Did you love to play in water when you were a kid? I know I did. We used to set up a sprinkler and run through it - oh that sure was a good way to cool off and have some fun. Actually, I recall some adults joining in on the fun also.
My non-profit Letsplayamerica.org organizes and holds fun, free play events in our community of Takoma Park, Maryland. Whenever we have the chance during warm weather months we bring out the spray water bottles and as many children’s wading pools as we can get our hands on. Let’s Play America’s mission is to encourage people of all ages to play by helping them create play-filled events in their OWN communities.
Does a playground in your community have a spray area that is inviting to kids and adults? If not, maybe you can approach your city government and see if they can budget for one. In the meantime, I recommend saving plastic spray bottles and/or gallon jugs and when the weather warms up, fill up the bottles, invite kids and other families and go outside and have some good old fashion water play.
Let’s take a moment to “wet” your appetite and share ways my non-profit, Let’s Play America, will get you out playing. In 2009, a play committee was formed in Takoma Park, Maryland, a suburb adjacent to Washington, DC. I had witnessed a decline in seeing children and adults going outside to play. Rarely did I see kids of different ages playing outside in neighborhoods. Adults weren’t outside as much either. You used to see parents playing catch with their kids when I was young, but it almost seems like those days are behind us. Now you see kids getting in the car, dressed to go to soccer practice or a game, which is an adult-led activity. Please don’t misunderstand, this is a wonderful way to get exercise and play, but it is not the same thing as going outside on your own and playing with neighborhood kids where there aren’t any adults telling kids what to play and how to play. Kids used to make up their own games, their own rules, and work things out on their own.
On March 15, 2009 seven of us got together to share how we wanted to encourage people to play, we went around the oval table each sharing our ideas. Our mayor at the time joined us and shared how he would like to see more whimsical play, like creating animals out of blown up balloons. One of our seniors, Colleen, wanted us to organize an annual inter-generational picnic to bring people of all ages together to play. Once everyone gave their ideas I began to share mine, which I told them I recently had heard about the national non-profit KaBOOM! They wanted cities to map their playgrounds, share what they played, plan a Play Day and apply to be named A Playful City, USA. So we all agreed this was a good way to keep us organized, so we decided to follow this plan.
On September 26, 2009 we held our first Play Day and it was a whopping success. We met our goal by more than 200 people attending. We had about twenty different activities people could play. The head of the Recreation Department at the time, Debra Haiduven, waived the permit fee for us to rent a playground and the small building that we used for a couple of inside activities. We had all kinds of fun activities for people of all ages to play, blowing bubbles, corn hole, hula-hooping, jump roping, face painting, playing with Play-Doh, dress-up and a dress-up parade. We had Turkish dancers who performed with people joining in on the fun. Also, children and adults played at the playground. Our State Senator, Jaime Raskin wrapped up Play Day with Simon Says. It was one fun exciting Play Day.
Our town has a Fourth of July parade. The parade goes right in front of my house. We have had seven Picnic, Play and Parade Watch events. Every year we invite people to join us to play. Do you have a parade in your community? Does the parade go on during warm weather months? If a parade is when the weather is warm, you may want to consider bringing out the water supplies, so you can stay cool, have fun, and get wet while cheering on the parade.
In seven years, we have put on more than 60 fun, free play events; Play Days, closed streets to play and joined already organized events by adding play. KaBOOM! has named us A Playful City, USA for seven years straight. I encourage you to check out our website; see the articles, the TED Talks I gave on play, videos by NBC4 for our Playful Cookout in 2015, a documentary called The Play Lady, and more.
In closing, let me share with you a couple of examples of how we get wet when we play; we have held two Splash and Play Indoor Pool Parties in our community. We have an indoor pool at one of our elementary schools. We qualified for a grant that helped pay for this event, so people can come swim and play for free. By the way, all of our events are free. During warm weather months we always remember to bring out the water bottles to squirt each other and the kiddie pools, so we can get wet when we play. One summer we were closing a street in July and one side of the street lost power, so this two-hour event turned into an entire day of fun and play. People were grilling, there were kiddie pools and sprinklers set-up and kids got out their water toys or made some out of squirt bottles. Children and adults played freely for hours. Just thinking about that play event puts a smile on my face. Playing with water during warm weather is a great way to play.
I hope you will consider organizing a play committee in your community, plan a Play Day and contact us if we can help in any way. Everyone deserves to play! Are you ready to get wet?