Kids encouraged to enjoy, explore during ‘Play Daze’

Apr. 18, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Next week, hundreds of local children will converge on San-Lee Park for a day of celebration and dozens of activities tailored toward them.

The North Carolina Play Daze event on Thursday will include demonstrations and more than 30 activity stations, which run the gamut and include camping, art, toys, cardboard fort building, reading corners and more — plus, of course, the chance to frolic in the mud and a creek. A group from the Lumbee Tribe will perform a native dance, tell stories and show artifacts.

“The point is to play for the sake of playing, to be physically active, to challenge each individual to be creative in mind and body, to take risks, to make individual choices [and] to connect with their family and friends,” said Judy Thomas, who is helping organize the event through her group, the Lee County Coalition for Families. “We want the children to share in the joy of discovery and interaction without the need for competition.”

In addition to the Coalition for Families, the event is being co-sponsored by another local nonprofit, the Partnership for Children, as well as the Lee County Library, the Parks and Recreation Department and several statewide groups.

Thomas said that more than 250 children already have been registered for the free event, and parents who want to sign their kids up need can call the Coalition for Families at (919) 774-8144, extension 209 or 210. The deadline is Tuesday, and all children ages 3-5 are welcome.

The event is new this year and is a replacement for the Day of the Young Child.

Barb Ballachino, a Pre-K specialist with the Partnership for Children, said she’s eager to see how the switch is received.

“This year the focus has really changed to outdoor learning environments and just letting children be outside,” she said. “... Think of yourself as a child, and the things you did outside. And do children really get a chance to do that as much anymore? I don’t think so.”

The event will last from 9 a.m. to noon at the park, located at 572 Pumping Station Road in Sanford. There will be water served, but no food — although families are encouraged to bring a snack or a picnic lunch.