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5 February 2014

Program turns to child’s play for health benefits

The Herbert Wellness Center has launched a program this semester aimed at improving student wellness through fun activities like children’s playground games.

“We got together last semester and the idea came up for Canes4Play,” said Adam Troy, a health educator at the UM Student Health Center.

The program is designed to bring back the idea of play as a way to improve students’ four dimensions of wellness: emotional, physical, cognitive and social. Counseling center staff member Kimberly Martin created the program based on those at other schools, such as the University of Michigan.

Ashley Falcon, a wellness center assistant director who is involved with the program, said the idea is to “do all things wellness through this play initiative so that we can really show people how to connect with their inner child.”

The program creators believe that certain parts of students’ basic wellness are being neglected for the demands of their academic life. The idea is that “play” can help bring these important aspects of wellness back.

Canes4Play also focuses on the element of “flow” that is created during play. Falcon describes “flow” as being “put in that frame of reference where you’re in a perfect balance of challenge and opportunity or relaxation stimulation … and you let go of any anxieties or depressions.”

Canes4Play is collaborating with other UM programs such as Counseling Outreach Peer Education, HOPE, the student legal advocacy program, and Vitality U, a student wellness program.

The UM dining office will also help by providing healthy foods at Canes4Play events.

To get involved with the program, students can help with programming individually or as a group, donate games, create an online play tutorial video or become a play facilitator.

“I am really excited to play games from my childhood because it’s a great stress-reliever,” Madison Cramer said.

Canes4Play held its first meeting Jan. 27, and there will be brainstorming sessions every other week. For more information on how to participate, visit the wellness center website at miami.edu and look under the Programs and Schedules tab for Canes4Play.

The program has two big public events coming up. In conjunction with Pier 21’s Safe Spring Break Week, Canes4Play will host a number of fun activities such as doodling, four square, playing with food and obstacle courses from noon to 2 p.m. on Feb. 25 on the Rock. A second play time called “All Things T” is set for noon to 2 p.m. on March 21 at the SAC Patio.

Program facilitators are optimistic about Canes4Play’s prospects.

“The sky’s the limit for what we can do,” Falcon said.