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How to get Utah kids to ‘Play Unplugged’ this summer

Play Unplugged rewards children who turn off devices for alternative activities.

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Michelle Lehnardt, a mother of six from East Millcreek, said the activities teach kids how to be happy without technology.

"We have a computer, we have a TV, I have an iPhone," Lehnardt said. "We love those things. But we find so much more happiness in pounding nails into the wood pile and ... going into the mountains and it’s so easy to lose sight of those things."

At a glance

How to Play Unplugged

Families can hook up with a Play Unplugged program by finding the nearest one, all of which are listed at weplayunplugged.com. There is no need to register or pay a fee, but families may be asked to pay $2 for each child’s lanyard. The programs run from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Businesses, nonprofits and other organizations can learn about becoming a sponsor on the website.

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Lehnardt brought the program to Granite School District, arranging to have lanyards passed out to children before the school year ended.

Her family has been trying to live with limited technology for a few years; her daughter gets frustrated when Lehnardt spends too much time on her cellphone.

"We’re not saying, ‘Throw away your iPhone, iPad, laptop,’ " Lehnardt said. "We’re just saying, ‘Use them appropriately.’ "

Play Unplugged, she said, makes it easier for kids and families to spend time together without technology by providing a convenient list of family-friendly activities.

"The key is not saying, ‘No, no, no,’ all the time," she said. "The key is showing people that there are alternatives. There’s a lot more that we can do than sit in front of the screen."

Rowland said the program has economic benefits, as well.

Businesses and other sponsors pay $500 for the first 500 badges and 50 cents for each badge beyond that. And in return, they see more traffic.

"What we didn’t realize was that was exactly what businesses are trying to do, get people to get through their doors," Rowland said.

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Laura Lewon owns The Dog-Eared Page in Holladay, a bookstore that opened in March 2013.

The response to the Play Unplugged group in the Granite district has been "overwhelming," she said. Children read a book and make a short written report about it when they come to collect their badges.

While Lewon said it’s not yet helping her bottom line — she’s hasn’t seen an increase in sales — her traffic has doubled.


Twitter: daniellekmanley

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