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Imagination Playground
Children enjoy free play at GBRC
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Delaney Lewis, 3, finds a place to have fun at the Great Bend Recreation Commissions Imagination Playground, Wednesday morning at the Great Bend Recreation Commission Activity Center. The set of free-play blocks is set up at the Activity Center twice a month. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

     The cold weather on Wednesday made it the perfect day for an indoor activity. Great Bend Recreation Commission obliged by setting up its Imagination Playground inside the GBRC Activity Center, 2715 18th St.
     Imagination Playground is a set of bright blue building toys — some almost as big as the toddlers who play with them. The GBRC purchased the set, which includes more than 300 pieces, for $19,219 in 2013 and has taken it to outdoor community activities such as June Jaunt. The money was from the playground equipment budget.
     Program Coordinator Garet Fitzpatrick said the Imagination Playground is also offered as a free drop-in activity in the gym at the Activity Center from 9:30-11 a.m. on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Upcoming dates are Jan. 21 and Feb. 4 and 18.
     Beginning in February, it will also be available from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of each month.
     A total of 33 people attended Wednesday’s activity. Shannon Schartz was on hand to oversee things for the Rec, although an adult must also accompany children. The activity is recommended for children 2 years of age and older. Several adults have also shown an interest is the oversized toys.
     “I’ve really just come to play,” Scharz said.
     When the Imagination Playground purchase was approved in April of 2013, GBRC Executive Director Diann Henderson said the toys could help fight childhood obesity and provide opportunities for unstructured “free play” that child development experts say is important for developing gross motor skills and social skills.
     Manufacturers of Imagination Playground blocks say their product combines “all of the benefits of block play on a larger-than-life-size scale that encourages kids to play together in groups and have more fun.” Playground blocks are made in the USA of lightweight dense foam that is waterproof and resistant to sun and heat.