Construct contraptions that send balls rolling down ramps and
through mazes, propel objects through air tubes, transform the play
dome with foam blocks and noodles in an imaginative environment
designed for free play.
Play is essential for children’s healthy development.
Self-directed play not only helps children discover their world and
strengthen physical skills, it teaches them to get along with others
and builds self-reliance and problem-solving abilities. Kids need
ample opportunity to create their own fantasies, work out their own
conflicts, make their own rules and play just for play’s sake.
Children’s time spent in unstructured play is dwindling.
concerned about kids testing well, are eliminating or reducing time for
recess. To keep them safe and give them extra opportunities,
children are increasingly enrolled in structured out-of-school lessons
and sports. Television and computer games, with their
predetermined outcomes, claim huge amounts of kids’ time. Toys
marketed to kids come with a Web or movie-based tie-in. This
trend has raised the concerns of pediatricians, psychologists,
educators, parents and grandparents.
Play Power addresses
these issues. It is an environment filled with open-ended,
powerful play experiences for kids and also encourages adults to notice
and appreciate the importance of their children’s self-directed play.
Play Power was
with kids ages 5 to 11 especially in mind, but it’s fun for all ages.
We all need to play and we all learn through play. Museum play
guides are on hand to encourage fun and learning. A resource nook
contains books, pamphlets and other resources about children’s play for
Turn the creature columns to mix up the frog, the puffin
and the chimpanzee.
Put colorful pegs into the light wall. Try to make a pattern with the colors.
Go into the kaleidoscope and close the door. How many
of you do you see?
Ages 5 to 7:
Send scarves soaring through the air tubes. Try to stop
With some friends pretend that the play dome is a
submarine. Or a space ship. Or a secret cave. Or
anything you want! Use the foam blocks and noodles to transform
Make up a tune to play on the musical pipes.
Find a place in the funhouse mirrors that makes you look
very short and wide. Find a place where you look tall and
thin. How else can you change the way you look in the mirrors?
Ages 8 and up:
Use the tubes and ramps on the magnet wall to create a
crazy roller coaster for a ball. Try to send the balls rolling
around the edges or through the holes to end up on the other side.
Create a glowing design on the light wall.
Send scarves through the air tubes. Have a race with
a friend – who can get a scarf through the air tubes fastest? Who
can get one through slowest?
Get your family or your friends together at the funhouse
mirrors. Who looks really short? Who looks really
thin? Who’s upside down? Change places, move around, wave
your arms, have a good laugh together!
Play with your kids! Join in the activities they
choose. Ask open-ended questions (“What do you think will
happen?” “What else could you try?”) to deepen their play.
Notice your children’s play. Maybe you will be
surprised by their creativity, persistence, ingenuity or other
Watch the Play Power
video or read a book about children’s play in the resource nook.
Take home a list of books and websites where you can learn more.
Play yourself! Create a design at the light wall,
construct a course for a rolling ball at the magnet wall, play with the
air tubes, laugh at your reflection in the funhouse mirrors.