While children count down the days to their next vacation, parents are fretting about how to avoid the repeated refrain, “I’m bored” from echoing throughout the house. Parents in Enfield now have exciting options to keep their children entertained while learning new skills that will help them in school. Enfield Plays On! distributed 300 free “Playcation Kits” packed with materials to support their playful idea of the day to keep kids and parents joyfully engaged throughout summer vacation and the rest of the year. These activities require very basic materials and offer parents with young children a host of suggestions for activities that develop a child’s creativity, social skills, fine motor skills and a variety of academic skills that are actually fun to do for all involved.
Any parent who has taken a young child to a restaurant knows how challenging it can be to keep their kids engaged while waiting for their order. Several restaurants in Manchester offer families “play packs,” a deck of 30 cards with entertaining and educational activities Developed by Manchester Play On!, these packs also include additional questions/activities to do at home.
Getting parents and communities engaged in purposeful play that promotes early child development is the primary goal of a three-year, $250,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving to The Town of Manchester, in partnership with Enfield KITE(Key Initiatives to Education), to support Play On!. Since the project began in 2017, the two towns have built a partnership to support their efforts around the development and creation of activities that utilize purposeful play.
“Our play campaign has so many elements to it now as we begin our second year,” said Jennifer Moncuse, Project Coordinator for Enfield’s early childhood collaborative, KITE. “Between our Playful Idea of the Day during vacation time, our Family Play Events which run periodically all year, the play-based professional development opportunities being offered for early care providers, and now our upcoming PlayFaire, a conference for parents and caregivers all about play and how to incorporate it in ways that won’t break the bank, we’re working to inform and engage everyone who interacts with children in some way.”
Enfield and Manchester have engaged an educational consultant to develop guiding principles, and provide training to parent “Play Ambassadors.” These paid Ambassadors work directly with other parents and caregivers in the community hosting family play events and modeling playful engagement. Both organizations work closely with local Family Resource Centers, schools, pre-schools and other community organizations to offer parents and care givers opportunities to learn more about how to use purposeful play to support the healthy growth and development of young children. The Foundation grant also supports hiring a “Play Coach” in each community to supervise and guide the work of the Play Ambassadors, ensuring that all play events address designated academic and life skills.
"Play is such an important part of a child's development,” said Manchester Play Ambassador Celine Nolan. “It's how they naturally learn about the world around them - how to interact with other people, how their bodies move, and the effects their actions have. The observations children make while playing are the building blocks for basic academic concepts, and important school and life skills such as the ability to focus on a task, perseverance through difficulty and failure, creativity, cooperation, and a willingness to try new things. As a parent, I love how Manchester Play On! provides new opportunities for my kids to play and explore in a safe environment and I get new ideas on how to play with them with toys and materials we already have!"
Many play events have received an overwhelming response from parents and caregivers, and efforts are underway to set up more play opportunities that accommodate working parents’ schedules. One of the more ambitious events being planned is Enfield Play On!’s “PlayFaire: Learning Through Play Conference” scheduled for November 3, 2018. The conference is being held a few weeks before “Black Friday” and will feature a demonstration of simple, affordable toys that not only engage kids for a long time but also provide multiple learning opportunities. In addition to a pop-up toy store on-site for parents, there will be a second-hand book giveaway and demonstrations on how to recycle and repurpose old toys.
”The Hartford Foundation is extremely pleased with the progress of the Play On! Project,” said Hartford Foundation Director of Early Childhood Investments Richard Sussman. “It is a clear illustration of the value of play in promoting healthy childhood development and underscores how everyone in a community can have a joyful role in nurturing our children and prepare them for school and life.”
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $720 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.