MERIDEN — The summer playground program offered by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department is an affordable way for kids to enjoy the break with peers.
Walking through the Thomas Hooker playground site, kids were laughing and running around. Different activities were happening at once — kids were on the blacktop, playground, and field.
Sarah Gardinier, head counselor at the Thomas Hooker site, smiled while talking with the children on the blacktop.
“I love working with kids,” said Gardinier. “I’ve been working with them for a while. Aside from this, I’m also a teacher.”
The playground program for children ages 6 to 12 started June 28 and will run Monday to Friday until August 13. The cost is $25 a week per child. A few slots remain.
The other sites are Habershon Park on Meadow Street and Baldwin Pond Park on North Wall Street.
The program has partnered with the Meriden Public Library. Library volunteers visit the playground sites three times a week and focus on mindfulness and STEM activities.
The children go on field trips Wednesdays and Fridays. The registration fee includes field trips, although children must bring their own lunch on trip days.
This past week, the children went to Extreme Air Indoor Trampoline Park in Cheshire and Quassy Amusement & Waterpark in Middlebury.
“The kids are having a blast,” said Gardinier. “They are so excited to finally be able to socialize with their friends after being home due to the pandemic.”
Because of the pandemic, registration is limited to 50 slots per day at each site.
According to Dan Murdzek, director of the playground program, each site had up to 125 children but now need extra space for the children to social distance when inside.
Children wear masks inside and during lunch, the tables are sectioned six feet apart.
The program prides itself on engaging with the kids and providing lifelong friendships.
“I still have adults who came as kids reach out to me and tell me that this program gave them friendships they still have,” said Murdzek. “I’ve worked here 20 years and see kids come back as adults to be counselors.”
“Last year we missed out on creating relationships due to Covid, but this year I’m glad to see that the kids are ecstatic and forming quick friendships.” added Gardinier.
Registration for remaining slots is available at their website meridenct.myrec.com