Children play at the Charleston Town Center Mall's Play Patch.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Staff at Charleston Area Medical Center's group of hospitals were worried about the alarming increase in obesity and diabetes in children.So was Charleston Town Center Marketing Director Lisa McCracken. So together, staff at CAMC Women and Children's Hospital and the Town Center mall set up the Play Patch, a play area geared exclusively for small children under 42 inches tall.McCracken said the Play Patch has been used heavily since first opening on Dec. 17. "It's Charleston's only indoor, free public play area for small children," she said.At the Play Patch, located near Zales Jewelry on the first floor of the mall, kids can climb in a big broccoli tree or crawl through a grape tunnel. The entire theme of the play area is geared toward healthy lifestyles and nutritious eating, and ties into the national 5-2-1-0 campaign.The numbers, printed large at the Play Patch, are meant to remind parents and children that kids should have five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, watch less than two hours of TV or video games, spend one hour a day in vigorous activity and have zero sugary drinks. Activities and fixtures in the Play Patch are meant to reinforce the message.McCracken said the play area was intentionally made for younger children, to spread the word about healthy living as early as possible. "The earlier you get the message to children, the more they'll adopt it," she said.McCracken said the Play Patch has been popular with moms and nannies since it opened, but there are a few rules."It is not a dropoff for parents," she said. "We don't babysit."McCracken said all small children are welcome to use the Play Patch, but must be supervised at all times. Reach Rusty Marks at email@example.com or 304-348-1215.