With the advent of Playworks’ 20th Anniversary and our aim of reaching 3.5 million kids in 7,000 schools by 2020, I am launching a new blog called "Bringing out the Best." The idea is to highlight amazing work by Playworks’ partners to bring out the best in our communities through play. I am excited for this chance to learn more about the state of play, and I welcome your suggestions for stories!
In his blog on Harpers Playground last week, Jonathan Blasher referenced the concept of nature play; the idea that having a relationship to the natural world—as opposed to interacting exclusively with the built environment—contributes to kids’ physical, social, and emotional well-being.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, when children play and learn in nature, they do so with more vigor, engagement, imagination, and cooperation than in wholly artificial environments. In nature, symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression decrease.
YES Nature to Neighborhoods (formerly Youth Enrichment Strategies) is making nature play accessible, by providing youth, adults, and families living in Richmond, CA and West Contra Costa County access to experiences in the natural environment—experiences that can ignite the imagination, build self-confidence, and enhance leadership skills.
YES provides scholarships for low-income young people to attend summer camps, coordinates family camps, and runs leadership development and wellness programs throughout the year. Since 1999, YES has provided camp scholarships for over 5,000 young people, and engaged nearly as many students and community members in their year-round programming.
When I spoke with YES Executive Director Eric Aaholm, he talked about giving kids a chance to be kids and to experience unfettered joy. He talked about modeling positive relationships and inclusion. It felt like he was speaking my language. From creating a sense of safety to providing the opportunity to be seen and truly see others, Eric’s description of YES aligned perfectly with how Playworks describes the importance and impact of play.