Play is the work of children. What kind of work do we want the children we serve to do? What kind of play opportunities do we want to create?
These big ideas were definitely in the air yesterday at #ALSC2022. Many of my fellow bloggers have covered the fabulous presentation by Madison Public Library’s Holly Storck-Post and Carissa Christner on true play and their library’s PlayLab. ( Look here and here for those posts.) We learned about the ways that both intentional design and intentionally stepping back can impact the type of play that kids do. It reinforced so many ideas about creative thinking and problem solving that are recurring themes in childhood development and library service to children.
Later that night, I traveled with other lucky #ALSC2022 attendees to Kansas City’s upcoming “explor-a-storium”, the Rabbit hOle. I truly did not know what to expect as our bus sailed over the Missouri River and up to the northern part of the city. However, the Rabbit hOle did not disappoint. It boasted fantastical, larger-than-life exhibits featuring classic characters from children’s literature in an open-ended space, with plans for programming areas as well as a makerplace and crafting area.
Between these two ambitious plans for immersive play spaces came one common thread: let children lead. During their presentation, Carissa from Madison Public Library lead us all in an exercise of reflecting on a time in our childhood when we engaged in true play – when we had that unlimited feeling of creating a world entirely of our own. As a group, we were all transported to memories of playing without instructions or time restraints. In a different way, the Rabbit hOle aims to capture the wonder that’s found in children’s books, then give children the opportunity to engage with it on their own terms – to make the magic their own.
By the end of the day my head was swirling with ideas. Does my storytime need a craft with instructions at the end, or does it need to provide a space for kids to process and play through the stories and songs they just heard? How do the passive play materials in our children’s space encourage caregivers to tell kids the “right way” to play with materials? Maybe, just maybe, is the most important thing to fostering the magic of childhood stepping back and letting kids create it themselves?
(All images courtesy of guest blogger.)
Guest contributor Eleanor (Ellie) Richardson (she/her/hers) is a Youth Services K-3 Specialist at Arlington Heights Memorial Library (IL). She is currently finishing up her MLIS degree (so close!) and is excited for the opportunity to learn from her peers at ALSC Institute 2022. The aspect she’s most looking forward to is meeting other youth services professionals to share their passions and get inspired. Ellie is a self-proclaimed public transit fanatic, so when she’s not at the conference you’ll likely see her riding around on KC’s buses and streetcars.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.