New York City hosted the first Ultimate Block Party event on October 3, 2010. Described as a giant play date, 50,000 children and parents enjoyed a day at Central Park filled with fun activities designed to encourage learning through play. With a concern about play deprivation in children’s lives, the Ultimate Block Party was conceived with the idea of “shedding light on the crucial role of play in children’s development and education.”1
A consortium of educators, business leaders, authors, and researchers formed Play for Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization, in 2009 to champion the importance of play in children’s lives. It was led by the Temple University Learning Resource Network Program; University of Delaware, College of Education and Human Development; Children’s Museum of Manhattan; and Learn, John Hopkins University NeuroEducation Initiative and Brain Science Institute. Their mission was to change attitudes about how children learn among educators, child-care providers, families, and policymakers.2
The Ultimate Block Party was the brainchild of top play researchers, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a developmental psychologist at Temple University; Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, a developmental psychologist at the University of Delaware; and Dorothy Singer, retired research scientist, Department of Psychology, at Yale University.3 With the hope that the education value of play movement would be advanced by educators and researchers, the Ultimate Block Party was designed to reach parents with the message as well since their attitudes will need to evolve to allow more unstructured time for free play into their children’s lives. Parents were given a 75-page Playbook at the event that outlined current research on the value of play as well as playful suggestions for children’s activities at home.4
The Ultimate Block Party event offered over 30 interactive activities for children that allowed for several different types of play:
- “Where in the World?” allowed for adventure play with games of I Spy with My Little Eye, Hide and Seek with GPS apps on phones, and games involving maps and missions to complete
- “Building the Future” encouraged constructive play with Legos, toy remote control race cars to build, and Imagination Playground’s giant foam blocks and other loose parts
- “Get Moving!” offered physical play activities, such as Simon Says, sidewalk games taught by Playworks coaches, and an assortment of materials found in the Pop-Up Adventure Playground
- “Just Add Imagination!” called for creative play with Crayola products and several creative art projects
- “Got Rhythm?” combined music and dance play with activities sponsored by Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Radio Disney
- “Pretend Worlds” created opportunities for pretend play at the Let’s Play Café make believe restaurant
- “Tech-Time!” hosted technology play with robotics from LEGO, geocaching, and making video games
- “Say What?” encouraged language play with opportunities to have story time, meet the authors, and play language games5
The Ultimate Block Party concept has spread to other cities, such as Toronto and Baltimore, with many more cities following the “blueprint” established by the original event in 2010. While promoting to parents, caregivers, and educators the science behind the play and the importance of play, each city can celebrate with its unique flavor to reflect its culture and community.6
- 1. Kramer, Cassandra. “More than 50,000 turn out for Ultimate Block Party in NYC.” UDaily. University of Delaware. < http://www.udel.edu/udaily/2011/oct/golinkoff-play-ubp100810.html > 21 Sep. 2011.
- 2. “About Us.” The Ultimate Block Party. < http://www.ultimateblockparty.com/about.html > 21 Sep. 2011.
- 3. Bartlett, Tom. “The Case for Play.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. < http://chronicle.com/article/The-Case-for-Play/126382/ > 25 Feb. 2011.
- 4. Stout, Hilary. “Forget the mess, imaginative play disappearing from kids’ childhoods.” Omaha World Herald. < http://www.omaha.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110111/LIVING/701119957/0 > 12 Jan. 2011.
- 5. “UBP New York.” The Ultimate Block Party. < http://www.ultimateblockparty.com/new_york_events_ultimate_block_party.htm > 21 Sep. 2011.
- 6. “Bring UBP to your town.” The Ultimate Block Party. < http://www.ultimateblockparty.com/bring_ultimate_block_party_to_your_town.htm > 21 Sep. 2011.