Manase Climax, 6, of South Portland, sits atop a climbing wall at the Stone Street Playground in Portland during the Park and Play program on Wednesday. The free drop-in summer program offers children camp-like activities at different parks throughout the city every weekday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Six-year-old Miles Jenkins was having a great time Wednesday afternoon filling buckets and containers of water and dumping them on the splash pad at Portland’s Stone Street Playground.

His mother watched from a nearby park bench as he took part in the city’s free summertime Park and Play program, open to kids of all ages.

“The loose park play is awesome,” said Kari Jenkins. “It’s awesome being able to access it, and it’s a great way to have critical play and keep cool.”

The Park and Play program is being offered weekdays at parks and playgrounds around the city.

The program includes arts, crafts and stories as well as games and toys, which kids can play with to make their park time more fun.

“It’s really just to provide an opportunity for kids who can’t participate in our day camps for one reason or another, whether it’s financial or because they don’t have transportation or just can’t make the camp,” said Nick Cliche, recreation director for the City of Portland.


He said the city spreads staff around the parks to “provide a place for (the kids) to go to have fun, be outside and enjoy a Portland summer.”

On Wednesday, Jane O’Conor, who works for the department, was set up at the Stone Street Playground with containers, buckets and a watering can to share with children visiting the splash pad. She also had hula hoops, bubbles, chess, checkers, even a small foosball table, and materials to make friendship bracelets and “salt paintings” using salt, watercolors and glue.

Jane O’Conor, demonstrates salt painting to Manase Climax, 6, center, and Waya Nimax, 8, of South Portland at Stone Street Playground in Portland during the Park and Play program on Wednesday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“We always have a craft and I always have a game,” O’Conor said. “I keep it simple. We always have bubbles.”

She said the program welcomes everyone – Portland residents, visitors, tourists, daycare centers and organizations like the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Maine. “It’s free. It’s drop-in and the kids like it,” O’Conor said.

Claris Nowela, her 13-year-old niece and her two sons, Manase Climax and Waya Nimax, ages 6 and 8, came to the park from South Portland Wednesday. Nowela, 28, said the children were begging her to get out of the house and she thought of the park because they used to live in the neighborhood. She said they were pleasantly surprised to find the games and activities.

“It’s good,” Nowela said. “I like it. Before when we were coming here, that stuff was not here. Now, they’re happy to see the stuff, to find bubbles.”

The Park and Play program runs at various times weekdays through Aug. 12 at Kennedy Park, Stone Street Playground, Munjoy South, Pleasant Street Playground and the Deering Oaks Playground. A full schedule of times and locations is available at

Interested? Simply show up, Cliche said. “It’s really just a drop-in, open, free program for all.”

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