This summer, Providence Children's Museum launches a new initiative to bring playful hands-on activities to public parks across the city - part of its efforts to advocate for and raise awareness of the critical importance of children's play.

Unstructured, child-directed play is vital for kids' healthy growth and development. In a 2007 clinical report, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that " is essential to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth." Through spontaneous, freely chosen play, children develop confidence and learn problem solving, self-regulation, conflict resolution and other significant skills.

But many kids today lack time and space to play - especially outdoors. With school standards, busy schedules and parents' safety concerns about outdoor play, children are spending more time in front of television and video screens, activities that do not have the benefits of free play.

To combat children's growing play deficit, Providence Children's Museum educators will take Imagination Playground - huge blue foam shapes that inspire creative play and building - plus other open-ended fun to a number of Providence neighborhood parks in July and August. This is a pilot program in partnership with the Providence Department of Parks and Recreation to program public spaces with unstructured, playful Museum-quality experiences available to all kids and families.

"We firmly believe in the value of open-ended loose parts play epitomized by Imagination Playground," said Children's Museum Executive Director Janice O'Donnell. "We are delighted to partner with Providence parks to bring these play opportunities to kids and families throughout the city."

Play at the Park with Providence Children's Museum

Saturday, July 7 • 10:30 AM - 1:30 PM
Algonquin House (Broad Street) - Farmers' Market

Thursday, July 19 • 5:00 - 8:00 PM
Dexter Training Ground (Parade Street) - Farmers' Market and performance by Boo City (rock, country and soul music)

Wednesday, July 25 • 10:00 AM - Noon
Cabral Park (Wickenden Street in Fox Point)

Saturday, August 4 • 10:30 AM - 1:30 PM
Algonquin House (Broad Street) - Farmers' Market

Wednesday, August 8 • Noon - 2:00 PM
General Street Park (off Admiral Street in Wanskuck)

Thursday, August 9 • 5:30 - 7:30 PM
Roger Williams Park (Broad Street entrance) - Performance by ECAS Theater (Spanish-language/bilingual music, dance and theater)

Tuesday, August 14 • 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Burnside Park (in Kennedy Plaza)