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Have a PlayFULL Fall

By Providence Children’s Museum Education Staff

Back-to-school time often means leaving behind the carefree, active, unstructured play that children enjoy during the summer months.  Providence Children’s Museum educators recommend the following resources, chock-full of creative ideas, to ensure your kids have plenty of imaginative, self-directed playtime during the school year.

Carly Baumann, Exhibit & Program Developer

Child plays at the museumIn some magical moments, play flows from the imagination, emerging from the dynamic of the players and their environment.  Other times, a new activity idea or combination of inspiring materials gives the jumpstart needed to tap into the playful spirit.  These are my favorite go-to resources because they’re rich in experiences, open-ended, and empower children to take the ideas in their own direction:

I carried a tattered copy of Making Things: The Hand Book of Creative Discovery by Ann Sayre Wiseman throughout my childhood, which inspired me in creating paper bead necklaces and grass baskets with my neighborhood friends and, later, teaching elementary school and developing Children’s Museum programs.

I Saw A Purple Cow: And 100 Other Recipes for Learning by Ann Cole, Carolyn Haas, Faith Bushnell and Betty Weinberger is another classic resource of songs, games and fun things to do.

Steven Caney’s Ultimate Building Book is a fascinating exploration of structures and design with ideas for contraptions and playthings that children can make themselves.

Cathy Saunders, Director of Education

There are two books I enjoy because they appeal to both children and adults and provide a wonderful array of activities so you’re bound to find something to interest and inspire you.

How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Art Life Museum by Keri Smith prompts you to look at the world through new lenses.  She gives 59 “explorations” such as making a list of the smells in your neighborhood or collecting objects that reflect in the light.  These are wonderful challenges for a child, adult or an adult/child pair.

Doodles: A Really Giant Coloring and Doodling Book by Taro Gomi gives me endless delight. In my childhood, the Un-Coloring Books were a revolution — “What? No lines to stay in?!?”  Doodles and its sequels take the concept to a new level with playful prompts to make up stories and solve puzzles, put shoes on a giraffe, and draw shadows cast by the sun.

Mary Scott Hackman, Early Childhood Program Developer

I am very much into open-ended play environments and materials for children these days.  My suggestions are all brand new to me and, at the same time, awe-inspiring:
Infants and Toddlers at Work: Using Reggio-Inspired Materials to Support Brain Development by Ann Lewin-Benham, the director of the only Reggio-accredited school in the United States, is a down-to-earth, accessible book that outlines practical activities and materials to help infants and toddlers develop the synapses that build the brain of a lifetime learner.

Two websites will open the interested parent or teacher to the world of outdoor playscapes and activities deeply rooted in the natural world.

See Earthplay — Creating Playful Environments for the Soul for ideas from a network of like-minded folks who plan playscapes of wonder.

Visit Let the Children Play: Progressive Preschool Education for creative ideas and beautiful photos from an Australian educator who runs nature-based preschool programs.  Progressive is the operative word here — DIG IN!

Get more great play resources on Providence Children’s Museum’s website.  Join the conversation about the importance of play on the PlayWatch listserv and learn about an October 12 screening of the film “Where Do the Children Play?,”  a documentary about kids’ need for unstructured playtime, especially outdoors.

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  • Thanks for your comment Amy. It was hard for me to tell whether or not you are familiar with PCM but do come by with your toddler. There are many Reggio-inspired environments here for your family to enjoy. And specifically on Tues.-Thurs. mornings we offer ‘Play & Learn’ for children aged 2-4 in Littlewoods.
    If you happen by the Explorer’s Studio in October, I would love to have you identify yourself and we can “talk” Reggio!

  • I read as much about Reggio-Emilia as I could get my hands on (which meant borrowing from the RIC library) several years ago, trying to figure out what I could incorporate at home. (How I wish I had a studio! And atelier!!) I was very excited to see that the museum is starting a Reggio-inspired program on Fridays, but I’ll have to wait a year until my youngest is old enough to participate. And if only we lived closer to the Eric Carle Museum, whose studio is also inspired by Reggio Emilia philosophy (and whose bookstore is chock full of inspiring books!!).