By Cathy Saunders, Director of Education, Providence Children’s Museum
Play is healthy for children and other living things. We at the Children’s Museum know this, and many of you do too. It has been affirmed by the experts, most notably the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), who stated in a 2007 report that free unstructured play is essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones, as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.
We also know that great play happens at the Children’s Museum. We see kids act out grand stories in our Coming to Rhode Island immigration exhibit, invent complex mazes on the magnet wall in Play Power, and “mess around” to their hearts delight in Water Ways. But our vision is that the same kind of unfettered play can happen anywhere – at home, at school and in the community. For many children it does, but for others – especially children in low-income communities – it does not. A follow up AAP report specifically addressed three issues affecting play opportunities for poor children: lack of creative and physical outlets at school; lack of safe places to play out of school; and parents who have less time, money and energy to support their children’s play.
The Museum has long tackled these problems through outreach to underserved communities, partnering with Head Start preschools, out-of-school time programs and DCYF. Last summer, we found even more opportunities to bring our magic out into the community – to neighborhoods where children already are – and we’re expanding the program this summer. As part of the second annual Playful Providence celebration, the Museum is collaborating with the Partnership for Providence Parks, the Providence Department of Parks and Recreation and others to bring unique, playful experiences to parks where children and families can gather and, well, play. This is good for children, but it is also good for communities; play-friendly parks and neighborhoods are also healthy communities. So in July and August look for Museum staff and volunteers with cardboard boxes, big blue Imagination Playground blocks, bubbles and other playful fun.
Play at the Park with Providence Children’s Museum from 5:00 – 8:00 PM and enjoy Neighborhood Performing Arts Initiative concerts on these dates:
- Thursday, July 11 | Dexter Training Ground (Dexter and Parade Streets)
- Wednesday, July 17 | Harriet and Sayles Park (Harriet and Sayles Streets)
- Thursday, July 25 | Dexter Training Ground (Dexter and Parade Streets)
- Friday, August 2 | Roger Williams Park (Broad Street entrance)
- Tuesday, August 6 | Fargnoli Park (Smith Street)
- Wednesday, August 7 | Brown Street Park (Brown and Creighton Streets)
There are plenty of great play opportunities at the Museum this summer, too! Get Out! for hands-on activities in the Children’s Garden on Tuesday afternoons, climb aboard a different vehicle during Wheels at Work each Wednesday morning, join interactive performances of After the Beanstalk on Mondays, and much more. Check the calendar for details.