THE POWER OF PLAY
Creating playful environments and programs in our libraries
OLC Chapter Conference. Spring, 2014
WHAT IS PLAY?
Engaging in activity for enjoyment and recreation
rather than a serious or practical purpose
Amusing oneself by engaging in imaginative pretense
Representing (a character) in a theatrical performance
WHY IS PLAY IMPORTANT?
Play encourages social interaction and sharing
Play helps to create friendships
Play improves vocabulary, language development and
Play develops positive emotional well-being, relieves
emotional tension and helps to conquer fears
Play develops skills such as critical thinking,
communication, problem solving, and collaboration
Play improves a one’s understanding of her
environment and her world
Play encourages creativity and imagination
Play improves one’s ability to experience and
appropriately express emotions, understand the
emotions of others, and regulate emotions
WHY OFFER PLAY IN LIBRARIES?
Studies show that free play is being replaced by structured
activities and academics.
Libraries can offer a free, safe and inviting space for non-
Libraries are places where children, adolescents and adults
can come to meet and interact with their peers.
Libraries have trained, talented staff who are able to spend
time developing and creating spaces and programs to
encourage free play.
Libraries have funds that can be used to purchase materials
such as props, costumes and furniture that can be used for
As one of the five practices of ECRR2, play is an important
way of helping children to improve language and literacy
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS IN WHICH LIBRARIES CAN OFFER PLAY?
Pretend Play Programs
Tween programs and teen programs
PRETEND PLAY IN THE LIBRARY
Pretend Play in the Library is a program in which families
with children aged 2-6 have 45 minutes in our youth
services activity center to explore themed props,
costumes and creative materials. Pretend play is open-
ended, self-guided, and allows parents to engage with
Imagination Stations are creative, themed or un-themed
spaces in the library set up with costumes, props,
furniture, etc. to encourage pretend play and imaginative
IMPORTANCE OF BLOCK PLAY
Encourages cooperation and sharing
Stimulates imagination and creative thinking
through dramatic play and symbolism
Improves language and negotiation skills
Helps with problem solving
Improves confidence by allowing the builders
to think freely and make decisions
BLOCK PLAY (AND BEYOND)IN LIBRARIES
Books and Blocks: a short storytime for
children ages 3-5, after which toy building
materials are used to re-create characters and
objects from the stories.
LEGO Madness: Children 6-12 are invited to
come to the library to participate in
cooperative building activities, using the
library’s own supply of LEGOs.
WONDERWORKS: STEAM STORYTIME
Children and their adults enjoy books, hands-on-
activities, songs, crafts and more in this interactive
program which teaches the skills of science, technology,
engineering, art, and math (STEAM).
PLAY IN FAMILY NIGHT PROGRAMS
PLAY IN TWEEN AND TEEN PROGRAMS
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS WITH ADDING PLAY TO THE
Recycled and reusable materials
Paper bag, sock and stick puppets
Paper masks and props
Teen or adult volunteers
Outdoor programs in the summer
ADULTS NEED PLAY, TOO…
“Play is defined by researchers as an activity that encourages positive
emotions and allows people [to get] to know each other, [learn] about
each other or [engage] in a mutual interest together, at a higher rate
than expected . Play is accompanied by smiling and laughter...play is
not forced, it encourages autonomy, spontaneity and creativity.
Friends, couples and co-workers who play together report feeling
greater intimacy and closeness. And this sense of closeness develops
at a faster rate than normal.
Play bonds those who engage in it and helps to shake off tensions and
aggressions that might interfere with work or relationships. Adults
spend too little time at play according to research, and would benefit
greatly from spending more time at it. In the workplace, "adult play
helps to alleviate boredom, release tensions, prevent aggression, and
create work group solidarity…”
Whether you’re an adult playing with other adults, an adult playing
with kids or children playing, taking play seriously may help you to
bond, behave or learn, and you'll have fun doing it!”
~Dr. Tian Dayton, “Researchers Say Adults Need to Play More,”
EXCELLENT LITERATURE ON THE POWER OF PLAY
“The Need for Pretend Play in Childhood Development,” by Scott Barry Kaufman. Beautiful Minds, March
6, 2012 http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beautiful-minds/201203/the-need-pretend-play-in-child-
“The Power of Play” Boston Children’s Museum http://www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org/power-of-play
“Play in the Preschool Classroom: Its Socioemotional Significance and the Teacher’s Role in Play,” by
Godwin S. Ashiabi. Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 35, No. 2, October 2007
“Can We Play?,” by David Elkind. Greater Good, Spring 2008
“The Serious Need for Play,” by: Wenner, Melinda. Scientific American Mind, Feb/Mar2009, Vol. 20, Issue 1.
“Researchers Say Adults Need to Play More,” by Dr. Tian Dayton, Huff Post Addiction and Recovery Blog,
March 20, 2014 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-tian-dayton/researchers-sayadults-nee_b_817248.html
“Play as a Foundation for Hunter-Gatherer Social Existence,” by Peter Gray. American Journal of Play, Spring
“The Importance of Block Play,” Journey Into Childhood Blog
“Improving Parent-Child Relationships Through Block Play,” by Yen-Chun Lin, Education, Spring 2010
Cultivate Wonder: Exploring Science with Children. Blog. http://cultivatewonder.wordpress.com/
PLEASE, LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK.
JEN THOMAS, YOUTH SERVICES LIBRARIAN
WESTERVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY
LINDA UHLER, YOUTH SERVICES MANAGER
WESTERVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY