Whether it’s crossing a rope “bridge” into a magical wonderland or “shaving” a balloon clown with a popsicle stick, longtime teacher, writer and PR professional Sharla Feldscher believes any ordinary household object can make for an extraordinary playtime. All it takes is a little imagination … and a willingness to put down the electronics.
Feldscher, who does public relations for Bucks County Playhouse and regularly shares creative educational tips on PHL-17, released on Aug. 27 her eighth book, KIDFUN: 401 Easy Ideas for Play, Ages 2 to 8.
“We need to get kids away from tablets. Kids have so much dependency on their electronics,” Feldscher said. “We need parents to be thinking about the good old times they had when they were young.”
KIDFUN features play ideas for rainy days stuck in the house, car rides and more. Activities include having the whole family balance paper plates on their heads to see who can last the longest; turning the dining room table into a fort and having lunch underneath; making indoor roads out of crepe paper; and using mom or grandmom’s scarves to hold a fashion show.
“I’m passionate about wanting to reach as many people as I can to remember about play. Families are ‘stuck together’ much more than they ever expected they would be,” Feldscher said.
Each activity in KIDFUN is meant to not only be enjoyable, but educational. The KIDFUN concept was born almost 40 years ago during Feldscher’s days as a kindergarten teacher in the Wissinoming section of Philadelphia.
While Feldscher’s classroom didn’t have a ton of materials, she made due with what she had. A bench was transformed into a “bridge” and small chairs became “rocket ships,” ready to launch the students into another dimension.
“It’s just wonderful to encourage storytelling and all that creative thinking while the kids are physically playing,” she said.
Feldscher’s out-of-the-box ideas were a hit, and she was encouraged by friends to take them beyond the classroom. Soon after, she was given the opportunity to write for Grade Teacher Magazine, followed by a column in the Philadelphia Daily News. Along the way, she began to pen KIDFUN books.
“That’s when I realized that everything I did in my kindergarten classroom could be converted to an activity in the house or on the road,” said Feldscher. “I wrote my books so that the chapters are typical family situations.”
Simultaneously, Feldscher launched her own PR business in 1984, and proudly had the Langhorne-based Sesame Place as a client for 26 years before it was sold.
“I had the opportunity to create so many KIDFUN play experiences, except I did it with Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster and Bert and Ernie,” she said. “I’ve just had this dream career that all surrounded around my love for kids.”
Loretta Long, Ph.D., who has portrayed the character Susan Robinson on Sesame Street since its debut in 1969, praised KIDFUN.
“If you’re a parent or a caregiver of a young child, you need KIDFUN – especially if you’re a busy person who wants time with kids to count,” she said.
When raising her own two daughters, Feldscher made the moments count. A lifelong lover of theater, Feldscher taught the girls, now in their 40s, how to read by writing Broadway song lyrics on paper. The trio also listened to the music together on the record player. Now, Feldscher’s children and three grandchildren share her passion.
“While it might seem easy to rely on electronics for play, they distract from the importance of learning through play and family interaction. KIDFUN offers many alternative choices in a very creative way. It’s a refreshing approach to making the most of family time,” Feldscher said. “Even with access to computers, tablets and smartphones, kids still love to put on shows, play dress up, make giant sculptures out of blocks or rocks and get down on the floor to share a belly laugh with their family.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org