The Ultimate Block Party's Blog

Archive for September 2010

What is the capital of Pennsylvania?  Who is the President of the United States?  What are mitochondria? Where are the everglades? These are all questions that our children face every day when they go into the classroom or talk with adults.  And it makes sense – we want our children to have knowledge about the facts of the world.  But does memorizing facts lead to children becoming doctors, engineers, or scientists?  The answer to this question may

Where goeth creative thinking?

surprise you!

“The Creativity Crisis” appeared in Newsweek over the summer and makes a strong case for emphasizing play and creativity over facts and IQ scores.  The authors of the article highlight the fact that children’s scores on tests of creativity have FALLEN over the past two decades even though they had been rising steadily for decades.  And these creativity scores do a much better job of predicting lifetime creative accomplishment than childhood IQ scores.  Our children are becoming less creative and less flexible – certainly a worry for today’s parents and for tomorrow’s future!

But don’t despair – creativity is not something that today’s kids just don’t have.  Instead, we can help foster creativity, ingenuity, flexibility, and a love of learning in children through play!  For instance, at the Ultimate Block Party, we will give your children the opportunity o problem-solve and work with new friends to create a new skyscraper or a block tower.  They will be able to create their own art and use everyday materials to create new structures.  They can practice how to express their feelings and emotions while pretending they are chefs or learning how to ‘clown around.’  The opportunities for your child to learn how to be creative are endless and the Ultimate Block Party aims to show you just a few ways that we can reverse this “Creativity Crisis.”  We look forward to seeing you soon!

This blog was written by Dr. Jennifer Zosh, Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine.


No Time for Play?

How many children report having no time for play?  How many schools have NO recess?  In the last 20 years, how many HOURS of play per week have children lost?

The surprising (and disheartening!) answers to these questions are highlighted in this video on the Ultimate Block Party’s YouTube channel.  But don’t despair!  Not only will you and your child have a chance to play on October 3 in Central Park and explore the wonders and benefits of play with other families, friends, and experts, but the Ultimate Block Party is just the first step in a national and international movement to bring play back to childhood.  Take a look at our video to learn some surprising facts but also comment on this blog and answer the question our experts will be answering at the event – How did YOU play when you were young?  How did it shape who you became?

We are  pleased to announce that mother of 3 and esteemed actress, Sarah Jessica Parker, has agreed to be a special spokesperson for the Ultimate Block Party!

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We have been roaming the streets asking moms and dads, celebrities and politicians, lawyers and musicians how they played when they were kids and how this shaped who they became. Here is what Sarah Jessica Parker had to say….

“I am one of 8 children. I grew up in a home filled with chaos. How could it be otherwise?  And I think early on we were both encouraged and taught to use our imaginations. And our legs. Our imaginations were used for story telling, making games up, playing with dolls and creating lives for them, listening to records of comedians and broadway shows, roller skating in the house during long, cold midwestern winters and deeply enjoying some of the finer board games such as masterpiece, milles bourne, monopoly and the game of life. On days where weather cooperated we spent hours and hours outdoors making massive piles of leaves, playing kick the can, climbing trees, rolling down hills, riding tricycles then bikes and simply roaming around the neighborhood in packs of children from 6 years to the “big kid” age of 12 and 13 years old.

We learned to compete, lose, argue, solve conflicts, create teams and never grow bored. We barely remembered we were hungry. We learned to win like the older kids and how to take care of the younger ones. We schemed, got hurt, laughed, cried and eventually when the street lights went on, reluctantly said goodbye and made our way home.

Upon reflection, I’m not surprised I ended up choosing my work. And all I learned the easy and hard way has been enormously helpful in pursuing my adult work. Being creative, collaborative, resourceful, responsible, accountable and excited. I realize those are adjectives that describe how I learned to play, during the most important and influential years of my life.”

Sarah Jessica Parker, Actress and Mother

Talent, Interests, Knowledge, and Skills—Begin with Child’s Play

Did you ever wonder where all of Sarah Jessica Parker’s talent came from?  How she helps us to imagine worlds that don’t actually exist and get caught up in story play that lasts for years?  This amazing mother and actress credits play!  As you can see from her quote, she learned firsthand how play (and not flashcards, forced lessons, or guilt-tripped tutoring!) helped her practice the skills that have allowed her to succeed.  In a house full of children and chaos, she “played her way” to becoming the mother and actress that she is today!

But how does play shape us? As children play, there’s a lot of learning going on underneath. Research shows that when children engage in imaginative play, like pretending to be a fairy princess in a far-away land, they learn how to develop a storyline, role-play, cooperate with others, regulate their attention, and work their creative juices! And what about when they get those board games out? They practice counting, logic, and cooperation! When we peer beneath the surface of play, we see the foundations of the future!

How Did Play Shape YOU?

All adults, celebrities or not, used to be kids! Think about it and feel free to add your answers on our Ultimate Block Party facebook page!  Once you give yourself the time and space to answer, you will probably see the power of play in an entirely different light!

“Play for Tomorrow” at the Ultimate Block Party!

By participating in the Ultimate Block Party and taking the lessons you learned home with you, you will be helping to give your child the tools to become the world’s next best actress, actor, mother, father, scientist, teacher, doctor, lawyer, engineer, therapist, nurse, politician, manager, or even president!

Interested in Learning More?

You can visit the play = learning website.

Or, check out some published findings!

Christie, J., & Roskos, K. (2009).Play’s potential in early literacy development. Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Development.

Ginsburg, H., Lee, J.S., Boyd, J. (2008). Mathematics education for young children: What it is and how to promote it. SRCD  Social Policy Report: Giving Child and Youth Development Knowledge Away, XXII.

Ramani, G, & Siegler, R. (2008). Promoting broad and stable improvements in low-income children’s numerical knowledge through playing number board games. Child Development, 79, 375 – 394.

Singer, D., Golinkoff, R. M., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (Eds.) (2008). Play = learning: How play motivates and enhances children’s cognitive and spcio-emotional growth.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Singer, D., & Singer, J. (1992). The house of make believe: Children’s play and the developing imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

This blog was written by Dr. Jennifer Zosh, Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine, and Dr. Kelly Fisher, Postdoctoral Fellow at Temple University.

Knowledge is doubling every 2.5 years. That means that even if we learn every fact there is today — in just 2.5 years, we will know but 50% of information. In 5 years, we will be down to 25%! One thing is clear… memorizing facts is not enough. We must move beyond learning the basics to becoming  critical, innovative thinkers and problem solvers.

How do we adapt and reinvent education to meet these needs? What will it take to succeed? Scientists have some ideas. Hear what the voices of science can tell us about young children’s playful learning in the new video on the Ultimate Block Party’s YouTube channel —and  discover the answers to help your child succeed tomorrow!

Then join us at the Ultimate Block Party on October 3rd, 2010, in New York’s Central Park to see the science in action… as you and your children join in 25 fun playful learning activities! And remember, how you play is who you become!

Raffi - Renowned Children's Entertainer

Naturally curious, imaginative and creative, children learn by pretending and imitating and messing up, by trying and failing and succeeding, daring and surrendering—in other words, by playing.

During three decades engaged in musical play with children, I have been advocating on their behalf with the maxim, “Play is the work of the young child.” Through creative play children make sense of the world and their place in it. I applaud the Ultimate Block Party for their efforts to create a unique play experience for children, along with an opportunity for adults to understand that children’s learning is founded in play.

-Raffi Cavoukian, Singer, songwriter, author, and founder of the Centre for Child Honouring

The Power of Musical Play
Those of us that are already part of The Ultimate Block Party believe that play is key to learning – and Raffi agrees!
There is not a name more synonymous with children’s music than Raffi. “Baby Beluga” and “Down by the Bay” may have just started to run through your mind just because you read his name. This is the amazing power of musical play! You didn’t need to study these songs or use flashcards, but you remember the fun lyrics and catchy tunes for decades without trying. The power of music is so great that research suggests that playing an instrument in childhood may improve kids’ abilities to hear differences in sounds, increases their fine motor skills and is even associated with better vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning skills! And state-of-the art brain research suggests that these changes are reflected in the structure of the brain! See? Music play isn’t just fun and engaging, but it is a great learning tool that helps kids to develop and learn.

Come Sing, Dance, and Create Music at the Ultimate Block Party!
At the Ultimate Block Party event in Central Park on October 3, you and your child will get the chance to flex your musical muscle by participating in a huge drumming circle full of new friends, dance your cares away with familiar faces from The Electric Company, and even join a pots-and-pans band! But these aren’t the only fun events we will have at the Ultimate Block Party – we will have over 20 additional activities that let you and your child be naturally curious, imagine new worlds, create new works of art, pretend to be someone else, imitate those around them, and even mess up newly built creations. The Ultimate Block Party is going to be a one-day extravaganza that will allow you and your child to play your way to new learning, knowledge, and happy memories. See you there!

Interested in learning more?

You can check out the website of an expert in arts and child development, Dr. Ellen Winner, at Boston College: http://www2.bc.edu/~winner/.

Or, check out the published findings:
Hyde, K., Lerch, J., Norton, A.C., Forgeard, M., Winner, E., Evans, A., & Schlaug (2009). Music training shapes structural brain development. Journal of Neuroscience, 29(10):3019-3025.

Forgeard, M., Winner, E., Norton, A.C., & Schlaug, G. (2008). Practicing a musical instrument in childhood is associated with enhanced verbal ability and nonverbal reasoning. PLoS ONE , 3(10):e3566.

This blog was written by Dr. Jennifer Zosh, Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine

Listen to Let’s play – By Raffi Cavoukian

Check out the Ultimate Block Party Flyer, hot off the press!

You can’t miss it!

October 3, Central Park, New York City

Come experience with us the arts and sciences of play

UBP Flyer

Check Back Soon
Welcome to The Ultimate Block Party Blog. Please stay tuned here for news and updates on The Ultimate Block Party. Thanks for stopping by!



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  • Amanda Gambill: Playworks is so happy to have the Ultimate Block party here in Baltimore! The event is going to be amazing! We are also looked forward to being the mo
  • Shaping Youth » AHA & Nintendo: Tag-Teaming Innovation To Get Kids Moving (Pt2): [...] “fun and games” started taking on an electronic, screen-based focus and child’s play shifted from the ramp-n-rev of the recess bell to bra
  • Beth Kimberly: Absolutely! Recess is an invaluable part of the school day. I love that, as you point out, "there were NO negative impacts of recess." I find it awful
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