When we think of summer, there are generally a few images that come to all of our minds. Maybe we think of spending our day lazing about the beach. Maybe it’s enjoying an ice cream cone to stave off the afternoon heat. Or perhaps, we picture our children playing outside, making friends, and yes, getting a little dirty in the process, wide smiles on their faces like bright beams of light.
Think back to when you were their age. Think back to how you often spent hours playing tag with friends around the monkey bars, climbing to the top of the banana-yellow slide to go down for the millionth time, or contemplating the possibility of shooting up into space so long as you jumped off the swing precisely at the right moment. It is a phase we often look upon fondly, where claims of becoming the first person on Mars or discovering the lost city of Atlantis were not far-fetched daydreams, but potential realities as long as you imagined big enough.
Generations may have changed, but that age of wonder, of exploration, and fascination remains like a time-honored rite of passage. Children still, and will always, need a safe place to play, to experiment, and to pursue beyond the limitations of their imaginations. It is, in fact, instrumental to their physical, mental, and emotional development.
That is why we want to express our deepest, most heartfelt thanks to the City of Tampa on behalf of our future astronauts and deep-sea explorers. Through their Community Development Block Grant program, the City of Tampa awarded Sunrise Children’s Services (formerly known as United Cerebral Palsy of Tampa Bay, Inc.) a grant of $585,687 in recognition of just how crucial it is that children from an early age have a safe environment that encourages and supports their development.
With Tampa’s support, special emphasis was placed on three elements critical to us meeting the needs of children in the community; the development of covered walkways throughout the exterior of the 3,600 square foot center, interior renovations to accommodate children with and without developmental delays, and of course, the installation of an accessible playground. The safety enhancements that were funded means our children can be protected from the elements when walking outside and have the tools and supports necessary on the inside to participate in various classroom activities regardless of their limitations. But nothing comes as close to capturing the spirit of their contribution quite like the playground does.
When considering a child’s emotional development, research has demonstrated that the playground is an ideal environment for children to engage and bond with others from various social, ethnic, and economic backgrounds in a healthy manner. This results in the development of a more open-minded manner of thinking and strengthening a child’s capacity for empathy. Social interactions with other children from early on are a significant step in forming a strong emotional foundation.
From a cognitive perspective, studies have also found that the act of playing stimulates brain development, thickening the cortex by creating extensive, more sophisticated neuron structures. Playing and utilizing the imagination develops critical thinking skills, creativity, and communication skills which adults consistently rely on regardless of their chosen profession.
While it may go without say, playgrounds provide a physical benefit as well. The earlier a child is encouraged to remain physically active, the more likely they are to be physically fit as adults. But it goes beyond just physical exercise. A playground also contributes to the development of key motor and sensory skills, laying the groundwork for children to proceed to more advanced stages of physical development.
We are so grateful for this gracious expression of support and a keen understanding that playtime for our children now will lead to great accomplishments in the future.
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.“– Albert Einstein
Thank you, City of Tampa!