ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Movement And Play (MAP) program pushes on to provide children with activity time in winter months

BEMIDJI--The armory was exploding with every kind of youthful energy Friday. From the trampoline to the tricycles to the big, squishy blocks, dozens of children zoomed back and forth from one to the next--sometimes playing with a friend, other ti...

Andrea Ronning gives 3-year-old Annaliese Ronning a lift while she builds a tower of blocks Friday during the Movement And Play program at the armory. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)
Andrea Ronning gives 3-year-old Annaliese Ronning a lift while she builds a tower of blocks Friday during the Movement And Play program at the armory. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI-The armory was exploding with every kind of youthful energy Friday.

From the trampoline to the tricycles to the big, squishy blocks, dozens of children zoomed back and forth from one to the next-sometimes playing with a friend, other times with their parents.

Everyone was there for the Movement and Play program, which the Bemidji Early Childhood Collaborative hosts on Fridays from January through March for children ages 5 and younger. It's a two-hour program where parents can bring their children to socialize and play in a public setting.

The idea is to provide a space for children to run off their energy during a time of year when they can't necessarily do that outside. However, it also serves as a community get-together for the parents who visit with one another while their children are otherwise occupied.

"It really helps with parents' mental health," said Cailee Furer, one of the organizers for the event. "They can come; they can talk to other moms; their kids can run free for two hours."

ADVERTISEMENT

About 50 children regularly attend MAP.

Although the MAP program has been held for the last handful of years, it has changed somewhat recently.

It was held at the Boys and Girls Club of the Bemidji Area before moving to the National Guard Armory this year. At one point, it was held twice a week, and organizers have talked about making that happen again. They've also talked about increasing it to cover a larger portion of the year.

Much of it comes down to funding, however. MAP was previously hosted by the Bemidji Early Childhood Initiative, which was funded through a grant and that has since dissolved.

"It almost ended; it really did," Furer said. That wasn't due to a lack of interest from families, though. "I get asked from September, 'When is MAP starting?'"

MAP is now operated under the Bemidji Early Childhood Collaborative, an organization which is reaching out to the community for financial support to continue its programming since it doesn't have the prior grant funding.

"We formed our own collaborative," said Ginny Kurtzweg, another organizer for MAP, who recently spoke about the program to the Sunrise Rotary Club. "We're hoping to bring awareness and more programming into the community by community support."

For the time being, though, the MAP program remains a spot for families to play, meet each other, and leave ready for a good nap.

ADVERTISEMENT

Chelsea Ottman-Rak said when she and her husband bring their son, Lennon Gutierrez, to MAP, he takes off to play the moment they step in the building. They still follow him around and play with him, though, as he darts from one toy to the next along with all the other children in the room.

"He just goes and does his own thing," Ottman-Rak said with a laugh. "Our son doesn't go to child care or anything, so that's why it's really nice just for that socialization aspect."

Three-year-old twin siblings Jenna and Blaine Foss try out a couple of tricycles Friday during the Movement And Play program at the armory. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)
Three-year-old twin siblings Jenna and Blaine Foss try out a couple of tricycles Friday during the Movement And Play program at the armory. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)

What To Read Next
Mike Clemens, a farmer from Wimbledon, North Dakota, was literally (and figuratively) “blown away,” when his equipment shed collapsed under a snow load.