Update: Playscape will pop-up once again on August 31st!

Earlier this summer, we posted about our first Pop-Up Playscape event, which was a huge hit! Nearly 100 kids and adults came out to create an amazing box city with countless creative twists. Lots of people took notice! The event was featured in The Forecaster, on WCSH6, and it’s even been highlighted on the home page of the Maine Community Foundation (support for this project came from their Cumberland County Fund).

Here's where to find us on Saturday, 8/31 from 12-6.
Here’s where to find us on Saturday, 8/31 from 12-6.

There’s one more chance to get in on the fun! We’ll be on the Eastern Promenade on Saturday, August 31st. Want to know a little more before you go – like why this project is great for developing young minds? I’ve put together some background info about open-ended play, as well as some insider tips for the day of the event. No time to read ahead? No problem! Just arrive with an open mind and some willing builders, and the rest will fall into place. We’ll see you there! (Don’t forget to RSVP on Facebook and share it with your friends!)

What is “open-ended” or “child directed” play?

Stated simply, it just means going with the flow. There is no pressure or rules to follow. The point is not to produce a specific finished product. It’s all about free play and exploration — the opportunity to invent and discover.

Kids led the way at our first Pop-Up Playscape event on 7/22.
Kids led the way at our first Pop-Up Playscape event on 7/22.

What are “loose parts”?

Loose parts (like boxes, sticks and stones, bottle caps or other recycled materials) are objects that are easily moved and used for play, games and art. They can be carried, rolled, lifted, piled, or combined to create different types of structures and experiences.

Why are we playing with loose parts and letting the children drive?

To encourage healthy development and build life important life skills! Play and art-making contribute to growth and development because they encourage children to test, explore and discover in a safe space. This type of play requires children to manipulate their environment and experiment with different materials in order to learn. They figure things out for themselves! Stationary materials or a set of rules can restrict the ways children can manipulate the environment, thereby restricting opportunities for creativity, problem-solving or taking healthy risks. Environments like Pop-Up Playscapes aim to be rich in loose parts and allow for extensive manipulation of the environment and experimentation that can lead to innovation. Plus, when kids have a chance to make something amazing on their own without being “right” or “wrong,” they build self-esteem.


Encourage children to make their own choices.

They may ask you to make them a boat. Can you turn the question around and ask them how they could make a boat? Or stimulate them by asking, “What materials do you see that we could use?” or “How can we attach this?” Offer tips when the child seems at a loss and definitely help out – just remember that the kids are the bosses!

Make sure materials and tools are accessible.image (3)

If you observe a child struggling with attaching certain materials, offer an alternative connection or your assistance.

Play yourself!

Model play and creativity by making your own contribution to the project. If a child seems interested in what you are doing, invite them to help you out! Maybe a child will become inspired to pursue another idea on their own.

Know before you go

Ways to connect:

  • The “Make-Do” pieces
  • Tapes (clear packing, colored masking, etc.)
  • String, rope or yarn (Try punching holes using the black mini saws, then putting string through the holes to fasten.)
  • Clamps
  • Rubber bands
  • Glue sticks

Ways to cut:

  • Utility knives (Must only be used by adult staff and volunteers. They will be kept in a box away from children.)
  • Black mini saws (Children are also allowed to use these!)
  • Scoring (Try scoring a piece of cardboard to help make holding easy or to prepare it for a child to cut with the black mini saws)