Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dome Play!

I recently asked staff to share their observations of kids’ imaginative play in the dome in our Play Power exhibit. The dome is a wonderfully open-ended space for pretend play stocked with plenty of “loose parts” in the form of interlocking geometric blocks and foam noodles.
We’ve seen the dome become a giant mousetrap, a spider web, a beehive, a house under construction, a rocket ship AND…

Lindsay, Experience Coordinator:
  • A machine that can make you travel through time (but when you land in a certain time period, you have to stick the noodles out first to make sure it's safe to go out).
  • A secret fort where kids were figuring out how to arrange the noodles across the openings so that grown-ups couldn't get in!
  • A kind of fast food restaurant where you use the shapes at the bottom to send a message about what kind of food you want, and then the person at the top drops down the food you ordered.
  • A place to just hang out and watch what other kids are doing in the rest of Play Power.
Jamie, AmeriCorps Member:
I've seen kids pretend they were underwater and I was the octopus with the tentacles (noodles) trying to get them.

Merideth, Outreach Program Developer:
  • I was various sea creatures – a fish, crab, mermaid – on the main floor while two boys used the noodles in the loft area to fish for me. The game ended when I put a hexagon piece on the end of the noodle and he pulled it up and said, “Oh no, a tire!”
  • Using the hexagon pieces we built a jail under the loft.
  • One child was using the noodle in a particular way, holding it to her face and dipping the end in a hex piece on the wall, and when I asked her what she was playing, she said she was a hummingbird.
  • I’ve also seen kids create a tunnel with the noodles in free-standing hexagons and crawl under.
  • Kids and I have played limbo with the noodles!
Jennifer, Director of Development:
Someone told me that a child who had all long connectors hanging from the ceiling said, "No, it's not a cave with stalactites, it's a spaghetti factory!

Annie, AmeriCorps Member:
I play Infiltration: I try to push the noodles into the dome faster than the kids can slide them out. I think of the noodles as the space worms from Star Wars. I have no idea what the kids think, but they certainly laugh a lot.

Janice, Executive Director:
My grandkids were bees building a hive in the lower part of the dome. Kids playing in the loft were their upstairs neighbor birds poking the noodle-tubes through the slats. I called into one end of a tube to the kids in the loft and put my ear to it so they could talk to me. Then we lowered a tube so the downstairs bees and upstairs birds could talk to each other through it.

One of our Play Guides:
I was playing with a 6-year-old boy and he asked me to keep giving him the noodles. When he had collected all of them and many of the grey blocks in the top lookout, I asked him why he needed all of them. He responded, “Well, I’m a meatball and I need to be with pasta!” So we started playing cloudy with a chance of meatballs.

It just goes to show that we’re always watching and learning from our visitors about the many different ways to play – and that we get to do some playing, too!

What have YOU seen the dome become in kids' play?

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