Attention, New York City Dwellers: Block Party Today!

Hi New Yorkers! Today — Sun., Oct. 3 — is the “Ultimate Block Party” at the bandshell area in Central Park, from 11 till 5 (enter at 72nd and 5th). I know it sounds a little strange to say there will be booths and volunteers teaching kids about things as simple as playing “store,” or making music with pots and pans. But let’s give credit to the organizers, a group called Play for Tomorrow. Their goal is a noble one: to bring old-fashioned play back into the lives of kids. In their own words:

In 2009, a small group of educators, business leaders, authors and researchers formed Play for Tomorrow to champion the importance of play in the lives of children.  Conceived as a multi-tiered social movement, the groundbreaking initiative aims to ensure that all children are provided with the competitive skills necessary to succeed in the 21st Century global economy as well as build a public dialog to underscore the value of play in fostering lifelong achievement and social, emotional and physical well being.  Play for Tomorrow is committed to working towards affecting policy and education delivery and overcoming the disconnect between what we know about learning and how we are teaching.  The organization’s mission is to change attitudes, beliefs and practices about playful learning among families, educators, child-care providers, pediatricians and policymakers.

In other words: the organizers believe that play is crucial to nurturing  healthy, happy, curious, competent and creative kids, who become creative, curious, etc., etc., adults . Their motto? How you play is who you become.

There’s a lot to that statement. To learn more about the Ultimate Block Party or Play for Tomorrow, click here!

7 Responses

  1. I’m not a New Yorker, and even if I were I’m not sure if I’d make it to that–but I sure support what it stands for, and hope a lot of others DO make it.

    Play is a lost art in this country, it seems. A Denver Post article I recently read (and forwarded) talked about it. Even George Carlin once observed “playing is now done by appointment.” I particularly am of the belief that elimination of play & recess in childhood, in particular because a child is believed to be better suited to always focusing on studies, is the childhood version of adult workaholism. In fact, in eliminating play from a child’s life, they are in effect being taught to be a workaholic when they grow up.

    As Lenore & others have observed, the modern “experts” seem to think that you’re not being a good parent if you’re not totally overworked from being a parent. So, by extension, if you just let your children run outside & play as opposed to having them enrolled in a dozen different activities you’re supposed to be happily shuttling them to every waking moment of your life, then you’re lazy and ought to be ashamed of yourself.

    Nonsense. Anything that makes parenting easier, especially if it’s actually quite good for the child itself, I will make no apologies for parenting in that realm. I mean, really–does an adult REALLY enjoy shuttling their kids to every organized, overly structured activity all day long? I sure wouldn’t.

    Play is a perfect remedy–the child benefits, as this block party illustrates, and it frees the adult up to relax and socialize with other adults for awhile. It sure beats spending half the way in a minivan going to yet another soccer practice.

    Sounds like a winner to me.

    LRH

  2. Here in Germany play is still alive and well. My son and his friends play outdoors in all sorts of weather. They modify the rules of whatever they’re playing (soccer, baseball, basketball) by themselves depending on the number of kids in the game. Yes, German kids also like to watch TV and play with their Nintendos just like American kids. But they seem to spend a lot of time outdoors engaged in free play too.

    Kids at all levels of German school have recess, or at least a short break where they can do what they wish (play, hang out and chat with their friends, have a snack). When my son was in elementary school, his recess period was 25 minutes in the middle of his school day. Now that he’s in secondary school, a school for high achievers no less, the students get a 15-minute break after every two 45-minute periods. Even the most academically-oriented schools know that kids need breaks to recharge their batteries. Kids here are also not loaded down with homework. In fact, my son’s math teacher recommended to his students that they should study at home for an average of 15 minutes a day per subject and take a short break for every 30 minutes of studying. He also told his class that the kids should get outside and play in nice weather and study more in inclement weather.

    I also find it interesting that there is a lot more ADD in the States than in Germany. One never hears about kids in Germany having ADD. Maybe it’s because they’re out playing and have recess in school. I’m a believer in the correlation betwen recess/free play and ADD.

    The block party sounds like a great idea, though it’s sad that kids have to be taught to play. My son and his friends always played on their own with minimal adult intervention.

  3. I went with my 2 year old today. It was wonderful. I was actually able to talk to other adults. There was such a calm energy to it, letting kids be kids. On the down side, I thought it was kind of too bad that a fair amount had to do with products — fake snow, play-doh, crayola. Not that anyone was pushing the products other than a coupon or two, but I envisioned something more natural, playing with around-the-house stuff or just games that don’t require any objects or nature treasure hunts. Maybe the logic is that we wouldn’t need an event for those types of play. Great point Larry Harrison, about shuttling kids around — making both kids and parents unhappy. Kids are so much happier when allowed to roam free and explore. All the rest is pushing stuff for us to basically pay for so that we feel we are okay parents, just another version of wearing the right jeans or listening to the right music.

  4. I received this at 9:38pm on the date of the event.😦

  5. hi from oz just found your site thought I’d tell you about my 60’s 70’s childhood put on public transport at 3 with note pinned to me if I got lost, airplane flights at same age (domestic) alone, play in park (across the road) from about 4, given own dingy at 7 by 8 was going out for 5 hours alone with water food and lifejackert (in boat not on was execellent swimmer) adored rowing and nature (this is on lake up to 200 feet deep 2 miles wide in places and 30 miles long loved being alone and yes I spained ankles regulary bushwalking one just got a bush pole and limped back to the boat by 11 I was allowed to go all day wonderful wonderful days walked 3 miles to school along the coast after school played OUTSIDE with friends until dark in winter teatime in summer

  6. by the way I,m a girl

  7. I keep HEARING about this elimination of play and recess, but I’m not really seeing it. (I’m in the U.S.) When my daughter was in public school, she had recess once every day. Now that she’s in private school, she has it twice every day. If the weather is nice, plenty of kids are outside playing from the time they finish homework (about 30 minutes after they get off the school bus) until dinner time. Yes, we do have to make “appointments” to play with some of her friends – because they live 4-8 miles away from us, and I can’t just swing by and drop her off without calling first, and she can’t get there are on her own, but there are no “appointments” with neighbors. She meets up with them on the street. Or knocks on their doors.

    As for the type of play – yeah, a lot of kids play with video games, but prior to about 8 years old, I still mostly see make believe play, and even the kids over 8 are out riding bikes, playing with basketballs, playing tackle football, etc. when the weather is good. I imagine they are inside playing video games when the weather is bad – but – come to think of it – so was I a generation ago. I played Atari at least an hour a day. And I still managed to do a lot of creek exploring, get my homework done, and read a couple of novels a week. (Of course, the school day was almost an hour shorter when I was in elementary school; they inexplicably added an extra hour county-wide for all grades while I was in high school, and it has remained.)

    I don’t know about the whole pushing play in school settings because I’m not sure what they are really pushing. Yes, I’m for more recess and shorter school days, but I’m not for educational methods that take more time to teach less. If anything, I feel TOO MUCH of schooling uses “play” as an academic tool and not enough simple chant and drill and worksheets, which can teach the SAME information in far less time, thus leaving more time for absolutely FREE play that is not calculated to teach them anything in particular.

    If it means buckling down and teaching and mastering the basics in an old-school format so there’s more time to run around, and less time spent in school – a shorter school day – THEN I’m for it. I’d like to see a 5 hour school day.

    We did so much “creative” stuff and so many “educational games” and so much “cooperative learning” and so many “group projects” in the classroom when I went through school (and it appears they are still doing this), that we often took 50 minutes to learn something that we could have learned in 10 minutes of drill and chant. And then they could have just released us to our own imaginations for 40 minutes. But when one of the primary goals of school becomes providing daycare rather than providing information, I suppose that is inevitable, and that happened a long time ago. Still, if you HAVE to keep them for 6.5 hours, why not do the drill and chant and replace the annoying group projects and “cooperative learning” and “creative learning” with four 30-minute long, unorganized recesses?

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