Madeleine Rogers, 10, right, and twin sister Skylar during a...

Madeleine Rogers, 10, right, and twin sister Skylar during a session of playground games at Plaza Elementary School in Baldwin on Saturday. Credit: James Escher

On a field outside Plaza Elementary School in Baldwin, Simon said to put your hands on your head.

Then, put your finger to your nose.

Nearly 100 students and their parents caught the cue, or lack of it, and didn't move an inch — but a handful weren't so careful. 

The game was the first of several large-scale competitions held for Baldwin Street Games, which took place Saturday afternoon for the first time across five elementary schools in the district as an effort to get children playing outside and away from electronic screens.

The goal, school officials said, was to bring the community together and encourage physical activity and social connections.

“It’s not only socializing between students, it’s parents and their children, it’s parents and parents,” said Baldwin schools Superintendent Shari Camhi, who was on hand at the school. “It really is a community event.”

After Simon Says, dozens of children and adults played Steal the Bacon, Red Light, Green Light, 1-2-3, as well as kickball, run by volunteer parents. In a separate courtyard, children drew hopscotch grids, hopped over jump-ropes and rolled rubber balls at bowling pins, even amid some drizzle as evening approached.

Outside playtime means less screen time: Natalie Cain, 7, and...

Outside playtime means less screen time: Natalie Cain, 7, and mom Emily play a playground game Saturday at Plaza Elementary School in Baldwin. Credit: James Escher

Jay Biazon, 54, of Baldwin, said the event reminded him of the games he played when he was younger. It was an opportunity to let his son, Ethan, a fourth grader, play with other kids around his age and separate from screens that can sometimes be difficult, even for parents, to limit.

“It’s such an addictive thing that kids can’t seem to stop, and as parents we sometimes use it as a babysitting tool,” Biazon said.

While the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests at least one daily hour of physical activity for children and adolescents, the agency said less than a quarter of that group meets that threshold.

Meanwhile, a National Institutes of Health study in 2019 found children’s screen time grew significantly as they got older. Other research has tied excessive screen time to issues like cognitive delays later in childhood.

With her 9-year-old son, Carter, running across the field Saturday, Charisse Civil, 37, of Baldwin, said she enjoys taking advantage of opportunities for him to play among his peers, especially after the pandemic disrupted his early school years.

“His kindergarten year, he switched to remote,” Civil said. “It’s all the things I was really excited for him to have, but he didn’t have initially.”

Carter, who plays soccer and is in gymnastics, said “seeing my friends” was the highlight of the day.

Colleen Curtin, 38, of Baldwin, said she liked the idea of “unplugging for a few hours” at the event with her son, Thomas, 7, a second grader at the school.

“You don’t really see a lot of kids outside like when we were kids,” Curtin said. “It’s much different.”

For a few hours, stepping through the gates of the school’s playground felt like a throwback to that time.

Gavin Gardner, 9, a fourth grader, said Red Light, Green Light, 1-2-3 was his favorite game of the day. Asked if he wanted to go for another round to try to win, he nodded with a smile. 

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