People of all ages love to play and all you have to do to build a play community is find the playful folks around you. Our children’s librarian was the first person to tell me, “Pat, if anyone could start a play committee it could be you.” I was researching play and working on my children’s book, Let’s Play at the Playground. she suggested I put up flyers around town inviting people to a play meeting. I also reached out to people on list serves across our community.
On March 15, 2009, six other playful people joined me at an office provided by our Business Community. We had adults in there from twenty to eighty. The mayor, a business representative, father of a young child, two seniors, a computer specialist and myself all gathered to brainstorm about play. Oh what fun we had going around the room sharing how we dreamed of promoting play in our community of Takoma Park, Maryland.
After everyone spoke I shared I had recently heard about the nonprofit KaBOOM! If we decided to apply to be named A Playful City USA we would need to map our playgrounds, fill out an application and hold a Play Day. Well, it was unanimous, we would do this. In the next couple of weeks, we met weekly, worked on the application and came up with a date, time and location for our first Play Day.
After that I met with the Director of Recreation who was extremely supportive. She told me they would waive the fee for us to use Heffner Playground, which has an indoor space and an outdoor playground.
- When starting a play committee you can’t be afraid to ask people to help. Remember what I said, “everyone loves to play.”
- At first not everyone remembers how much he or she enjoyed playing as a child, so you need to model playful behavior, be inclusive, invite everyone to play, and walk the talk.
- Talk to people of all ages; young children, preteens, teens, young adults, parents, seniors and super seniors. Ask them what they would like to see happen regarding promoting play in the community.
- Ask people what they played as children, what they would like to see played now and ask them to share what they would like to have the opportunity to play. Many adults missed jacks, jump rope hide-and-seek, tag and several wanted to see these games and others brought back to the children.
- Visit all your play spaces and see what may be possible to play; a kickball game for all ages at a park, a free Splash and Play Pool Party at the local pool (you will need to raise funds or get donations), let your creative juices flow and you will surely come up with some fun play ideas.
- When you visit other communities’ find out what they play, ask if they hold a play day, and visit their play spaces.
- Ask the community these questions through list serves, word of mouth, fliers and any other resource you may have; such as local newspapers, radio, television or any form of media.
- Meet with local organizations that help the community; PTA’s, places of worship, Scout Troops, Sports Teams, Veterans, Civic Organizations and Businesses.
- Listen to the people who have gotten involved. Write down what they would like to see happen in the community and get them to help you make it happen. If they want an inter-generational picnic then, plan one.
In the spring a new neighbor and her family moved to our community. Mary was staying at home with her two young daughters. She gave me the feeling she wanted to get involved, so I invited her to a play meeting and the next thing I knew Mary was helping us regularly.
Mary and others told me one day, “Pat we need money and think we should hold a yard sale.” I asked, “Where should we hold this yard sale?” I recall a couple of people answering simultaneously, “In your front yard, Pat.” So within five months of forming the Play Committee we held our first of five Playful Yard Sales. We had fun and raised money together.
That summer of 2009 we also had our first Picnic, Play and Parade Watch event, we have now had seven July 4 celebrations. Colleen, who is 88 years young and one of the original seven wanted to have an inter-generational picnic, so the July 4 play event met Colleen’s wish.
POSTS IN THIS SERIES
1 The Play Lady Tells Us How to Become Play-ers
2 How to Start a Play Committee in Your Community
3 How to Plan a Play Day in Your Community
4 Pushing Play in the Community
5 Why Close a Street to Play?
6 Join an Already Planned Community Event and Promote Play
7 Inter-generational Games Night
8 Community Service: Teens Make Great Play Advocates
9 Start a Play Club in Your School
10 The Benefits of Play Events in Your Community
Feel free to contact me if you would like to form a play committee. I would be glad to speak with you on the phone, by email or even come to your community.
Since early 2009 the play committee, which evolved into Takoma Plays is now under the umbrella of Let’s Play America. Our website is http://www.Letsplayamerica.org and our mission is to encourage people of all ages to play by helping them create playful events in their OWN communities.
I am confident that those of you that are inspired to form a play committee can do it. Remember everyone deserves to play!