Starting in 2013, Fort Macleod was a part of the Thrive on Wellness initiative, a grant provided by Alberta Health Services. Community members came together to form a multi-stakeholder team that focused on increasing physical activity and healthy eating in Fort Macleod.
One of our “quick wins” was to arrange for several weekly “community playdates” to encourage families to get out in the summer, enjoy some unstructured play opportunities for the kids, enjoy a healthy snack, and meet/socialize with other moms/families.
In the first year we saw 350 participants over the 7 playdates we organized. The average attendance was 50 participates per playdate. It was a relatively simple project to undertake. We really picked 7 consistent days/times/location and advertised it in various methods to create a consistent meeting time/place for families. We didn’t plan games or anything but rather a committee member there to talk about the goal, provide a healthy snack (little cost to the committee), and put out some balls, parachute, sidewalk chalk. The location was also at a well shaded playground/green space with benches which is where the adults tended to congregate to socialize while the children played together. New connections were made throughout the summer.
After our initial calendar, many of our committee members noted seeing increase families in the park on that same date/time, suggesting that it became a habit.
Since 2013, a local organization, Kids First Family Centre, continues to organize community playdates in the summer months.