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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Mermaid Mondays

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


Pop-Up Adventures

tree-3Fairytale 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.

mud-hole-1Of 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.

tree-1Details 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.

International Heritage Breeds Week activities are free with paid park admission. Members are free.

Fairytale Town’s Heritage Breeds

Mopsy

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Mopsy is an American Chinchilla rabbit, and her breed is listed as critical. Her breed dates back to 1924.

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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 Birthday

Eeyore

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

BWPosterForWebChildren’s Book Week is the annual celebration of books for young people and the joy of reading. This year’s celebration is May 2-8, 2016.

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.

Children’s Book Week activities are free with paid park admission. Weekday admission is $4.75 per person. Children 1 and under are free. Members are free.

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.


Playful Learning

USPlayCoaltionLogoIt 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

rutgersPlay 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.

IPAUSAThat 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

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*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.


A First for Play in Sacramento

popupftNearly 200 people played away the day at the first-ever Pop-Up Adventure Play Day in Sacramento. Held at the Maple Neighborhood Center in south Sacramento, the effort was a collaboration between Fairytale Town and the Sacramento Play Coalition – and was months in the planning.

A call for materials—cardboard, PVC pipe, paint, shovels—was issued and volunteers were on site to accept donations 12 hours per week for a three-week period.

Planning meetings were held, and materials were sorted and cleaned.

Promotional flyers, media releases, and registration forms were developed and distributed.

General activities were selected. Outside were areas for digging and mud play, painting a large storage container, building with boxes and cardboard, tying up a string den, and creating with chalk art and clay. Inside activities included painting, drawing, assemblage, make believe, and music-making.

popupmudWe were uncertain how the day would go. We thought it would be a good turn out if we had 20 people show up. We secretly hoped for 100.

People arrived as soon as we opened at 10 am. By the end of the day 75 children ages of 1 to 15, and at least that many adults came by. Children and adults alike got into the spirit of the event and had a great time.

The first family to arrive left about three hours later. As the diapered toddler and his 4-year-old brother approached me, I saw they were covered head to toe with paint. As they walked past me, I saw their backs were covered head to toe in mud. It summed up the day.

A boy about 9-years-old dug a hole for the entire time he was there. By the time he was done, we could barely see the top of his head. Some of the play-workers got into the act and erected a shade structure for him. I’m still not certain how he got out of the hole.

popupcardboardA 7-year-old boy spent his time turning cardboard boxes into a helicopter—again with the help of a play-worker.

It didn’t take long for the activity areas to spill into each other. The drums created inside soon made their way out. A group of girls dragged cardboard and tools inside to build their own living room… complete with a floor, walls, window, artwork, a couch and a flat screen TV—the only nod to technology for the whole day.

popupstringNearly everyone spent time painting the large storage container. Some were able to spray the sides with a paint-filled water pistol.

A few people came by just to donate more items, and loved the interaction they were seeing.

While sore and tired, all of us involved were delighted with the results and are already planning the next event. We are looking to do another on a Saturday or Sunday in May. Fairytale Town and the Sacramento Play Coalition invite involvement from community members.

Pop-Up Adventure Play days are ‘soft’ openings of a permanent Adventure Playground that Fairytale Town plans to open at Maple Neighborhood Center later this year. Geared towards children ages 7 to 15, the Adventure Playground will be open during out-of-school times and will offer supervised play activities. Children will have the opportunity to work with real tools to create their own space for play.

popupmud2Adventure playgrounds harken back to the end of WW2 when European landscape architects and playground designers discovered that children enjoyed playing in the war rubble more than they did in pre-fab playground structures. They observed that children were more engaged in play in spaces they created themselves and thought that these non-traditional environments inspired imaginative, collaborative and thoughtful play, and helped build competencies for adulthood.

The Adventure Playground Fairytale Town is planning at Maple will build upon this model, offering open-ended play for children ages 7 to 15 during out-of-school times. A Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 for the Playground will begin in April. The Adventure Playground will also be part of the focus of Fairytale Town’s efforts for the Big Day of Giving on May 3. We hope for a lot of community support! As all who participated told us, we want more adventure play!

The Sacramento Play Coalition is comprised of play professionals and enthusiasts who meet bimonthly to be a clearinghouse of ideas and to share best practices. If interested in being part of the coalition or the next Pop-Up Play Day, please send a request to join our Facebook group.

popup-cardboard2The Maple Neighborhood Center, located on the former site of Maple Elementary School, is a hub of health services, programs and opportunities for children and families presented by La Familia Family Counseling Center, 916 Ink, Fairytale Town and more nonprofit partners.

More information on Fairytale Town and its programs and services can be found at www.fairytaletown.org.


Maple Community Center Project

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Fairytale Town is collaborating with La Familia Family Counseling Center, 916 Ink and other nonprofit partners to bring a variety of community services to the shuttered Maple School site.

Located in South Sacramento off Franklin Boulevard and 37th Street, the new Maple Neighborhood Center will create a place that is a hub of health services, programs and opportunities for children and families that we hope will be a catalyst for neighborhood stabilization, economic opportunity and community health.

Fairytale Town’s role in the Maple Neighborhood Center project is to work with the community to create a Pop-Up Adventure Playground for children and youth ages 7 to 15 in an open, outdoor area of the school. The Pop-Up Adventure Playground is based on the concept of Adventure Playgrounds in Europe. After World War II, landscape and playground architects noticed that children spent more time playing in the war rubble than they did in structured playgrounds. They observed that children were more engaged in play in spaces they created themselves and thought that these non-traditional environments inspired imaginative, collaborative and thoughtful play. They believed that this type of free play helped children gain skills they needed to become competent and productive adults, rather than passive consumers.

The philosophy of adventure playgrounds puts real tools—hammers, nails, saws, gardening supplies, paints and such—into the hands of children so they can create and destroy their own spaces with guidance rather than direction from adults. Adventure Playgrounds have flourished in Europe, and many now offer training in trades such as bicycle maintenance, animal keeping and farming, in addition to free and unfettered play.

The Maple Neighborhood Center Adventure Playground will be open approximately 20 hours each week after school and on weekends and holidays. Contributions of money and raw materials—such as boats, bathtubs, lumber, building tools, paints, gardening tools, pianos and fabrics—will be sought from community members and service clubs. Community outreach activities will be planned to inform the community about the new play space. Neighborhood youth ages 18 to 25 will be recruited, hired and trained as Play Workers to help children learn how to handle tools and assist them in creating their play space.

We are planning to open the Adventure Playground in the fall of 2016. We are seeking contributions for this unique project and hope you can help. Make a donation online today. For more information, please contact Kathy Fleming, Executive Director, at (916) 808‑7060.