Education

Making Play Smart ready to roll out

Making Play Smart solar system decal.

They say that play is a child’s work.

That doesn’t mean playtime should be turned into an eight- or 10-hour shift. We take it to mean that play time is as important to a child as a workday is to an adult.

But no one said we couldn’t sneak a little learning into that playtime. In fact many of us — of all ages — learn best by doing, by getting our hands dirty, by using all of our sense to explore and learn.

Research shows that play boosts a child’s brain development and ability to focus, to be creative and to solve problems. That’s what the Early Learning Sensory Garden at the Bodacious Brew drive-thru is built to support.

But the garden, which features play elements made from natural materials, is not the only way to build learning into play.

Part of our efforts to create an Early Learning City is a project called Making Play Smart. That effort includes decals that can be placed indoors or out on surfaces such as concrete or asphalt.

These decals are meant to enhance play by building basic early learning concepts into play spaces — though businesses and other locations could certainly sponsor and support them.

And they are meant for children and parents to interact with together, building social and emotional family ties as well as connections between the neurons of a growing brain.

That means we want grown-ups to play along with the kiddos.

We will unveil some of the decals at Blue Wahoos Stadium on Aug. 21 during the eclipse watching party the baseball team is hosting at the stadium at Vince Whibbs Community Maritime Park. The stadium will be open from noon to 2 p.m. Get the details here.

The decals are designed to be big enough for young children to jump, run and play on — and an adult as well if you’re young at heart.

Making Play Smart Florida roadway.

They support everything from letter and number identification skills to spatial orientation, number order and even helping kids to see their place in the world around them.

The hope is that the decals support our community’s efforts to improve kindergarten readiness, something that in Escambia County has room for improvement. The most recently available data from the Florida Office of Early Learning shows that only 66 percent of Escambia kindergartners are ready for school at the open of the school year.

Research indicates that children who are behind in kindergarten are less likely to be reading at grade level in their third-grade standardized tests. One of the tell-tale indicators for a child being kindergarten ready is the number of words and positive interactions that child has had with a caring adult before their fourth birthday.

Research indicates that children who hear fewer words in the first three years of life are less likely to build the early connections they will need to develop important language and pre-reading skills. It can be a gap of as many as 30 million words.

An Early Learning City is a place that supports parent engagement and early brain development with the help of the whole community.

It is place that turns the whole city into a classroom that is all around us and always opens. Where learning is under our feet and at our fingertips.

Where even child’s play can help build a brain, build a life and build a community.