KENTVILLE, NS – Playing was the literal name of the game at the Kentville Plays event for kids held Nov. 19 at the town fire hall.
The event was organized to show support for the United Nations’ Article 31, which declares every child has the right to ‘engage in play and recreational activities.’
The town’s Parks and Recreation department set up unstructured free-play activities for kids to approach however they wanted and let their imaginations run wild.
“Free play is so important for kids to have access to. It helps their minds grow, and helps them reach their potential in so many ways,” said event organizer and recreation director Rachel Bedingfield.
What playing means for kids, their growth
This was the event’s first year, which was also held to recognize Universal Children’s Day.
Free play activities like cardboard fort building, hula-hoops, blocks of wood and goo stations were set up, giving the kids a wide array of fun to choose from.
Parents like Karen Myers, whose son Josh headed straight for the woodworking station, see the merits of free play activities for their kids.
For Josh, it was a way to keep his mind active and stop it from wandering off.
“My son has always been curious, always explored – if not, he’d get into trouble,” she said.
“I had to teach him to tell people he was bored so they could help him find something to do. And now, he’s even more creative than ever – it did wonders for him.”
Darrin Harvey also attended the event with granddaughter Alice Rushton, who was efficient at making her way through each and every event activity.
“She’s so into this. We’re super lucky to live where this stuff happens, and if she’s having fun, that’s a win for me,” he said.
Getting to play in town where recreation is key priority
Kentville mayor Sandra Snow attended the event and set up her own bowling activity involving a tennis ball contraption for kids to use to knock over water bottles, set up as pins.
She saw the event as showing the importance of free play especially now, when play for kids can revolve so heavily around technology.
“We think of an iPad as playing, of gaming devices as play, but are kids truly playing when they use these? Kids need to stretch their imaginations, run wild and have fun with this stuff,” she said.
Bedingfield also stated the event was about more than having fun. It was also meant to show parents and the wider community how free play is essential to a child’s physical and mental development.
“We’re seeing increases in youth suicides, a lack of innovation in society, and a lack of empathy – a lot of that stems back to a lack of free play, and being able to figure stuff out on the playground,” said Bedingfield.
“Kids are looking for ways to take back control of their lives, and this is one major way we can help them do that.”