A Fun Time for Kids at St. Vartan's Park
running through spraying water to cool the summer heat,
climbing on wooden logs, swinging on tires swings, sharing
cookies or a favorite toy while parents sit and exchange
local gossip and hints on finding a good baby-sitter.
are scenes you would expect to see in the suburbs or a small
I was pleasantly surprised when I wandered into St. Vartan's
Park. I found them all in a play group in the park at 35th
Street and First Avenue. This child friendly place is nestled
among high-rise building and skyscrapers, with the Empire
State Building looming in the background.
this hectic two-income family world, it's rare to find a
place in an urban setting like Kip's Bay in the heart of
New York City, where parents and children come together
at the playground to socialize and enjoy each other's company.
is one of the wonders of living in a city like New York.
Each of the city's neighborhoods is a small town. There
are so many community activities going on around us that
we never see. People reaching out to help others and creating
that feeling of community involvement that many people think
New Yorkers lack.
NYC Department of Parks and Recreation is the sponsor of
St. Vartan's Play Group, as it is officially known. Established
in 1991, it was designed as an affordable, not-for-profit
cooperative for parents and their children, ages two through
a parent-driven alternative to commercial play centers,
the St. Vartan's version focuses on total involvement of
the group to provide its kids with structured play and learning
time. Children can experience what some of us may remember
as an old-fashioned neighborhood environment.
Vartan's Park was originally called St. Gabriel's Park.
It was named for a parochial school that once stood near
the site serving the area's mostly Irish-American andItalian-American
only were parents and grandparents involved in nurturing
their own offspring, they also served as a "community
watch" for the rest of the neighborhood's kids.
is a modern version of this nurturing environment that allows
St. Vartan's children to explore with toys, blocks, books,
puppets and the like, provided by the play group as a whole.
are expected to attend play groups, take turns working asleaders
and coordinating the group's activities.
includes the nitty-gritty of organizing, setting up - and
cleaning up. However, many parents are prepared and willing
to assume the responsibility.
a wonderful opportunity to be with the kids, talk with other
parents to get a fresh perspective, and have a voice in
what goes on," offered a mother of two.
activities at St. Vartan's include story time, where parents
take turns in reading from books or making up age appropriate
tales to intrigue or entertain the group.
the young artist, there are various arts and crafts projects
available that emphasis the spirit of play in creation.
Sing-alongs, dancing or playing musical instruments are
other activities offered just for the fun of it. At lunch,
there are no unexpected surprises. The kids get to eat the
goodies that mom or dad prepared at home.
my discovery, a few visits to the St. Vartan's play group
shows a patient and overall attitude of caring within the
group and the kids live up to the play group's main mission
- namely, to have fun.
are scheduled depending on demand, Monday through Thursday.
Class hours are 10:30AM to 1:00PM. The school term runs
from September to June.
more information, class schedule and fees, call: (212) 447-6035.
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York for Kids