For more than five years, the Clinton County School District has been sponsoring a “Play Date at the Park” event every summer and this year has been the biggest summer for attendance yet.
“We’ve had anywhere from 30 to 45 kids every Friday. We do a lot of painting and they get a book every time they come,” Play Date at the Park Coordinator April Speck said. “It’s completely free.”
Last Friday, July 8, Speck said only 20 kids were present during the event. She thinks it was due to the fact that this is the first time the event has carried over into July and vacations and the weather played a role in the number of children present.
Other than having arts and crafts, the Safe Schools/Healthy Students program also provides a speaker and lunch for the kids.
“Stacy Smith from the Extension Office comes out and talks with the kids on healthy eating habits and things like that,” Speck said. “This program has kind of evolved from babies to 11 year olds. We usually use the summer feeding program, but it ends at the first of July, so we have to do something else.”
Speck said Paula Little started the event five years ago and it originally took place every Friday in the month of June, but this year, the event has grown so much in popularity, organizers decided to extend it through the month of July.
“Whenever I first started, we were lucky to have 10 kids,” Speck said. “Every year it has picked up. I guess it’s taken that long to get the word out. I hope this is able to continue after the grant ends July 30th. This benefits children and parents! The main goal is allowing children to socialize and play with other kids. Parents are also able to socialize with other parents.”
Speck said the event starts with lunch, followed by an arts and crafts project. After the project, kids are welcome to venture to the playground.
“I usually try to make them eat first, but they come out and see those crafts and they get excited and want to paint right away,” Speck said.
Not only do the kids enjoy the “Play Date at the Park,” but according to Speck, the parents have as much fun as the kids sometimes.
“It’s an outlet for the parents. They like to watch their kids play,” Speck said. “It’s a social thing for the kids. It helps them interact with other kids and they get a book every week. So they will come back and tell me how many pages they have read. The main focus is socialization. They love it because they’ve made friends and they are excited to come back each week.”
One of the keys to this year’s popularity of the event has been Facebook.
“It and the library has been the only advertising I’ve done and we’ve had great response,” Speck said. “This will continue every Friday in July and is free to all children of Clinton County. Next week we will be painting as well. I do ask parents to give me a heads up so I know how many pizzas and 2-liters to order.”
Speck said the program, in her eyes, has been a success, not only for the children, but for her as well.
The children love it and parents are so appreciative of it, so that makes me happy. I’m doing it for the smiles on their faces. Usually they are running to me once they get out of the car,” Speck said. “I do ask the children to dress in old clothes because we paint many of the Fridays so they don’t ruin any good clothing. This program offers many benefits to our community.”
For more information, contact Speck at 606-387-3495.
Several children and parents were on hand Friday at Mountain View Park for the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Play Date at the Park. The event usually takes place during the month of June, but due to the popularity, it will be extended through July this summer.