Encouraging Physical Activity & Fun through Virtual Playstreets

NJHI 2018: Upstream Action Acceleration Pulling Together: All Voices Heard and Count!

Our YMCA, the Gateway Family YMCA, is familiar with running Playstreets. Since 2015 we’ve offered both traditional outdoor Playstreets and non-traditional, indoor playstreets to Elizabeth, New Jersey residents. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic gave us an opportunity to reinvent Playstreets once again – this time as virtual Playstreets.

With local health and safety guidelines constantly changing, we adapted the Playstreets program into a virtual format that includes all the physical activity and fun of traditional Playstreets within the comfort and safety of home. Throughout the pandemic we’ve been timing our virtual Playstreets to coincide with other events such as Welcoming Week, and our latest virtual Playstreet was held on April 2, 2021 as part of our YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day event.

While we might not have space for families to participate in traditional Playstreet activities such as basketball or biking, we’ve included fun activities that can be done with supplies in your own home instead. As an example, juggling! If you’re not used to it, learning to juggle can be surprisingly active and engaging for the arms and core. No juggling balls at home? No problem! Just get some rolled-up socks and you’re good to go. You can also use disposable plastic bags filled with air. They’re especially helpful for beginners to learn the catch-toss pattern in juggling!

We’ve also included “Street Cycling Savvy” tips and tricks in our virtual Playstreets to help kids and families when they get active outside. The information covers everything from basic bike maintenance and repair, to wearing bright clothes that stand out to drivers, and best practices for maneuvering around drivers. We provide this information so our families can follow best practices for safely cycling on city streets.

The format and location of our Playstreets will keep changing as pandemic health and safety guidelines continue to change, but the core of our Playstreets – increasing opportunities for kids and families to engage in fun and safe physical activities – will always remain. Connect with us to gain ideas for your community and partner in this work.

The Grantee Blog regularly publishes updates from NJHI-supported communities. Bookmark this site to stay up-to-date and share in the work of building healthier communities across New Jersey.
Rachel Niemczyk
The Gateway Family YMCA