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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!


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.


Meet Laura Numeroff at the ScholarShare Children’s Book Festival

Laura NumeroffLaura Numeroff is the author of the bestselling, classic children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, first published in 1985 and now in its 62nd printing. She’s authored five additional books in the If You Give… series, plus What Mommies Do Best/What Daddies Do Best. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up as the youngest of three girls, surrounded by art, music and books. Laura now lives in Los Angeles, California. Laura will headline this year’s ScholarShare Children’s Book Festival the weekend of September 26 and 27. She’ll read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie plus her new book, Raising a Hero, and sign copies of her books.

mouse-cookie_cover_150pxWhat was your inspiration for If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?
I was on a long boring car trip and started to visualize animals eating my favorite foods. I pictured a zebra eating Cheetos (the crunchy ones) and getting orange all over his beautiful black and white face. (If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they figure out how to make Cheetos not leave orange around your mouth?) I pictured an orangutan eating pizza, getting his long, gangly arms tangled in the long cheese strings that you get when lifting a piece of hot pizza up from the plate. And, then I pictured a little mouse eating a big chocolate chip cookie. But, I didn’t stop there! I figured he’d want milk! I kept going with the napkin, straw, the whole magilla, and when I got home, I typed it on my fifty-dollar typewriter that I got at a flea market, with a wonky “W”. I first sent it to Harper & Row, because they had published one of my favorite books, Stuart Little, but they rejected it. I sent it to nine other publishers, one of them sending it back saying they only did series. After the ninth rejection, I heard that there was a new editor at Harper & Row, and her name was Laura. I sent it to her and got a phone call saying she wanted to publish it. The timing couldn’t have been better because I had just broken up with my boyfriend and was miserable! That’s why my motto is “Never give up!” And, that’s the story of my inspiration,which led me to talking about trying to sell it. (Yes! I am the mouse!)

Tell us about your latest book, Raising a Hero?
I’ve always wanted to write a book about service dogs! They are the most inspiring, amazing, smart and sweet dogs and know over fifty commands, including, taking off someone’s shoes, turning the lights on and off and helping with laundry. I met Sean Hanrahan when I was looking for help with my archaic web site. It turned out his brother, Devin, used a service dog because he has cerebral palsy. That was my first meeting with Miss Ellie, Devin’s service dog. It was love at first sight! I wrote the book, doing research at Canine Companions for Independence, located in San Diego, which is where Miss Ellie came from. Sean and I raised the money to publish it on Kickstarter. We were very lucky that Lynn Munsinger, who illustrated Ponyella, was on board. Her illustrations are so endearing! Raising a Hero, is my first independently published children’s book, and I’m truly excited about it!

Laura at age 5For many, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is a beloved childhood book. What was your favorite book to read as a child?
I have two favorite books, both inspired me to be a writer! I absolutely loved Stuart Little, written by E.B. White, and published by Harper & Row (they’re now HarperCollins), is about a mouse in New York City, and yes, I’m from New York! Brooklyn to be exact. My other favorite book was Eloise, written by Kay Thompson and published by Simon and Schuster. It’s about a little girl who lives in a hotel in New York. The cool thing is, I’ve now been published by Harper AND Simon and Schuster! As for a fairytale character, it would have to be Cinderella! One of my books was inspired by the story. It’s called Ponyella! Cinderella as a pony!


Meet the Honorary King & Queen of a Midsummer Night’s Dream

Dan_and_MichelleThe most magical night of the year is coming soon! On June 27, fairies take over our storybook park for a Midsummer evening of magic, merriment, music… and ice cream! It’s our annual ice cream social inspired by Shakespeare’s famous fairy play.

Before the fun, we wanted to introduce you to this year’s Honorary King and Queen of the Fairies, Dan and Michelle from Mix96!  Dan and Michelle are the husband-and-wife morning show team at Mix96. We’re thrilled that Dan and Michelle will be presiding over the festivities and emceeing the event. Read on to learn more about Dan, Michelle and a few of their favorite things!

Tell us about your history and experience with Fairytale Town.

(Michelle) When we first moved to Sacramento we took our family and our son lived what he’s only read in books.  AMAZING

What are you most looking forward to at A Midsummer Night’s Dream & Crystal Ice Cream Fantasy? 

(Dan) ICE CREAM!  Really can use some ice cream right now!

We have to ask: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?!

(Dan) Mint Chip (Michelle) Fudge Brownie – Please tell me you’ll have fudge brownie!

 And your favorite Shakespeare play?  Why?

(Dan and Michelle) Romeo and Juliet – I wish we could say it’s because our life is a modern day version of the classic tale, but it’s not!  We just love Leonardo DiCaprio…

If you could be any fairytale or storybook character, who would you be?  Why?

(Dan) Jack and the Bean stock – Because he reached for the stars.

Thanks Dan and Michelle!


Meet Walter & Marlene Goetzeler of Freeport Bakery

FreeportBakeryThose attending the Mad Hatter Meets the Great Gatsby party on April 23 are in for a sweet treat! Marlene and Walter Goetzeler, owners of Freeport Bakery for 28 years, will be serving as the evening’s Honorary Chairs and sampling some of the Bakery’s best-loved items. Plus, the Bakery’s head decorator will be giving a very special demonstration during the event.

Read on to learn more about the Goetzelers—Marlene was just named one of the region’s Women Who Mean Business by the Sacramento Business Journal—and Freeport Bakery.

Tell us about Freeport Bakery and some of the delicious items you make. 

We are a full-line bakery but we are known mostly for our cakes. Some of the favorites are the Fruit Basket and the Champagne cakes. People come from all over just for those cakes.

What items will you be showcasing for guests at the party on April 23?

Our buttermilk cake with raspberry buttercream and tart lemon, along with some other great cakes.

What can you tell us about the decorating demonstration Carol Clevenger, your head decorator, will be doing at the party?

Carol Clevenger is an amazing cake artist. She will be decorating what we call a topsy-turvy cake in honor of the Mad Hatter. She will show how when using fondant you can make some really fun designs.

And because it’s Mad Hatter Meets The Great Gatsby, we have to ask—what’s your favorite? Alice in Wonderland, The Great Gatsby, or both? Why?

Marlene: Probably The Great Gatsby. I read it again recently and realized what a great storyteller Fitzgerald was.

If you could be any character from Alice in Wonderland or The Great Gatsby, who would you be? Why?

Marlene: I wasn’t sure so I took an online test to see which character I would be. I was told Alice. I’ll have to think about that one.


I Speak Sheep

sheepIt was almost closing time and I was walking towards my office. I saw a family playing by King Arthur’s Castle. The adults were chatting happily, the children swirling around them. The sheep at the Mary’s Little Lamb exhibit across the walkway began to bleat. They knew they would be fed soon. As I was nearing the sheep, a little girl form the family ran up to them announcing to me, “I speak sheep!” and baah-ing to her animal friends. It was a joy to see the strength and self-confidence she displayed in this spontaneous moment of playful interaction. She transcended the language barriers and became one with the sheep, both of them baah-ing back and forth until they each rushed off – the sheep to eat their dinner, the child to rejoin her family.

These playful interactions, with family, friends… and animals, are the stuff that memories are made on. I was sad that our moment ended so suddenly. I have worked near those sheep for many years, and have always wanted to know what they were saying!

Fairytale Town is open daily from 9 am to 4 pm beginning March 1. We hope you will drop in for a visit. You can find out if you speak sheep; or cow, donkey, pig, goat, rabbit, chicken, or squirrel when you visit. Or you can just play and enjoy the approach of spring. I believe that is what the sheep was saying to that little girl.


We Need Your Help to Improve the Children’s Theater

The Children’s Theater is one of the original structures at Fairytale Town—dating back to 1959—and it holds fond memories for many guests who experienced their first puppet show, performed on the stage, or attended a FunCamp at Fairytale Town. We need your help to make improvements to the exterior of the building, as well as to stage itself. Dry rot has taken hold on the siding and needs to be replaced and repainted. The stage itself needs to be refinished as well, and if we are able to raise enough money, we may be able to install backs on the bench seating!PuppetShow

Legend has it that the Children’s Theater is the oldest puppet stage west of the Mississippi. Whether or not this is true, it makes for good storytelling – an activity that nearly 10,000 children are introduced to throughout the year. The storytelling presentations in the Children’s Theater include puppet shows, dance recitals, and theater performances.

When Fairytale Town opened in 1959, the Children’s Theater was an outdoor amphitheater. In the 1980s it was enclosed and became one of the few indoor spaces within the park. In 2002, the interior of the Children’s Theater was upgraded to include new lighting and sound systems, sound proofing, and additional seating. In 2012, a fresh coat of paint was added to the exterior, and a new audio-visual system was installed.

We would love to have your support for this project. We expect the renovations to cost $20,000; and more if we include the backing to the benches. Contributions of all sizes are needed to make the project go. Contributions of $2,500 and up will be acknowledged on a bronze plaque, and donors contributing $5,000 and more will receive their own individual plaque on the stage. We plan to begin the work on the project in February so all will be complete when our busy season begins on March 1.

To make a contribution to this beloved park of our storybook park, click here to make a donation online today or please contact Kathy Fleming at (916) 808-7060.


Farmer Brown’s Barn Reopens

The home of Eeyore, Charlotte, and Daisy, the Cow that Jumped Over the Moon, reopened on Saturday, October 11! The renovation of Farmer Brown’s Barn saw a number of improvements to this beloved part of our town, such as the expansion of Eeyore’s stall, new stall doors for both Eeyore and Daisy, repainting the interior and exterior, new exhibit spaces and more.

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Check out our exciting new exhibits during your next visit, including an observation beehive, beekeeping tool display, and a wall of amazing arachnids. An additional space will change with seasonal exhibits. Come springtime, this space will transform into Farmer Brown’s Hatchery.

A big thank you to our major sponsors who made the renovation possible: Sacramento County Supervisor, the Honorable Jimmie Yee, the Spencer Family, the Curry Family, and J. Steven Carrillo. Thanks also go to the Webber-Kozumplik Family for supporting the observation beehive, and to hundreds of additional donors for supporting the project.

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Learning About Play

I was excited to learn about Exploring Play: The Importance of Play in Everyday Life, a free online course offered by FutureLearn and the University of Sheffield. The seven-week course kicked off last week and is off to a roaring start. Learners from all over the world are participating. For the first week we learned about the many definitions of play, and were asked to share our play histories.

SacramentoPlaySummit2There were two common themes about people’s play histories. The first centered on outdoor play. I was amazed at how many people remembered playing outdoors without any supervision by adults. In reflecting on my own play history, I recalled spending a lot of time outside playing with friends and neighbors, and seldom within eyesight of any of our parents. By contrast, my children spent very little time outdoors in self-directed activities. While they spent a lot of time outside, it was usually in a supervised sporting activity. It is surprising how much things have changed in just one generation.

The other theme was that the play people gravitated toward in childhood often carried over into their adult careers. I participated in a lot of imaginative play and acted out stories as a child, and began my professional career by working in theater. Some who played with cars as children became mechanics; others who liked to play school with their stuffed animals became teachers. It was a little surprising to realize how much my play as a child links to my life as an adult.

Play can be difficult to define, but it is something that crosses cultures, contexts and lifespans. What do you remember about your play history, and how has it impacted your life as an adult?