Places to Play in New Orleans

This blog was originally published on the Let’s Move! blog on February 7, 2013.

By Susan Hildreth and Julia Bland

The eyes of the world were on the athletic abilities of the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers as they squared off in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, but the Louisiana Children’s Museum (LCM) chose to focus on the health and creativity of that city’s youngest citizens.

Recognizing that healthy lifestyle habits begin early in life, the museum asked four-year-olds from community Head Start centers and nursery schools to talk about the places they play to stay active and healthy. Children discussed their favorite parks, sports, and games, and then drew illustrations of family members, friends, and pets playing together. Places to Play in New Orleans was published in time to celebrate a world championship watched by millions of fans across the globe.

Children talk about their favorite activities and draw pictures of staying active.

Children talk about their favorite activities and draw pictures of staying active.

The shared goals of PLAY 60, Let’s Move!, and the Fit NOLA Partnership (New Orleans’ own comprehensive health and fitness action plan) served as the museum’s inspiration to create Places to Play. And to support the city’s Super Saturday of Service, the National Football League and community volunteers renovated five playgrounds for New Orleans youth the day before the big game. With the assistance of the bright blue Imagination Playground, a mobile playground made of different shaped blocks, children spent their Saturday playing together with family and friends.

“We recognize that childhood obesity will not be eliminated until children and families are aware of their health habits and can turn that awareness into behavioral changes with daily exercise and activity – as individuals or as a family,” said Julia Bland, CEO of the LCM, a Let’s Move! museum“Offering our four-year-olds a chance to share their ‘play places,’ and documenting the experience through their artwork, stories and photography, will help increase awareness and active lifestyles.”

Places to Play gives children the chance to express the importance of play through artwork.

Places to Play gives children the chance to express the importance of play through artwork.

The Places to Play books were distributed to the four-year-old authors and the media. New Orleans Health Commissioner Dr. Karen DeSalvo was presented with a copy, along with a set of Imagination Playground blocks from the museum and the maker. “We believe that New Orleans can become one of America’s fittest cities by 2018, the 300th anniversary of New Orleans,” said Dr. DeSalvo. “Fit NOLA is a dynamic effort designed to shape our work as a Let’s Move! city.”

The voices of children were heard throughout the day from their play activities but will last much longer through their collected stories about memories and play aspirations, reminding us that it is never too early to begin a lifestyle of playing together.

Susan Hildreth is the Director at the Institute of Museum and Library Services

Julia Bland is a director at the Louisiana Children’s Museum and a National Museum and Library Services Board Member

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