Sunday, February 14, 2010

THIS DAY WAS ABOUT PLAY

I've been getting to know a fantastic group of people through attending meetings of The New York Coalition of Play.

The coalition is "a partnership of organizations and individuals who advocate for freely chosen, unstructured, and child-directed play opportunities for children and youth in the New York metropolitan area." (For more info, go to the Website or to the Facebook Page.)

This Friday's meeting took place at the NYC Parks Department Headquarters at the Arsenal on 5th Avenue and 64th Street. What a gorgeous building! We met on the third floor, where the Parks Community had on display an art exhibit called "The Power of Play: Celebrating Black History Month." (There's still time to see it; it's up until Feb.25.) The exhibition features more than 30 artworks which include paintings, quilts, contemporary and historical photographs, and textiles. The artists, numbering more than 20, include Parks & Rec. employees as well as members of recreation centers. (Photo above is Anthony Almeida's Gush of Life: Kids Playing in Hydrant.)

Upon exiting the building, I found myself staring at sea lions at play. I was in the Central Park Zoo! Not wanting to miss an opportunity to explore, I walked further on to watch snow monkeys on the top of the hill. Lo and behold, they were in fact hanging out with each other in the snow! I read a placard that said that snow monkeys are playful; the little ones are known to make snowballs!

Today, I spent time walking with my husband through Prospect Park. We saw a lot of parents and children playing together - sledding, building and playing around snowmen and snow forts. Snow brings out that playfulness in all of us!

Back to the Coalition for Play: I appreciated what the Coalition's chair, Ed Miller, had to say in his recent letter to the NY Times in response to an article about Michelle Obama's battle against childhood obesity:

To the Editor:

Michelle Obama’s campaign to fight childhood obesity won’t work unless we start focusing on children’s free play, which has shriveled as their weight has ballooned.

We have to get kids moving again, but organized sports and exercise programs aren’t the answer. Emphasize activity, not exercise, say the Mayo Clinic’s obesity experts. Research backs them up. A Canadian study found that “encouraging free play has been more effective than focusing on forced exercise or reducing food intake” in combating obesity in children.

Turn off the TV, throw away the video games, and take the kids to the playground. It wouldn’t hurt us adults to play more either.

Edward Miller
New York, Feb. 10, 2010

The writer is founding partner and senior researcher, Alliance for Childhood

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