New signs, activities encourage school readiness at Festival Park in Elgin

It took three tries, but the Elgin Partnership for Early Learning was finally able to unveil new signage at Festival Park that encourages children to "Move, Play and Talk" while building school readiness skills.

Previously thwarted by last fall's early snow, and the pandemic in the spring, EPEL, Alignment Collaborative for Education and the city of Elgin held a ribbon-cutting - or rather a jump rope-cutting - Tuesday to show off the playground signage designed to build critical kindergarten readiness skills and to boost brain development during playtime.

"Only 15% of children in Elgin are coming to school ready to learn," said Amber Peters, EPEL's executive director. "Children don't just learn in the four walls, they learn in the community. And by us meeting families where they are, we are able to build some readiness skills and some brain-building activities while also having fun."

Six signs are placed around the park, some near the fountains that encourage water-related activities such as "dry off by doing 10 jumping jacks," while others face the playground. "Children learn through play," Peters said. "So we built language skills and math-readiness skills and brain-building skills into activities through movement."

The signs are in English and Spanish and incorporate messaging from the "Give Me Five" literacy practice of talk, play, read, do and write, reminding parents to keep the five acts in place when interacting with their child in everyday activities to build a foundation for young children to be ready for kindergarten, Peters said.

"We want every day and every place to be a moment for children to learn," Peters said during the ceremony.

Festival Park attracts between 11,000 to 15,000 people every year, according to city.

"We want people to climb on the equipment. We want them to move and we want them to build their brains with the needed readiness skills," Peters said.

  A ceremonial jump rope is cut in lieu of a ribbon by Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain and others at Festival Park on Tuesday as new playground signage encouraging children to "Move, Play and Talk" was unveiled. Rick West/
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