What do you love most about spring? Do you love the blossoms on the trees or the crocuses popping up out of the ground? Do you feel as if you have more energy because of the warmer temperatures and added daylight we have each day? Do you breathe in the fresh air with a smile on your face? I love all these spring delights, and I get super excited about playing outside in the spring.
National Parks for Your Pleasure
The spring season is a wonderful time to check out our national parks. When you have some downtime on your laptop or desktop, or even for those of you with Internet access on your phones, you may want to visit the National Parks Service (NPS) website: https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/history.htm Congress established Yellowstone National Park in March 1872 in what were then the territories of Montana and Wyoming "as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people." When Yellowstone National Park was founded, it sparked a movement for national parks across the globe. Today, more than 100 countries boast more than 1,200 national parks or preserved areas, 400 of which are in the United States.
How fortunate are we to have our national parks? I love the quote above that it is worth repeating: “as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people." Anytime I have the opportunity to visit a national, state, county or local park, I jump at the opportunity. One of the national parks about a half-hour drive from me is located in Greenbelt, Maryland. Greenbelt has some great hiking trails and you can camp there, too. Maryland has other national parks worthy of exploration, as well. I urge you to research national parks located near you and make plans to visit. Three out of four of the entrance fee-free days remain in 2018 for the national parks. I know I am marking my calendar!
- Saturday, April 21: First Day of National Park Week
- Saturday, Sept. 22: National Public Lands Day
- Sunday, Nov. 11: Veterans Day
The Many Faces of Play: U.S. Play Coalition Conference
In 2011 I attended the first U.S. Play Coalition Conference at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C. I found Fran Mainella, one of the conference’s co-founders, to be one of the most inspirational persons I have ever met. She was the first woman to become an NPS director. I can only begin to imagine how many people Fran encouraged and inspired during her tenure as the 16th director of the NPS.
This will be my eighth consecutive year attending the conference. This year it will be held April 8 to 11, again at Clemson University. Open to the public, this year’s event is called “The 2018 Conference on the Value of Play: The Many Faces of Play.” The U.S. Play Coalition website - http://www.usplaycoalition.org – provides information about the conference as well as membership, which is free. U.S. Play Coalition members received a conference discount.
Tenth Annual Play Day
On September 22 the 10th Annual Play Day will be held by Let’s Play America and the City of Takoma Park Recreation Department. Those residing in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia should join in on the fun! See http://www.letsplayamerica.org for details.
Increasing Play in Montgomery County Parks
Recently I was introduced to Casey Anderson, the director of Montgomery County Parks in Maryland, and two of his colleagues: David Vismara and Kokia Tarik. They want to increase the play opportunities for Montgomery County residents. Just imagine if we all welcomed new play ideas so we could give our communities more opportunities to play? Here’s the website: https://www.montgomeryparks.org
These folks gave me the chance to share the history of the play committee I founded in March 2009. At that time our group also wanted to offer more play opportunities to people of all ages in our community. We began planning and implementing fun and free play days, obtaining permission to close streets for play events and joined in on events that were already organized by others by adding the play aspect to them. In 2014 we became a nonprofit, Let’s Play America. The website, http://www.letsplayamerica.org, provides information about upcoming events, past events, media coverage and more. For folks who want to volunteer click on, GET INVOLVED on our website. Takoma Playground Map Describes Amenities on the back for of the Guide for all the playgrounds.
In past columns, I have shared that I am a resident of Takoma Park, which is located in Montgomery County, Md. As you may know, Takoma Park borders Washington, D.C. and Prince George’s County. The recreation and public works departments of Takoma Park together maintain half of the city’s playgrounds while the other half are maintained by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. One year ago, in the spring edition of Play and Playground Magazine, I shared the middle of the Guide, a playground map of Takoma Park, which can be found here on our website: http://letsplayamerica.org/takoma-park-playgrounds/ What you didn’t see at that time was the reverse side of the map which includes a question I personally love: “Want to explore a new playground with your kids?” In addition, the back side includes a description of each of the playgrounds shown on the front of the map. Families have told me that they absolutely love this “Guide to Takoma Park Playgrounds” and use it regularly.
Recently, Let’s Play America received a grant from the Takoma Foundation, a local organization that raises money for non-profits in the Takoma area. We are calling this grant “The Hopscotch Project.” Ten hopscotch boards will be painted, one on each of 10 playgrounds in Takoma Park in the next two months. Just imagine the hopping, jumping and playing that will result because of these additional hopscotch boards in our community!
Last summer my assistant, Mikentha Bobo, from the summer youth employment program, and two other fantastic helpers, Michelle Morris and Jacquelin Mendez, painted a hopscotch board on my driveway. As soon as the hopscotch board was painted, people started stopping by my driveway and hopping on the hopscotch. A couple of times I saw kids play games on it. I really enjoy seeing preschool teachers and their students walk by my house because the teachers know I allow everyone to stop, then hop, jump, and play on my hopscotch board…and they do! Want to know more about The Hopscotch Project? Just email [email protected]
Play Added to Washington, D.C. NBC4 Health & Fitness Expo
The 25th Annual NBC4 Health and Fitness Expo in Washington, D.C. was on Saturday, March 10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, March 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Washington, D.C.’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Twice before, I’ve attended and have come away brewing with an idea. While the Expo featured many health booths and some fun fitness activities, and while I found the overall experience beneficial, I thought it was lacking good old-fashioned play opportunities. So, I acted on my idea and contacted NBC4, then shared my idea with the coordinator, Angela Miles, and the director of strategic planning, Lisa Feldman. These ladies loved my idea to add some play activities. I am personally inviting you to come to future Expos. Wear your play clothes, and come play with us. I promise you it will be a blast!
Donors, Fundraisers, and Volunteers Keep Play Growing
Let me take a minute and talk about funding. As we all know, almost everything costs, which means funding is necessary. Since I began the Play Committee, my wonderful volunteer friends have said to me, “Pat, we need money, and we have an idea of how we can get it.” I said, “I am all ears, tell me.” They suggested a yard sale. So, in 2009, we had our first of many Playful Yard Sales. Since that time we have been trying a variety of ways to bring in funds to Let’s Play America with the goal to expand the program so that we could help everyone play. We are looking for ideas for funding, volunteers to help us with fundraising, and donors, too. Suggestions for fundraising and/or new volunteers can contact me at [email protected] or, to donate, go to www.letsplayamerica.org and click on “donate.”
Another organization that could benefit from more sponsors is the Play and Playground magazine. The publication has a global readership with readers from places like Israel, Malaysia, and Malawi to name a few. If you are affiliated with a company or organization that values play, consider sponsorship of the magazine.
Spring Outdoor Organized Sports
When outdoor spring sports begin, many of you will be heading out to cheer on your children, grandchildren, and friends who participate in organized sports games. When you climb the bleachers you will be sitting on, take a look to see if you can see what company constructed the bleachers. Consider sending them an email thanking them for the well-made seating structure that enables you to enjoy watching others play. Organized sports have become a regular pastime these days for many families. Remember you are cheering on children, so strive to be a positive role model by applauding good shots and skills for both teams. When you make verbal comments ask yourself whether you would want to hear someone say that comment about your kid. Most of all, keep the atmosphere light and fun. Children and adults who have positive organized sports experiences, who get to play as often as their teammates and who have an enjoyable time are more likely to want to play the next season. We want to keep kids playing. For lots of information on kids’ sports, go to http://www.aspeninsitute.org The Aspen Institute holds an annual spring Play Summit at which experts on play from around the world are brought in to participate. I attended its first summit and was blown away by all of the professional organizations from around the world that are “giving back” so children have the opportunities to play organized sports.
Putting Appreciation into Words and Action
For more than a year now I have been writing this column, “Ask The Play Lady.” I would like to thank the administration of this awesome magazine. Sara Bowersox, the editor of “Play and Playground” magazine, is efficient, kind and fun. She responds quickly to my questions. I believe Sara deserves recognition for her hard work and managing a magazine devoted to play and playgrounds. We should all try to thank the administration of companies, non-profits, organizations, and schools. Ask yourself, “Do I ever show my appreciation for these folks?” Besides managing a non-profit I am also on the recreation committee that assists our local recreation department. The committee meets once a month to discuss ways we can support the department. In January every year, we put together an appreciation lunch for our recreation staff. We know how hard they work, so we want them to know we value what they do for our community.
“Play and Playground” readers, if you have a special park amenity in your community, let me know. Also, if you have a question about play, send me an email.
For all of us who loved to play as children and still enjoy playing as adults, let’s make a pledge to strive to find ways to bring play to all children in our communities in which we live, and beyond.
Spring has sprung, so go out and play! Hurray for play!