Playing With Imagination

This article is part of our Member Blog Series, which showcases Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative Members' efforts and commitment to ensure that play is a critical element in the lives of people of all ages. Each month, a different member organization will share their take on how play is a part of the work they do. The Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative hopes that these stories of play from our diverse set of member organizations will encourage and inspire leaders in communities, businesses, schools, and families to prioritize play every day.

One of my all-time favorite movies is Disney’s Inside Out. I think that it’s funny and cute and makes me sentimental of my own childhood. I love the scene of a young Riley running around her living room, pretending that the floor is lava and jumping from couch to table to chair. This is when the character Joy, “plays” a tape that lets Riley actually see lava, instead of just the carpet. Kids have such a wonderful, creative and vast imagination. They can really think of anything, create any scenario and just roll with it. Their imagination allows them to dream up plays, car races, an underwater world, etc. This imaginative play is promoted and encouraged at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, with its flowing and bright environment.

A part of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s mission is to promote the use of authentic materials and processes, or exploring, creating and playing with “real stuff.” The installations, exhibit spaces and other areas are open and flexible. Each space can be used differently, depending on how you want to use it or how your imagination interprets it. When talking to one of my coworkers about this idea of “playing with real stuff,” we talked about playing with a toy kitchen. There is really only one way to play with a toy kitchen. While at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, you are learning how to use a sewing machine, while also playing and having fun, sewing a superhero cape or a puppet. All of the activities and programs encourage kids to play imaginatively.

Using “real stuff” serves another purpose as well. By using these everyday activities to play with, it shows that play can be found absolutely anywhere. Play and fun can be found while hammering, exploring light and darkness with your hands in the Shadow Room, creating dams with blocks in Water Play, etc. Repurposing and reusing these everyday objects and materials shows us that we can play with anything, with just a little imagination.

Play can never be outgrown. Imaginative play and using “real” materials and processes is for all ages. Your imagination doesn’t go away. When you learn at a young age that you can find play in anything, you can carry that on through the rest of your life. Playing never has to end.