Why They Are Both So Important
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. Play is essential for all of us. It doesn’t matter your age, where you live, or your background. None of that matters. Play brings joy to people of any age, neighborhood, or socio-economic background. Community activists, executive directors of nonprofits, playground architects, playground companies, recreation departments and schools, all of us, care about play. You are reading this column, in the Play and Playground magazine because you love to play. My guess is you are looking for play partners yourself or you may be looking for funding for your own play project.
When I first started recognizing that everyone deserved and needed to play, I was teaching and coaching at the Washington International School. Many of my students were my partners in play crime. At the first Takoma Park (MD) Play Day I organized with others back in 2009 a couple of students came to volunteer, helping with blowing bubbles, face painting, juggling and joining in on all the fun activities offered that day. I had gotten the idea to hold a Play Day from the national nonprofit KaBOOM.org. KaBOOM has been building playgrounds for communities all over the United States focused on low-income areas. I have also partnered with KaBOOM in a couple of their building projects. Their co-founder Darell Hammond wrote the foreword for my first children’s book, “Let’s Play at the Playground.”
Dr. Stuart Brown President and Founder of the National Institute for Play (www.nifplay.org) has been and continues to be an outstanding partner/resource for me and Let’s Play America (LPA). Dr. Brown told me about the US Play Coalition and their annual conference held in Clemson, South Carolina. When I first attended the conference in 2011 I felt like I had found my play partners for life.
Once a year people come from all over to attend the US Play Coalition Conference (www.usplaycoalition.org ). I have met so many dedicated individuals who live their professional lives advocating for play. One of the first people I met was Tom Norquist. Tom is a designer of play equipment for Play Core (www.playcore.org), an outstanding playground company that provides people around the world with top quality playgrounds. Visit Play Core’s website to see the magnitude of play options they offer. This will be the tenth year in a row that I will be attending the Play Conference. The chair of LPA’s Board of Directors, Dr. Patty Hohlbein, and I met at the conference years ago. We look forward to hanging out together, listening to the presentations, meeting new play advocates and reuniting with friends we have met from past conferences.
Sadly in July 2019 the play world lost Joan Almon who was the co-founder for Alliance for Childhood (www.allianceforchildhood.com). Joan was a regular speaker at the conference, one of its founders and did so much for children by writing about the importance of risky play and other topics.
A couple of years ago I had a conversation with the former editor for the Play and Playground magazine at the play conference. The next thing I knew I was asked to write for the magazine. I hope everyone reading this article will subscribe (it is free) to receive the quarterly online magazine https://www.playgroundprofessionals.com/subscribe
Sara Bowersox (Editor) and Jake Amen (Publisher/Webmaster) are responsible for putting together the Play and Playground Magazine. They make a great team. They share emails on a weekly basis that go all over the world about current play information. My column, “Ask The Play Lady,” appears on a quarterly basis with other articles on a variety of play subjects. If you are looking for a funding partner, the Play and Playground Magazine may be a source of possible contacts and your product or service could be shared regularly and seen by many.
Let’s Play America (LPA) is extremely grateful to the City of Takoma Park who helps us fund our play days. Also, we appreciate several local businesses and individuals who donate to our programs, because without funding a nonprofit cannot last. On our website www.letsplayamerica.org you can find information on our sponsors under upcoming events. In past columns, articles, and videos on our website you can see partners we have been so fortunate to work and play with over the years. Our dress-up lady Judy Jaffie has been leading the dress-up activity since our first play day. The Takoma Park Co-op provides healthy snacks at play days and our Takoma Park Community Band kicks off our Annual Play Day in September. So many individuals and businesses have partnered with us. I dream of partners and funders that will help take Let’s Play America to the next level where we can plan more events both regionally and nationally. Any car, clothing, sporting goods, toy companies or any business that cares about community building and wishes to provide play opportunities to residents in their community can reach out to me.
I recently read this quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” This quote speaks volumes to me. I believe 100% in the importance for all of us to give ourselves breaks and playtime every day. I know how good it feels when I play, and that is why I am trying so hard to encourage others to play. Partnering with people in your community to bring play opportunities to your residents is a great gift to give others.
Readers, you may have suggestions for partners and fundraisers for other non-profit community play advocates like Let’s Play America. Feel free to reach out to me and I will share your suggestions in future columns. In the meantime springtime is the perfect time to go outside and play. Invite a family member, friend, or neighbor to join you. You deserve to play!
Saturday, June 6, 2020, Let’s Play America will host our 7th Annual Adult Play Day with the support of the Village of Takoma Park www.takomavillage.org.