It is how children develop a myriad of skills that will set them on the path to success.
Edward Street Child Services has developed a community-wide Day of Play to give parents hands on activities that they can do that day and can recreate at home. Children and families will be given fun and engaging activities that will promote learning, build imagination, and get ready for school. The day begins at 11:00 on June 9th at Elm Park. It is free and open to the public.
Our Construction Area will feature blocks and Legos. Blocks help children develop spatial skills, hand eye coordination, problem solving skills and creativity. If children work as a team they also develop language a social skills. Block play is associated with improved math skills.
The Creative Arts Area will include recycled materials that children can use to create banners. They will also create their own hats. Volunteers from the newly created Worcester Children’s Museum will help children create Fairy Houses using natural materials. While inspiring creativity, these activities will also help children develop hand eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Active Play will include sidewalk games, an obstacle course and Alphabet Fitness. We will also have an interactive karate demonstration. These activities promote gross motor development.
Our Science Area is designed to spark interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The roots of these careers are generated through the curiosity of young children. We will have robotics demonstrations, experiments and letterboxing.
The Reading Area will feature Mother Goose on the Loose, author Jackie Penney reading her book Goodnight Worcester, Baby Llama from Llama Llama Red Pajama, Fancy Nancy and a Red Sox reading game featuring Twister from the Tornados. Literacy skills lead to success in all areas. Children will receive a free book to encourage reading at home.
The Music and Dance area will feature interactive sessions with Vic & Sticks, Spirit of Drums, McInerney Irish Step Dances and Chuck and Mud. Children will create their own instruments using recycled materials. We will end the day with the largest Simon Says in Worcester and a trip around Elm Park led by the South High Marching Band. Simon Says is a healthy way to help children develop self control and control impulsive behavior. Music and dance promote gross motor, creative and cognitive development.
Most importantly, the Day of Play will go beyond the day. Using social media we will provide families with new, fun and engaging activities on a monthly basis throughout the year. We want to help parents be effective in their role as their child’s first teacher.