Beating ‘I’m bored’: Play Unplugged returns to get kids active this summer

SOUTHERN UTAH — In an attempt to get kids off the couch or the computer this summer, the “Play Unplugged” summer activity program is returning to Washington and Iron counties starting Memorial Day.

Play Unplugged encourages kids and families to collect badges as they complete a variety of activities sponsored by local businesses.

Participants who climb the rock wall at the Washington City Community Center can get the "rock hound" badge worth 5 brag points | St. George News
Participants who climb the rock wall at the Washington City Community Center can get the “rock hound” badge worth 5 brag points | St. George News

Over 55 Southern Utah businesses are currently signed up to hand out badges to kids as they complete the activities, and health educators from the Southwest Utah Public Health Department said they want to get that number up to at least 100 before the program wraps up in September.

Southwest Utah Public Health Department called Play Unplugged a “fun, free way to have an active, memorable summer.”

“It has proven results in helping kids avoid spending lengthy times in front of computers or the television and returning them to real play activities.”

This marks the second year of the Play Unplugged program in St. George. SWUPHD educator Jordan Merrill said activities range from hiking and hunting bugs to reading challenges and cooking activities.

“All of these are great activities,” Merrill said.

Currently, approximately 30 business have signed up as sponsors in Washington County, Merrill said, adding that they are hoping to get to at least 50 or 60 businesses.

For the list of current businesses and badges available in Washington County, click here and select “St. George.”

This the third year for the Play Unplugged program in Cedar City. Health educator Kylaas Flanagan also mentioned the cooking activity as one that comes to mind, although the requirements are a little different than those for the cooking badge in Washington County.

The Cedar City cooking badge, sponsored by ParentsEmpowered.org | St. George News
The Cedar City cooking badge, sponsored by ParentsEmpowered.org | St. George News

“Southwest Behavioral Health Center has the cook badge,” Flanagan said. “They bought their badge through ParentsEmpowered.org and one of the big things about Parents Empowered is eating dinner with your family. So instead of just the generic ‘make something and show us,’ it’s help your family prepare a meal and eat together and then take a selfie of your family during the meal and bring it in.”

Red Rover Retreat — a dog boarding and grooming facility in Cedar City — is sponsoring the “animal whisperer” badge, Flanagan said, which encourages kids to learn how to take care of their pets, including feeding, grooming and playing with pets.

The Health Department office in Cedar City is sponsoring a “seatbelter” badge, Flanagan said.

“You wear your seat belt for a week and then you come in and you pledge to always wear a seat belt,” he said.

Participants will sign a banner in the office and then receive their badge.

For the list of current businesses and badges available in Iron County, click here and select “Cedar City.”

As part of the Play Unplugged program, kids can earn “brag points,” the value of which depends on the intensity of the activity. Each activity badge comes with a unique code on the back. Kids who register on the Play Unplugged website can track their brag points to be used toward prize drawings, contests and more in their area.

Even though prizes may be part of the program, Play Unplugged more importantly engages the entire community by connecting kids, parents and local businesses in what they refer to as the “incentive cycle.” According to the website:

As kids engage in the Play Unplugged program, it helps solve the “I’m bored” epidemic that plagues almost every parent throughout the summer. As a result, this provides incentive for parents to encourage their kids to collect as many Brag Badges as possible. Local businesses are incentivized by the opportunity of meeting potential new clients therefore giving them the desire to participate in the program.

Play Unplugged began four years ago in Heber City when two fathers who were concerned about their kids’ screen time decided to create a model in which local businesses could receive an increase in foot traffic while simultaneously helping kids get out and play. Their efforts were rewarded with a successful program in their hometown which has spread to fifteen other Utah cities, with some offering over 100 badges.

Lanyards for the badges were handed out to elementary kids before the end of the school year. They can also be picked up beginning Tuesday at the St. George Recreation Center, located at 285 S. 400 East; the Cedar City Aquatic Center, located at 2090 W. Royal Hunte Drive; and the Iron County Visitors Center, located at 581 N. Main St., Cedar City. The program runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Anyone interested in learning more about Play Unplugged — including enrolling your kids in this free summer program —  or having a business sponsor a badge can visit the Play Unplugged website or contact Jordan Merrill in St. George at 435-986-2563 or Kylaas Flanagan in Cedar City at 435-865-5151.

Email: pdail@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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