We Need Your Help to Build a New Playset
Entering a place called Fairytale Town just has to be a magical experience. We work hard to make sure that once children and families cross under the Humpty Dumpty gate, they enter an enchanted realm where stories come to life and children can play to their heart’s content. These days, after hearing the initial “Oohs!” and “Ahhs!” upon entering the park, the next comment we often hear is, “What is that supposed to be?” when children see the drought-stricken waterways throughout the park. One frequent guest hit the nail on the head when she said, “Fairytale Town has done such a great job of upgrading and refreshing the grounds and playsets. It’s a shame the moats are such an eyesore.”
The Board and Staff of Fairytale Town are committed to keeping the historical integrity of our storybook park. We can easily justify maintaining and improving the moat around King Arthur’s Castle and the waterways close to the Pirate Ship and the Water Wheel. But, after many years of drought, it has become difficult to rationalize the use of water as a decorative element and costly to fill the non-thematic waterways in the park. For these reasons, we began to look at ways to repurpose the non-thematic waterways in the park.
Thanks to a grant from Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, we are in the process of creating a new playset! The grant allows Fairytale Town to request proposals from artists and arts organizations to create a new playset to replace the waterway between the Tipi playset and the Mary’s Little Lamb exhibit. Like all the structures at Fairytale Town, the new playset will be story-based, interactive, and powered by the imagination rather than electricity.
The grant requires a one-to-one match, and we need your help to raise the $100,000 match! We invite you to join us in making this exciting and collaborative project come to life.
While all of us at Fairytale Town are committed to keeping the historical integrity of the park, we also recognize that we must ensure the facility remains relevant to the present and sustainable in the future.
We hope our community will support of this new project by providing donations to match our grant! Make a contribution online, or please contact Kathy Fleming at (916) 808-7060.
Meet Author Barbara Jean Hicks
Acclaimed author, storyteller, speaker and educator Barbara Jean Hicks has published seven picture books, including Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli, The Secret Life of Walter Kitty, and the multi-award-wining Jitterbug Jam. Her two most recent titles are A Sister More Like Me and An Amazing Snowman, both commissioned by Disney Studios as tie-ins to their Oscar-winning animated feature film, Frozen. She currently makes her home in Northwest Washington state. Barbara will headline this year’s ScholarShare Children’s Book Festival the weekend of September 24 and 25. She’ll read A Sister More Like Me plus her newest book, Once Upon A Parsnip, and sign copies of her books.
You are known as “The Story Queen”? How did you acquire that title?
Okay, you got me—I crowned myself! Here’s the thing: I’m an introvert. When I realized that being a published author wasn’t just about writing, that it was also about connecting with my audience on a personal level, I had to figure out a way to make that work for me. And putting on a costume did it. When I don my gown and tiara, I’m no longer the one hanging back in a crowd hoping no one will notice me. I’m an actor onstage. The weird thing is that the character I’m playing is actually me. Or at least an aspect of me, one that I’d never expressed before—and one that makes an immediate connection with kids, for whom I am anything but make-believe. I am the Story Queen. (And “queen” only because it rhymes with “Jean”—I could just as easily be “Claire the Story Bear” and dress up in a furry suit, if Claire were my name!)
What did you enjoy most about writing A Sister More Like Me, featuring Anna and Elsa from Frozen?
First, I had the wonderful opportunity of seeing an early screening of Frozen, more than a year before the movie was released. It was still in production—no music, not completely animated, pieces of the story not yet fleshed out—but still, I think everyone in the audience knew it was going to be something special.
I also enjoyed the story-building process—thinking about my own two sisters and me, and how we didn’t always understand each other because we were so different from one another. And I thought about how we sometimes depended on one another because of those very differences.
I lost my eldest sister the day before Frozen was released in theaters. I’m sad she never got to see the movie, but glad she was able to hold the finished product in her hands before she died. The book is even more special to me because I associate it with Lindy. The last weekend we spent together, she had arranged for me to read and do a book signing for A Sister More Like Me at her favorite bookstore in Seattle, and many of her friends as well as her daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters were there. I have a picture of the two of us at the signing, me decked out in my royal finery, Lindy standing behind me with her hand at my back—a visual metaphor. Even now I feel she stands behind me, supports me, encourages me.
Tell us about your latest book, Once Upon a Parsnip?
A number of years ago I joined a children’s book writers’ group and met Kevin Wood—a man who is off-the-charts, in my opinion, when it comes to creativity. One day he brought a grocery list to the meeting–of items you might find in a fairytale grocery store, like poison apples, magic beans and pumpkins that turn into carriages. It was written in rhyme. He basically asked me if I could help him come up with characters and a plot to be used as a delivery system for his grocery list!
The Fairytale Grocery Store gained characters and a plot in a Little Red/Wolf rematch, with cameo appearances by the Three Pigs and other various fairytale folk. We had a publisher interested at one point, but it didn’t go anywhere. I continued to work on the story off and on; I’m a dog with a bone when it comes to a good story—if I think it has potential, I just don’t give up on it. Somewhere during that time, the title became Once Upon a Parsnip and parsnips were added to the plot.
Fast forward a dozen years…. I was doing a promotion for A Sister More Like Me at our local movie theatre the weekend Frozen was released. Ben Mann introduced himself as a local artist; we had a lovely chat and later developed a friendship. Meanwhile, I had met a group of “author-entrepreneurs,” women who had all published books independently, and I felt an immediate affinity with them. (I call them my “tribe”!) I had several manuscripts out to agents and editors but was getting no response, so I asked Ben if he might be interested in illustrating a book and self-publishing it with me. The timing was right. It was something he had wanted to do, and he felt our partnership and the manuscript were both a good fit. We met about every two weeks over the next six months, and I gave him feedback based on the things I’d learned paying attention to the editors and art directors on my previous books.
Six months after Ben finished the illustrations, we had Once Upon a Parsnip in hand. It was very exciting to open that first box of books! I had published a total of 20 books through traditional publishers, but this one felt different. For one thing, I loved acting as art director for the project. I pretty much let Ben do what he wanted to with the art, but I had a few suggestions about the relationship between the text and the illustrations in places, and he took them to heart. Later, I worked with the graphic designer at our publisher, Mascot Books, until we achieved the vision I had in my mind. I saw the art direction as another expression of my creativity, and I am so, so pleased with the look, color and movement of the text on the page and how it integrates with the artwork.
I also learned that I love the collaborative process. I have been fortunate to have had several amazing artists assigned to my previous books, but I wasn’t lucky enough to have actually worked with any of them. It was such a pleasure working with Kevin on the manuscript, with Ben on the illustrations and with the staff at Mascot Books on the editing and graphic design. I was very pleased when Kevin, who teaches English Language Learners in an elementary school, wrote a short easy reader about our three-way collaboration. Parsnip Partnership is designed for teachers to use in the classroom alongside Once Upon a Parsnip. Kevin has graciously given permission to other teachers (and parents!) to download and print this unique teaching guide.
And if you could be any fairytale character, who would you be? Why?
I’d like to be a fairy-godmother-at-large. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to right the wrongs of the world with the wave of a magic wand? I know what I’d do—I’d use my magic to make sure that every child everywhere had a chance to be a child–to laugh, to play, to imagine, to see light and beauty in the world. To feel safe. To be loved without reservation. In the meantime, I do what I can sans magic.
What’s the Difference?
The Pop-Up Adventure Play Days at the Maple Neighborhood Center over the summer months have been great fun. Kids of all ages have been able to engage in ‘good, old-fashioned’ play activities like digging holes, painting walls and building cardboard forts.
As we move toward establishing an ongoing Adventure Playground at Maple, we have been adding more challenging activities. Saws, hammers and nails are now more prominent. A ladder has been added to a tall tree to facilitate climbing. Kids have been signed in and dropped off by parents. All these activities are laying the ground work for us to open the Sacramento Adventure Playground for regular operation on Tuesday, August 23.
The closer we get to the opening day, the more we hear the question, “What’s the difference between the Pop-Up Adventure Play Days and the on-going Adventure Playground?”
The major difference is the age of the participants. The Adventure Playground at Maple is developed to serve children and youth ages 7 to 15 rather than children of all ages and their families. This is a big shift for Fairytale Town as we have always served young children (from birth to age 10) and their families. We are excited about the opportunity to offer playful and creative experiences for youth. The types of play at the Playground will suit older children and youth as they will involve a little more risk and creativity, and a lot less adult involvement.
Another significant difference is the introduction of tools and building supplies. Saws, hammers, nails, screwdrivers, sewing machines and such will be available for participants to use. Play workers will be on hand to make sure the participants learn how to properly use and care for the tools, but the kids will be able to create and build things they can call their own.
There are other minor differences as well…
- The Adventure Playground will be open during afterschool and weekend hours. Operating hours will be 2:30-6:30 PM Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and Saturdays from 11 AM to 3 PM.
- Once registered by a parent or guardian, children and youth can come and go from the Adventure Playground on their own. Parents and guardians may visit the Playground, but for observation only. They are encouraged to let their children pursue activities on their own.
- Participants can create—and destroy—things over time, rather than in a one-day time-frame.
And, of course, much is the same…
- The Adventure Playground will be free to those who register.
- Participants will get messy and are encouraged to wear clothes and shoes that can get dirty. (In fact, closed-toe shoes are required.)
- The Playground will continue to hold regular Pop-Up Days for the community—at both Maple Neighborhood Center and other locations around town!
Around the world, Adventure Playgrounds tend to become places the participants call their own; and we hope the Sacramento Adventure Playground at Maple does as well.
Learn more about the Sacramento Adventure Playground at the Playground’s website.
Mermaid Mondays at Fairytale Town
The Sacramento Mermaids will be swimming into our storybook town every Monday through August 15 for Mermaid Mondays! Make your way to the outdoor Mother Goose Stage at 12 and 2 PM for storytime featuring books about the ocean and water safety, plus a farewell song and photos with our MerFolk guests.
Monday, July 18, 12 & 2 PM
Monday, July 25, 12 & 2 PM
Monday, August 1, 12 & 2 PM
Monday, August 8, 12 & 2 PM – Canceled
Monday, August 15, 12 & 2 PM
Fairytale Town and the Sacramento Play Coalition hosted their third Pop-Up Adventure Play Day at the Maple Neighborhood Center last weekend. The quote of the day happed when a 7-year old girl scampered up a ladder into a tree. Surprised by her quick ascent, her father said, “I didn’t know you liked to climb trees,” to which his daughter replied, “That’s because you don’t let me climb them at home.”
These kinds of ‘risky’ play experiences have been disappearing from childhood over the past few decades. It’s understandable that we as a society want to protect our children, but we do so at our own risk. Risky play challenges children. It allows them to stretch their boundaries as they explore their world. In the case of the tree climber, it even gives them a different perspective from which to view the world. Risky play also allows children to gain a sense of their own abilities, learn to assess risk, test their skills, and experiment with more complex and difficult tasks. Or, as the girl on the ladder might say, it helped her climb higher that she ever had before.
Of course, risky play needs to be managed and have oversight, and that’s where organizations like Fairytale Town can step in. Recognizing the need for broader play activities, especially for older children, Fairytale Town is working to bring a permanent Adventure Playground to the Maple Neighborhood Center. Thanks to involvement from volunteer groups like the Sacramento Play Coalition, Men in Childhood and other nonprofit organizations, we are nearly there.
We have been hosting Pop-Up Adventure Play Days sat the site to build momentum for the permanent Adventure Playground, adding a little more risk each time. Tree climbing and hammers and nails were added to our existing activities of mud play, fort building, and wall painting. Additional Pop-Up Play Days are set for July 23 and August 20. The permanent Adventure Playground will open August 23.
Details on the difference between the Pop Up Adventure Play Days and the permanent Adventure Playground will be shared in my next post. Until then… let’s find ourselves some trees to climb, and see how different the world can look.
Celebrate International Heritage Breeds Week with Fairytale Town
Fairytale Town’s animal residents are well known and loved by our visitors, but what may not be known is the rarity and uniqueness of each animal. Some of our residents are heritage breeds of domestic livestock, meaning they are breeds that were originally raised by early settlers before industrial agriculture became common practice. Around 200 breeds are listed on The Livestock Conservancy—an organization working to protect livestock and poultry from extinction—and most breeds are facing extinction. The Conservancy hosts International Heritage Breeds Week to raise awareness about endangered heritage breeds of livestock and poultry in America.
Here at Fairytale Town, we’re celebrating our animal residents during International Heritage Breeds Week! Join us every day from May 15-21, 2016, for up-close introductions with our Heritage and rare breed animal family. Meet the animals and hear from our animal keepers about what makes them unique. Introductions will be held daily at 11 AM, 12 and 1 PM.
Fairytale Town’s Heritage Breeds
Mopsy is an American Chinchilla rabbit, and her breed is listed as critical. Her breed dates back to 1924.
Reading and Writing
Reading and Writing are Southdown (or babydoll) sheep, and their breed is listed as recovering. They were originally from Sussex in Southeastern England. Southdowns were introduced to North America around the 1700s. They are primarily used for their fleece (wool).
Eeyore is a Miniature Sicilian Donkey, and his breed is listed as Watch. Around 10,000-15,000 currently reside in North America. Miniature donkeys were imported to the United States in the 1920s as draught animals to carry heavy loads on farms.
Fairytale Town’s Rare Breeds
While not listed as Heritage Breeds, all of our animals are rare breeds, and each is selected for their unique characteristics. The Three Little Pigs are Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, which were introduced to the United States in the 1980s. Our chicken flock features a variety of rare breeds, including Mille Fleur, American Silkie and Wyandotte. And all of our animals are miniature breeds except for one: Cottontail, one of Peter Rabbit’s sisters, is a Giant Flemish Rabbit. Learn more about our animals.
Celebrate Children’s Book Week with Fairytale Town
Here at Fairytale Town, we’re celebrating Children’s Book Week with storytime, activities and giveaways each day of the week! Join us for a week of literary fun! From May 2 through May 6, join us on the Mother Goose Stage each day at 12 PM. A different book will be featured each day with storytime and craft activities inspired by the selected book. Plus, parents can enter a drawing to take home a special prize.
Monday, May 2
Featured book: Pete the Cat and the New Guy
Storytime and craft activity at 12 PM on the Mother Goose Stage
Enter the drawing for a Pete the Cat prize pack, including a book and plush. Five winners will be selected at 1 PM. Must be present to win.
Tuesday, May 3
May 3 is also the BIG Day of Giving, a.k.a BIG DoG, so Fairytale Town is celebrating with dog-themed books and activities!
Featured books: Clifford Goes to Dog School & R is for Rocket
Storytime and craft activities at 12 PM on the Mother Goose Stage
Enter the drawing for a dog themed prize pack, including a Rocket plush and a Clifford book. Five winners will be selected at 1 PM. Must be present to win.
Wednesday, May 4
May 4 is also an annual Star Wars celebration called May the Fourth Be With You, so we’ll be featuring a Star Wars themed book and activities!
Featured book: I am a Droid
Storytime and craft activities at 12 PM on the Mother Goose Stage
Meet Star Wars characters, including Darth Vader and Stormtroopers, from 10 AM – 12 PM
Costumes are welcome!
Enter the drawing for a Star Wars prize pack, including a copy of I am a Droid and Star Wars temporary tattoos. Five winners will be selected at 1 PM. Must be present to win.
Thursday, May 5
Featured book: Llama Llama Red Pajama
Storytime and craft activities at 12 PM on the Mother Goose Stage
Enter the drawing for a copy of Llama Llama Red Pajama and a Llama plush. Five winners will be selected at 1 PM. Must be present to win.
Friday, May 6
Featured Book: A Pet for Fly Guy
Storytime and craft activities at 12 PM on the Mother Goose Stage
Enter the drawing for a Fly Guy prize pack, including a book and plush. Five winners will be selected at 1 PM. Must be present to win.
It was another whirlwind trip. It seemed like I just returned from the Play on the Move conference in New Jersey when I took off for the US Play Coalition’s Rebooting Play conference at Clemson University in South Carolina. It was interesting to attend two play conferences so close together. While both were outstanding and attracted academics and researchers, the US Play Coalition conference also drew health care professionals, naturalists, play workers, and parks and recreation specialists.
The conference kept us busy from 8am to 10pm. Each day I was able to meet and learn from a wide array of inspiring people and their programs: a zoo employee who developed a nature club for zoo members, a children’s museum worker who is introducing play work to her children’s theater staff members, a researcher who provided facts and figures for play advocacy efforts, a naturalist who began a new nature play initiative at his nonprofit, an architect who studied playgrounds and developed best practice standards and another who established an adventure playground, play workers who shared their insights on play forensics and play cycles, educators who developed free-play after-school programs and tinkering labs, and marketers who demonstrated the power of play in telling stories.
I also got to hear some inspiring Keynote Speakers. Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College—and the Keynote Speaker at last year’s Sacramento Play Summit—spoke to us about the dramatic decrease in children’s play over the past few decades, and, perhaps not surprisingly, the increase of depression, anxiety and narcissism in children. I was thrilled to get a preview of one of the Keynote speakers for this year’s Play Summit, Lenore Skenazy. Skenazy is the author and founder of the book/blog/movement, Free Range Kids. She shared stories about the backlash she received for allowing her nine-year-old son to take a subway home alone—at his request. She shared her insights on why we’ve become so crazy about letting our children out of our sight and her Free Range Kids Bill of Rights, which simply states that children have the right for unsupervised time—and parents have the right to give it to them. Those who attend this year’s Play Summit are in for a treat—she is a very entertaining, thoughtful and dynamic speaker!
Other Keynote addresses featured Rue Mapp, the founder of Outdoor Afro, a social community that reconnects African Americans to the great outdoors, Jean Margaret Smith of Nickelodeon whose World Wide Day of Play is September 17, and Justin Bogardus, who created the YouTube hit NatureRX. (Check it out—it’s hysterical.)
There were some common themes that were explored across all disciplines. The decrease in recess time for elementary school children—particularly those in high poverty areas, the increase in adult oversight for children’s activities, decreased time in natural settings, and the need to inform and educate decision and policy makers on how important play is for all mankind—especially children. There were also expressions of hope. There are lots of Adventure Playgrounds opening in the United States. Research bears out what we think is true—that children who have ample time to play do better in school and life in general. There seemed to be a general sense that the play movement was gaining momentum, and the variety of programs and initiatives that are being explored and implemented across the country reinforced this view.
As I reflect on the conference, I come back, literally and figuratively, to Fairytale Town. While we can’t meet all of the play needs in our community, the playful opportunities we provide children, their families, and our community are essential. The fact that we provide these opportunities for children of a wide age range, multiple generations, and schools and community centers as well as family units is a key strength of ours. The fact that we are part of a growing movement that encourages play will only make us stronger.
Play on the Move
Play on the Move was the theme of this year’s conference for The Association for the Study of Play (TASP), held at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Not only did the conference get its attendees physically moving, it also held some very moving moments.
The three-day conference attracted about 150 playful people; mostly academics and researchers, but a few clowns as well (literally). The conference kicked off on Thursday with a keynote address by Cathy Salit, a corporate coach and author, who uses her experience as a performer to open up creative-thinking in corporate settings. She shared interesting information about play (or the lack thereof) in the corporate world and ran us through exercises in role playing and pretend. At the end she encouraged us to make funny faces at other conference goers at least once a day, and to attend workshops that were out of our comfort zone.
I did not make too many faces at people, but I did change up the workshops I was planning to attend. I participated in workshops on play and movement, playful reading, playground design, and after-school development programs for youth.
That evening I participated in my very first board meeting for the USA chapter of the International Play Association (IPA/USA). The board identified goals for the coming year. We plan to make website improvements, increase membership, and participate in planning for the 2017 International Conference held in Alberta, Canada. At the end of the meeting the current Board President was acknowledged for her contributions during her three-year term, and she handed off her magic wand to the President-elect.
The next day offered another incredible keynote by Dr. Lenora Fulani, the co-founder and director of the All-Stars Project, a national nonprofit organization that uses play and performance to help inner city youth develop and grow. In addition to providing play and performance opportunities for youth, the organization offers play and performance opportunities for its sponsors and other adults. It was inspiring to learn what a powerful impact play can make in the lives of children—and adults. As one of the young alumni of the program stated, “Play is a tool in life… it helps you see things differently.”
Afterwards I, again, moved out of my comfort zone to do workshops on play and neurological patterns, play and politics, play and language acquisition, and a screening of ‘The Land,’ a 24-minute documentary on an Adventure Playground in Wales.
The final day of the conference was spent in a ‘Playboratory,’ a two-hour session on using play, performance and movement to explore our play muscles and tap into creativity and communication and concluded with an address on how fairytales, magic and pantomime have contributed to play throughout generations.
I got a lot of inspiration—and some practical tools to use—from the conference. I also got a big shot of confidence in the programs that we offer at Fairytale Town. The physical, artistic and literary experiences we offer children and their families are indeed important. The research these TASP-ians conduct reinforces that. Children AND adults learn much by trying on different characters, looking at things from different perspectives, and moving in different settings and directions.
In addition, I am now much more open to making playful faces at people as I go about my day. And you know what? People respond in kind!
Support Play on the Big Day of Giving
*UPDATE on 5/3/16: Due to technical difficulties at bigdayofgiving.org, the BIG Day of Giving has been extended through May 4, 2016, at 3 PM, and donations will take place at each individual nonprofits’ website. Use the link below to donate to Fairytale Town.
**UPDATE on 5/4/16: The BIG Day of Giving has ended! Thank you to all who supported Fairytale Town during the Day! Your support helps create magical memories for the 250,000 visitors we receive each year. To give a donation throughout the year, please visit our donation page.
Play is important work for children—and critical to healthy child development.
Unfortunately, children’s access to play is much reduced—in time, space and resources. Research shows that children spend 50% less time at play now than they did in the 1970s.
At Fairytale Town, we’re bringing PLAY back! We are proud of our mission to promote the imagination, creativity and education of children through play!
Fairytale Town is also proud to be part of the nonprofit sector in our community. That is why we are once again participating in the BIG Day of Giving! From midnight to 11:59 on Tuesday, May 3, 2016, Fairytale Town will be one of over 500 nonprofits participating in this 24-hour online giving challenge. Donations we receive from the Day will go toward promoting the importance of play! Your gift will support our storybook park, children’s programming and our newest community project—creating an Adventure Playground at the Maple Neighborhood Center.
We hope donors will help us be champions for PLAY by donating on the BIG Day of Giving. It is easy to participate. On May 3, simply visit bigdayofgiving.org and select the nonprofit(s) you want to support. (We hope we are one of them!)
Consider a gift to the nonprofit(s) you care about on May 3 and make a difference in our community. Fairytale Town has and will continue to work hard and PLAY hard to make sure you, your family and our community has treasured memories of a unique Sacramento landmark. We hope we will have your continued support to do so.