Germs: an unlikely factor in immune system development

Antibacterial: a simple word that has produced complex problems.

Common household items such as soap, detergents, and household cleaning products have antibacterial agents which function to inhibit the growth and reproduction of bacteria (1).

At first glance, the use of products with antibacterial agents may seem exclusively beneficial. But this isn’t always the case. When hyper hygienic products are combined with a hyper hygienic environment, the lack of interaction with bacteria may disadvantage your child. Kids need to be exposed to bacteria-ridden environments like the dirty outdoors in order to develop a healthy immune system: making them less susceptible to disease and better able to live a happy and healthy life (2). Of course, this isn’t to say that antibacterial products shouldn’t be used and that kids shouldn’t wash their hands. They can both be beneficial in the prevention of disease, and it’s okay to spend a majority of one’s time in a cleanly environment (3). It just shouldn’t be ALL of one’s time.
Conveniently, the environments filled with immune system strengthening bacteria also happen to be the most fun! Parks are special places filled with fun playgrounds, water parks, activities, and adventures waiting to be had. Providence is known for its parks and there’s no question why.

From planting flowers in a community garden…

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To science experiments….

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and even jumping in mud puddles…

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There is a ton to do at your nearest park this Summer! If you’re really down for a fun time, come visit PlayCorps at one of our 4 locations this year!


Bucklin Park:

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Camden Avenue Park:

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General Street Park:

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Harriet & Sayles Park:

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See you soon!
The PlayCorps Team



References:

(1) Antibacterials in household products. (2010). APUA. Retrieved 27 July 2017, from http://emerald.tufts.edu/med/apua/consumers/personal_home_5_3590195869.pdf

(2) Handwashing and Hand Sanitizer Use. (2017). Retrieved 27 July 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/pdf/hand-sanitizer-factsheet.pdf

(3) Sing, D., & Sing, C. (2010). Impact of Direct Soil Exposures from Airborne Dust and Geophagy on Human Health. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 7(3), 1205-1223. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijerph7031205

The Power of Music

“Crack! Pop! Bonk! Clank!”

The sound of play echoed through the park. To an outsider, the sight of old buckets, pots, trash cans, and boxes arranged in a circle might appear lackluster and without value. But using a combination of drumsticks, hands, and style, the children of Camden Avenue Park were transformed into musicians. That is, gleeful musicians: the sound of their laughter nearly overpowered their percussional medley from the get-go.

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This isn’t a stand-alone occurence: music has proven time and time again to be a reliable way to illuminate the faces of children with smiles. The beauty in the simplicity of materials utilized by PlayCorps is that any child, regardless of where they are or what they have available, can find a way to replicate this play by themselves to bring about a joyful experience.
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At our newest location, Bucklin Park, musical play pervades as well. On their very first day there, the team refurbished bins, pots, and even a bird house to create their very own drum set. Sitting next to a PlayCorps Leader, a young boy at Bucklin was able to engage in parallel play, a form of play in which children play adjacent to each other, but do not try to influence one another's behavior This form of play shows us that you don’t need expensive equipment or many others around to have fun, you just need yourself, and a playful spirit.

Glass and its unwanted presence in Providence parks

Many assume broken bottles and shards of glass wouldn’t make an appearance in public parks. The General Street Park PlayCorps team knows that it does. Day-in and Day-out staff works to clean up their park to ensure it is safe for children to play in. Fortunately, due to their efforts and the efforts of Providence Parks Grounds Crew at the parks throughout the city, children are able to have memorable, fun, and safe times at public parks with nothing to worry about.

The picture below, taken by the General Street Park PlayCorps team before the children arrived at their park for the day, belies a fundamental concern with littering-behavior.
Each morning when staff arrives, shattered glass bottles and scattered shards can be found everywhere. The picture only represents a small portion of what was collected to make the park safe for the day.

Many do not realize the magnitude of the glass issue because good-willed workers do everything in their power to clean up all the glass each morning: ensuring there is no risk to others during the day.

But the problem is real. When people drink outside overnight, many not only litter but toss their bottles onto the ground: generating the shards of glass. Those who do so may have not recognized the negative impact they could have on park goers during the day.

It’s extremely important for all of us to come together and work to keep our parks clean. Whether it be through remembering not to litter or reminding a friend that littering does not help anyone and only bears the potential to hinder. By keeping our parks clean, not only will it help improve their vibrancy, but it will free up city staff to devote more of their time to improving and helping our neighborhoods in other significant ways.

What are the benefits of play-based learning?

The sun was shining signifying another beautiful day at Camden Avenue/Father Lennon Park. Being the first day of PlayCorps, neighborhood children wandered into the park unsure of what to expect. Noticing loose parts and unconventional objects scattered around, the children came up with a plan: orchestrating an all-out PlayWar. The idea, entirely from the minds of the children, was that each ball-like object could be used to tag others in the park. Once tagged 6 times, whether adult or child, that individual was sent to ‘jail’. One can only imagine what unorthodox and fun materials they used to construct the ‘jail’.

 A neighborhood child participating at Camden Avenue/Father Lennon Park

Play is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “recreational activity; especially:  the spontaneous activity of children”. Learning is defined as, “modification of a behavioral tendency by experience”. Play-based learning combines these two by allowing children to learn through experience and activity. The benefits of play-based learning are impressive and proven to work.

1. Social and emotional development

Allowing children to make social interactions with other children they are able to learn vital social skills. Erika Christakis, MEd, MPH and Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD both studied these developments at an early age and concluded that by allowing children to engage in free play “young children can routinely observe and learn from others' emotions and experiences.”

2.   Self-awareness and confidence

Expressing oneself is extremely important for a child to start doing at a young age. Children who have the option to choose what subjects they want to learn more about and be themselves promotes confidence. Say a child who normal struggles with math, but loves natural science can choose to capture and identify different bugs. The child can be confident with different types of bugs and teach other children about them: building confidence.

3. Imagination and creativity are sparked

Providing children with raw tools such as cardboard, tape, or even nature itself allows kids to explore their imagination. When kids are told to create, whatever comes to their mind rather than set instructions it opens many doors creatively in the way they think.

4.Increase in physical fitness and well-being

Unlike other learning modalities where sitting in a chair for hours on end is the norm, play-based learning allows children to run around and engage in physical activity. Increasing incidental physical activity is paramount to improving a child’s holistic well-being. As the intensity of physical activity increases blood flow to the brain does so in a commensurate fashion. This increase in blood flow can lead to heightened retentive abilities, healthier brain development, and a number of other positive outcomes. Physical activity is typically perceived as monotonous and uneventful, leading to low adherence rates. When the line between play and exercise blurs, this is no longer an issue.

5. Light at the end of the tunnel

Cultivating a creative, confident, and optimistic mindset serves children well during development. Play-based learning is not only a wonderful cultivator of all three, but it remains a fun way to brighten the day of all those involved. And in the end, isn’t that just as important?

Refrences 
Christakis, Erika, and Nicholas Christakis. "Want To Get Your Kids Into College? Let Them Play." Cnn.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
"Definition Of LEARNING." Merriam-webster.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
"Definition Of PLAY." Merriam-webster.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.
NANDI, ANISHA. "Junkyard Or Playground Paradise? Kids Making Their Own Adventures." Cbsnews.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 July 2017.