Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Wishing you a wonderfully PLAY-full new year that brings creativity, inspiration and lots of fun!

Learning About Learning

This post was contributed by Museum Exhibits Director Robin Meisner.

For more than a decade, the Museum has opened its doors to developmental psychologists who explore how children think, learn and develop. Each week, researchers from The Causality and Mind Lab at Brown University and Kid Think at Providence College conduct controlled studies in the Museum’s Mind Lab to see how kids think about or react to certain games or situations. As scientists, the researchers make observations of many children and try to understand how they learn. They are not testing how “smart” an individual child is – they’re looking at how children (in general) think and what they can do at certain stages of development.

In late 2012, we expanded this work with researchers when we began a major three-year research project in collaboration with The Causality and Mind Lab, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (award #1223777). Researchers at Brown are looking at the development of scientific thinking in young children. At the Museum, we’re building on our interests in creating rich play environments and providing support for children, caregivers and Museum educators to notice and value the learning that happens through play. Specifically, we’re exploring how we might best support children’s metacognition – their ability to notice and reflect on their own thinking – and adults’ awareness and appreciation of kids’ thinking and learning through play, at the Museum and beyond.

Drawing from fields like developmental psychology, informal education and museum visitor studies, the Museum’s exhibits team has looked at studies on the types of learning that naturally occur through play, when children start to become aware of their own thinking, and how the design of museum environments encourages visitors to reflect on their learning. Last summer, the team conducted observations in three of our exhibitsPlay Power, ThinkSpace and Water Ways – and documented how children ages 3 to 11 interacted with exhibit materials and the people around them. We looked for indicators of children’s learning through play, such as critical thinking and problem solving. Next, we interviewed parents and caregivers about what they notice children doing in the exhibits, asking them to reflect on their children’s thinking.

Based on findings from our observations and interviews, we’ve begun to develop and test new tools and activities to make the learning that happens through play visible to adults and children. So don’t be surprised if you’re asked to test out new materials and share your thoughts when visiting the Museum this year – completely voluntary, of course, but we’d love your feedback. Stay tuned for future Learning About Learning project updates!

Friday, December 13, 2013

DIY Play

This article, by Museum Executive Director Janice O'Donnell, was also posted on Kidoinfo.

I’ve recently returned from a visit to the UK where I spent a lot of time in “adventure playgrounds.” Not at all common in the US, adventure playgrounds are places where kids build houses and dens with scrap wood and fabric, use old tires for swings or bridges, prop boards to make ramps for bikes and skateboards, and generally create their own play. Back home, describing these places and activities, the people I’m talking with inevitably share their own childhood memories of making playthings out of found objects. They recall making forts out of boards and branches, doll clothes out of fabric scraps, telephones out of tin cans, drums out of oatmeal canisters.

The Land, an adventure playground Janice visited in Wales.
Some of my own most intense play memories involve scavenging and constructing my playthings. I loved gathering up small scraps from my father’s woodworking and incorporating them into environments for my toy animals. I vividly remember a pail filled with tiny ends of wooden pegs that I used to make miniature fences. With the creativity of children, who see the possibilities in all things, shoes became cars for our Ginny dolls to drive and perfume bottles served as fancy lamps on building block tables.

Those were ideas of the moment, suggested by the perceived similarity of one object (an ornate bottle) to another (a glass lamp). There was also, in kid culture, knowledge that passed from child to child. Maybe there still is. When we moved from the country, we copied the suburban kids who clothes-pinned baseball cards to their bicycle wheels. They made a wonderful motorcycle sound as they hit the spokes, rrrrrrrrr. A neighborhood boy showed me how to make a skateboard. We took apart outgrown roller skates and screwed the wheels to boards. I learned to measure, saw and sand making my first skateboard; I learned to measure more carefully making my second one.

We learned a lot more than that. We learned to be resourceful and think creatively. We learned to fail and to try again. We learned about the joy of accomplishment. We learned self-reliance and how to learn from others. Really important lessons that children learn best by doing it themselves.

If you’re thinking of giving a child a fancy new toy or gadget, consider DIY materials instead: woodworking tools, nails and wood scraps; cardboard boxes and tubes and lots of tape; a sewing kit, fabric pieces, buttons and old socks; paints and brushes, markers, and a roll of butcher paper. Give them the gift of making their own play.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Museum Art

One of the Museum's defining features is the quality and beauty of its learning environment.  Since opening in 1977, we have commissioned or accepted donations of work by artists – many of them local – for our exhibits and public spaces.  These vibrant murals and paintings, intricate sculptures and carvings, and more contribute to the Museum’s creative aesthetic while introducing children to art and artists.

Not long ago, we welcomed new artworks to our atrium walkway.  One is an intriguing sculptural installation commissioned from Providence-based Mid-Ocean Studio, a collaborative team of artists who create public art projects internationally. Their first work in Providence, Space Debris responds to and expands on the idea of shapes in space as explored in our ThinkSpace exhibit.

The piece consists of three cloud-like structures with embedded images that refer to geometric concepts; windows overlooking the atrium allow interaction between sculpture and playspace.  Mid-Ocean Artistic Director Brower Hatcher called the creations “experiments with geometric systems” and described the design process as “three-dimensional weaving” and “my own kind of play.”

Hanging nearby are four ceramic murals loaned to the Museum by Massachusetts- based artist Judith Inglese, who has designed and fabricated work for public spaces for over 25 years.  A grandmother who has visited the Museum with her family, Judith “particularly enjoys depicting the role of creativity, imagination and discovery in the life of the child, as well as the importance of cross-cultural exchange and community.”

Her panels represent music, dance, opera and theater, each created in bas-relief and featuring whimsically detailed images and a variety of vibrant glazes that encourage visitors’ visual and tactile engagement.

Click here to view a slideshow with more Museum artwork.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fun for the Whole Family

This article, by Museum Executive Director Janice O'Donnell, was also posted on Kidoinfo.

Adults are an important part of the Children’s Museum audience.  By sheer numbers, nearly half of all our visitors are adults.

We want adults to want to come to the Museum and to enjoy themselves here.  When the grown-ups are relaxed and engaged, kids are able to explore whatever interests them for as long as they want.  So, our answer to the question “What are grown-ups supposed to do here?” is “Have fun!”

Look through your child’s eyes.  It’s fascinating to find out what she’s drawn to, what she’s learning, what she knows how to do.  You can learn a lot about your child by carefully observing her.  Does she do the same activity over and over until she has it mastered?  What perseverance!  Does he charm adults and connect with other kids?  Great social skills!  Does she silently watch what other kids do and then try it herself?  Good learning strategy!  Even if putting the scarves through the air tubes again isn’t that interesting, your kid sure is.

Follow your children’s lead.  Let go of any agenda and follow their whims.  It’s less important to get to every exhibit than to share a good experience.  It looks like he might stay in The Climber for the rest of the day?  Fine – you can enjoy some leisurely time in the garden.

Credit: John C. Meyers
Join in the fun.  It’s not only okay for grown-ups to play, it’s good for you and an important way to interact with your children.  So play!  Climb up on the packet ship and obey your captain’s order to raise the sail.  When the kids are intent on engineering a series of dams and streams, roll up your sleeves and get involved – just don’t take over!

Have some fun of your own.  Your child is building an elaborate block structure.  Sit down and build one yourself.  Share building strategies.  Or get engrossed in something you like to do while your child is busy doing her own thing nearby.  We love to see adults happily creating kaleidoscopic designs while the kids are off playing with the trucks and rocks

We’re glad to see adults enjoying their Museum visit because they’re more likely to come back, but much more significantly, we love that they are doing something really important for their families.  Parents are learning about their kids and kids are feeling paid attention to and cared for.  Together, they’re creating happy family memories.  The American Academy of Pediatrics says play strengthens parent-child relationships, offering “opportunities for parents to fully engage with their children.”  On your next Museum visit – have some fun!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Extending the Museum’s Reach

AmeriCorps is celebrating its 20th anniversary, each year engaging more than 80,000 individuals in intensive service at nonprofits, schools, and community agencies nationwide. This fall, the Museum entered its 17th year of hosting an AmeriCorps program and welcomed 12 full-time volunteers committed to instilling a lifetime love of learning in children – especially those whose exposure to high-quality educational experiences is limited.

It’s a unique individual who is willing to dedicate a year to service, and this group brings an array of talents and experiences that will enrich children at the Museum and in the community. Seven of the 12 served in AmeriCorps previously, three at Providence Children’s Museum. They bring experience from science, art and history museums. Two have degrees in education.

Over the course of their service, the Museum team will make an immeasurable impact. They’ll reach over 1,500 low-income children in Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls with inspiring hands-on activities, Museum field trips, and free family nights and annual passes. They’ll also support Museum visitors, engaging children and families in playful exploration and interactive programs, plus recruit and train Museum volunteers.
Welcome to the 2013-14 MuseumCorps team – Alison, Amanda, Ashley, David, Faina, Hannah, Jack, Joey, Meg, Sarah, Tracey and Vanessa!

The Museum’s AmeriCorps program is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service and Serve Rhode Island, with support from additional sponsors for the Head Start and Learning Club programs.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Play for All Ages

This article, by Museum Exhibits Director Robin Meisner, was also posted on Kidoinfo.

At the beginning of a Museum visit, many adults ask, “What is there to do here?” Or more specifically, “What is there for my toddler (or my 6-year-old or my 10-year-old) to do here?” Typically, kids don’t wait for an answer before running off to explore and play. They know what to do – splash, dig, climb, pretend, create and build.

So to our grown-up visitors, here’s some advice. When kids play – here or anywhere – they learn and have fun. And they play in ways that are appropriate for them – for their individual interests and developing abilities. They are adept at choosing activities based on what they like and are capable of doing, often pushing themselves to go a little further, reach a little higher or play a little deeper.

Most of the Museum is created with the development of 3- to 11-year-olds in mind but also includes activities for very young children – so our environments can grow along with your child. Littlewoods, our early childhood space, is designed exclusively for children 4 and under and their adults.

There is no “right” way to visit the Museum. Some kids stay focused in one place for a very long time. Others bounce from one activity to another, eager to try everything. Follow your children’s lead. Enjoy seeing your visit through their eyes!

If they get stuck and need suggestions of what to try next, consider some of the ways you know they like to play. If your child enjoys…
  • Exploratory play – he might like to open and close latched doors in ThinkSpace (younger) or build fountains and mazes in Water Ways (older).
  • Pretend play – she might like to move rocks with trucks in Iway (younger) or reenact a favorite tale on the ship in Coming to Rhode Island (older).
  • Creative play – he might like to create music on the marimba in Underland (younger) or design a magnetic chain masterpiece in Play Power (older).
  • Physical play – she might like to hop over the stream in Littlewoods (younger) or climb to the top of the outdoor Climber (older).
  • Social play – he might like to read a story together in a book nook (younger) or play the shape talk game with a partner in ThinkSpace (older).
Grown-ups, you can play too… or just have a seat and watch the kids play (or chat with friends or read a book or daydream).

We recently installed a new resource area for adults that includes hint sheets for exploring the Museum with kids of different ages. There’s also a sheet for adults, to share ideas of how you can support your kids’ play.

Next time you come play, try one out and let us know how it works for you – we’d love your feedback!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

PlayWatch: Scenes from the Garden

These wonderful pretend play moments were witnessed recently in The Children's Garden:

A young girl, age 5 or 6, was very busy setting up a “birthday party” in Underland. She collected lots of natural materials and enlisted mom’s help in gathering baskets of sand. She laid everything out on the table in the fairy kitchen until it was just right, excitedly chattering to herself the whole time about the impending party.

Credit: John C. Meyers

A woman was walking her “puppy” (daughter, on all fours) on a “leash” (jump ropes knotted together and tied around the girl’s waist). They circled slowly and deliberately through the garden a couple of times, eliciting giggles from the staff who were watching. I said to mom, “Good thing you have her on a leash – you don’t want her to run wild!,” and immediately the puppy took off, yanking the leash out of mom’s hand and sprinting through the cave. Only moments later, the puppy had morphed into a kitten and meowed loudly several times as she passed by.

I love that both of these parents followed their children’s cues to get involved in and support their play, and gave them the freedom to have these deep pretend play moments!

Megan Fischer, Communications & Marketing Director

Thursday, October 31, 2013

PlayWatch: Magnet Drawing

Spotted at one of our newest exhibit components – the magnetic drawing table in Play Power...

An 8-year-old girl settled in to one of the activity stations and began using the pieces of colorful metal chain to create a grid of perpendicular lines, one vertical and two horizontal.

She formed a circle around their intersection and, as she began adding other details, it became clear that she was creating a figure, carefully adjusting the lines to ensure symmetry.  Explaining that she’d learned the technique in art class, she circled green strands to create an eye on either side of her vertical line.

After completing all of the facial features, she moved her horizontal guides downward, outlined a torso, and added appendages in varying hues.  Her final step was to fill in the torso, deliberately spiraling strands in alternating colors until her masterpiece was complete.

She worked slowly but with tremendous focus and determination, and it was fascinating to see her make a connection to something she’d learned to do with paper and pencil and apply it to a different medium.  Her parents watched from across the room and checked in with her periodically but mostly gave this strategic artist the time and space she needed to carry out her plan and vision.

Megan Fischer, Communications & Marketing Director

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cardboard Challenge, part 2

A young boy (about 6 years old) entered the space and decided that, like many other participants, he was going to build a house – however his plans quickly evolved into constructing a spacecraft. He gave me detailed instructions on how he'd like his door and window cut; there was a definite sense of ownership over the project.
He drew out plans for his steering wheel and column and asked me to cut an impossibly thick tube. When I told him we'd have to use something else he scoured the room and decided that our basket for chalk would be the perfect thing to stand in for the column. He was persistent yet flexible, and it was really interesting to watch him peruse all of the materials available and decide, in the end, that what he really needed was something that we hadn't originally intended as a building supply! Upon completion, the spaceship was fully equipped with a safety sign (that indicated only the pilot should enter), wings and steering wheel. He was ready to fly!
Sarah, AmeriCorps Museum Educator

I observed adults who spent a long time helping and facilitating their children's play. I was happy to see that these grown-ups stepped back when it was time to show off their creations, to let the children explain what they have done and the reason/engineering behind it. For example, an aunt worked with her young niece and nephew to build an elaborate castle. When I asked them about details, the woman did not say a word and let the girl explain that she built the castle for "rainbow fairies, and these fairies were chased by bad guys." The castle included a drawbridge, a dangerous octopus and towers with cannons. When I asked how the cannons work, the boy demonstrated. He placed a ball in a large tube and stuck a smaller tube inside, which caused the ball to shoot out.
Olga, Early Childhood Learning Programs Developer

A girl, about 7 years old, found a sheet of cardboard with pre-cut circles (obviously some packaging leftover).  She inserted a cardboard cone in each of the circular holes and decorated them with ribbon and markers.  She asked if she could take it home as the cones were houses for fairies. She said that she had "a lot of fairies at home" and had made them a village.
Janice, Executive Director

A mom, dad and their 7 kids all busied themselves with their own projects, individually or in teams.  Parents and 11-year-old Alvin got to work building a drive-up coffee shop – a tall structure that required dad’s help to attach the roof and stabilize the building. They added a box to serve as the drive through window, and mom got to work illustrating the storefront.

Alvin himself labored over the food preparation, creating delicious donuts and M & M cookies from colorful foam shapes, which he served with coffee in small cardboard cylinders. And “Alvin's Coffee Shop” was born!

After offering free samples to rave reviews, Alvin created a menu to post by the window. When everything was ready, he took his station and provided stellar service in a structure that mom was amazed to find that they'd spent over an hour and a half building. Upon watching this wonderful moment unfold, I was struck that Alvin’s Coffee Shop might just be our own version of Caine’s Arcade!
Megan, Communications Director

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cardboard Challenge, part 1

Last weekend, we invited kids and families to design and construct original creations using cardboard, recycled materials and their imaginations.  The event was part of Global Cardboard Challenge, the second annual worldwide celebration of child creativity and the role of communities in fostering imaginative play, inspired by the video Caine's Arcade. They created castles, bridges, spaceships and much more!

We saw a lot of intriguing inventions, focused building and some wonderful collaboration.

An 8-year-old boy spent almost 45 minutes building a cannon from a large cylinder – first figuring out how to support it, then adding components like a battery and fuse. He got help from Museum staff and his caregiver when he needed it, with tape and a box cutter, but mostly worked independently and was incredibly focused.

A family of four worked diligently on three different houses! An older brother and sister worked together to create an elaborate structure that included a chimney, a porch with a bed and some pretty fancy hand-drawn wallpaper, while mom built her own red-roofed home.

Meanwhile, across the room, their young cousin claimed a large abandoned house and made it his own by adding a basket of balls to the interior and used lots of tape to form traffic barriers to secure the exterior.

A team of four kids repurposed another house, adding charming details over a period of many hours. When complete, it included tied back velvet curtains, a window box with flowers, a stained glass window, vines crawling over an outside grate, French doors, a comfy bed, a shelf stocked with toys, books and vases, and a security alarm.

A girl, about 8, created an incredible playground diorama, including a basketball hoop, seesaw, slide and trashcan. "I'm going to make the swings at home," she said proudly.

A determined boy spent quite some time constructing the "Providence bridge," thoughtfully finding just the right parts before carefully adding them on.

One of many fabulous castles that emerged throughout the weekend.

We saw lot of great grown-up play – adults playing on their own, supporting their kids’ play without taking over, being helpers and taking directions from their children, and more.

Parents built an impressive sailboat together while their 4-year-old daughter busied herself playing elsewhere.

A dad with two small children stayed for nearly the entire activity on Saturday. First they created the wall of a house, which they colored with chalk and dad embellished with colorful foam shapes. Then they each made their own smaller creations, including train tracks and a house. They had so much fun they came back on Sunday, too!

A mom and dad and their 10-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, who create a lot of "inventions" at home, split into parent/child teams. The daughter created a cradle for her pet bunny, using loose parts to construct a dangling mobile, while mom decorated the headboard.

A family – mom, grandmom and two boys – created an interesting "factory on a ship that makes electricity."

And that's not nearly all – more stories of creative cardboard constructions will follow!

Monday, September 30, 2013

An Interview with Suzy Letourneau

Meet Suzy Letourneau, a Museum researcher working on a new National Science Foundation funded project to make kids’ learning through play visible, in partnership with Brown University.

As a researcher, how did you end up working in museums?
I was getting my PhD at Brandeis in cognitive neuroscience, looking at how people recognize faces and facial expressions in particular, and wanted to get outside of the lab, to apply what I was doing to something in the community.  I found an internship that led to a fellowship at the Museum of Science in Boston.  They had started a program working with scientists studying child development and needed someone to act as a liaison, to translate what they were doing for museum visitors and into exhibit materials.  I did research in an educational psychology lab for a few years after that and when I saw this job – learning about how kids learn in the Museum – I thought it was perfect.

Describe your role in the project to make kids' learning visible.
I’m trying to learn as much as possible about what and how kids learn through play and how we can see it happening.  I’ve read research on how kids learn in formal and informal environments and how they think about their own learning.  I’ve talked with educators about how they see kids learning and what it looks like.  I’ve observed kids playing and talked with parents about what they see their kids doing and what they think they’re thinking about.  Basically, my role is to connect the research with the practice of what we’re doing in exhibits.

Part of your work is in Dr. Sobel’s lab at Brown University.  What does that involve?

I’m collecting data for a few different studies that are related to the same grant as the work that we’re doing at the Museum, about how kids think about learning as a concept.  We’re asking kids what they think learning is and for examples of things they remember learning and how they learned them.  Part of what we want to know is how kids’ awareness of their own thinking develops, which happens between the ages of 4 and 10 – kids start to reflect on what they’ve learned. 

I have one Mind Lab shift per week at the Museum and recruit kids and parents for the studies.  Back at the lab, I analyze and code the data and eventually we’ll publish articles with our findings.

How did you decide what to look for in your exhibit observations?

I looked at how scientists have quantified kids’ learning through play and the skills they observed and spoke with Museum educators about what it looks like when they see kids thinking really carefully.  I came up with a list of 18 particular behaviors and we observed 80 different kids over the summer, making notes of what materials they were using, what they did, how they interacted with other people.  Then we took the entire narrative of their time in the exhibit and tallied examples of each behavior.

The skills we were looking for are around kids noticing their own thinking because that’s something we want to encourage them to do more – if you notice and reflect on your thinking, you can have deeper learning experiences.  We were looking at how they think ahead or plan, how they control what they’re doing in the moment or strategize, and then how they reflect on it afterwards.

What are you most looking forward to?
I’m excited to start testing out new materials in the exhibits and find different ways of showing what kids are thinking.  I’m hoping we can come up with something really engaging that will help kids notice their own behavior a little more and encourage adults to do what I’ve been doing, to step back, watch and notice things they might not have noticed before – to observe almost scientifically.  It’s interesting, when adults saw me noticing their kids’ play, they started to notice more as well.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

When Work is Child’s Play

This article, by Museum Executive Director Janice O'Donnell, was also posted on Kidoinfo.

In this country, saying that someone is a professional playworker will get you blank stares, dubious looks, maybe even snickers. But in the United Kingdom, playwork – the art of supporting children’s play without directing it – is a recognized and respected profession, practiced in playgrounds, housing projects and childcare programs.

Adventure playground in Berkeley, CA

The concept of playwork originated in Europe following World War II, when children reclaimed their devastated communities by playing amid the wreckage and rubble. This inspired the creation of “adventure playgrounds,” play environments that kids can shape and reinvent by manipulating loose parts, as well as the role of playworker. Playworkers create play-rich environments, in which their presence is nearly invisible and where children freely pursue their own play, take as much risk as they can handle, solve their own conflicts, and play the way they want to for their own reasons.

Playworkers understand that all children need to play, that play is an innate impulse and is critical for healthy development. They provide open-ended environments and loose parts – elements that encourage children to choose their own play activities and narratives – and see risk taking as a positive and necessary part of kids’ play.

Playworkers describe play as “a process that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated.” In other words, they have no agenda for children’s play. They are not coaches training kids in athletic skills. There is no game to win unless the kids themselves organize one. They are not teachers with a curriculum to “cover” or even informal educators hoping that, by building and testing kites or puff mobiles, kids will learn something about wind power. If kids decide to make and fly kites, a playworker will take note of their endeavor. She’ll offer some materials good for kite making and ensure the kite-flying field is free of hazards like broken glass or electric wires. If the kids have organized some sort of ball game, she will help them figure out ways to include the child whose disability prevents him from throwing a ball. If a child seems unsure of how to play in an open-ended non-directive environment, the playworker might model playing, packing a mud pie herself and casually decorating it with sticks and grasses.

To respond to and extend children’s play, playworkers carefully and constantly observe kids at play so they can make good decisions about intervening – or not. And they reflect on what they observe and their own responses. “Reflective practice” also involves documenting and sharing these reflections with fellow playworkers and tapping into personal childhood memories of play. As a result, a playworker is really attuned to the play – not leading or interfering with it at all but aware of its rhythms and nuances.

Interest in playwork is growing in the US and its techniques are beginning to be employed in parks, during school recess and at children’s museums. At Providence Children’s Museum, we’ve been studying and experimenting with playwork practices both in the Museum and in our outreach initiatives. We hosted workshops with two British playworkers last spring and are excited to welcome a third this month.

Join us to learn more about playwork during a talk and training with renowned London playworker Penny Wilson and Joan Almon of the Alliance for Childhood on Wednesday, September 25, about how to restore play for children of all abilities and socio-economic backgrounds.  Click here for more information and to register.

Museum staff at a spring playwork training

Friday, September 13, 2013

Explore Playwork with Penny Wilson & Joan Almon!

We're excited to announce that we're hosting a talk and training exploring playwork practices on Wednesday, September 25!

All kids can play and all kids need to play.  Learn from acclaimed London playworker Penny Wilson and Alliance for Childhood co-founder Joan Almon how playwork can ensure empowering free play opportunities for children of all abilities and all socio-economic backgrounds.

The What, Why and How of Playwork | 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Presentation and discussion

Playwork – the art of supporting children’s play without directing it – is a profession in the United Kingdom where playworkers practice in adventure playgrounds, housing projects and childcare programs.  Playworkers create play-rich environments, in which their presence is nearly invisible and where children freely pursue their own play, experiment with loose parts, take as much risk as they can handle, solve their own conflicts, and play the way they want to for their own reasons.  Learn what playworkers do – and don’t do – and explore ways we can bring playwork practices to our work with children in the US.

Play – Anywhere! Everyone! | 1:00 to 4:00 PM
Playwork workshop with Penny Wilson (limited to 50 participants)

Penny Wilson leads a smaller group in exploring ways to apply playwork practices to create spaces for children’s self-directed play anywhere, considering the many different types of play, and discovering how and why to ensure play is inclusive and welcoming for children with disabilities and other challenges.

Register for just the morning presentation ($15) or for the full day ($65) – morning plus afternoon workshop.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A PlayFULL Summer at the Parks

This spring and summer, the Museum brought unstructured play to Providence parks for a second year, taking Imagination Playground blocks, fort building and other open-ended fun with loose parts to neighborhoods across the city.  Even though the weather wasn’t as cooperative as we’d have liked, we provided creative play experiences for 930 kids and family members, thanks to the support of the Providence Department of Parks and Recreation and the Partnership for Providence Parks.
We saw kids do some pretty incredible things and captured some of our favorite playful moments.

Imagination Playground blocks were a big hit, as always.
This giant structure was a tremendous collaborative effort.
 Adding loose parts created even more opportunities for play.
This grandma and grandson build a steep ramp and took turns rolling and catching balls. Much chasing and giggling ensued!
We also provided wood working with real tools, stick structures with dowels and rubber bands, and Rigamajig – a set of boards, pulleys, wheels, nuts and bolts that inspire creative construction.
This girl spent over two hours thoughtfully building an elaborate house. She draped it with fabric and added a doghouse. Though she welcomed construction help from other kids, when it was time to take it apart, she insisted on doing it ALL by herself.
This family with older kids approached reluctantly, skeptical about playing. But hours later, they were still busy building and rebuilding their house – here dad prepares the curtains!
This tiny teepee was barely built for two!
Cardboard was a hugely popular play material.
This cardboard dwelling – colored inside and out with chalk – had a fabric “carpet” and constantly changing occupants.
This box was occupied by one of its territorial “owners” for well over two hours!
We saw A LOT of inspired fort building with cardboard, dowels, fabric and more.
and MORE forts!
Thanks to our caped play crusaders and to everyone who played with us this summer!