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This holiday brings more activities for children than ever before. Along with the usual Santa visits and Christmas plays, they can now add a do-it-yourself playground.
The City Play Corps, a nonprofit organization that promotes the practice of true play for kids, has opened up a temporary storefront dedicated to letting kids be kids by making their own fun.
What kids and parents will find when they walk into 926 Massachusetts St. is not the usual kind of retail sales, but the remnants of it. The space is crowded with large cardboard boxes, car tires, wire spools, foam noodles, costumes, rope, fabric and duct tape. Lots of duct tape.
From all this unassociated stuff, kids quickly make forts, homes, cafés, cars, obstacle courses and an occasional abstract sculpture that only they understand. In fact, it is entirely up to them — adults are not allowed to participate unless asked by a child. The playground is facilitated by trained play workers who are specialists in staying out of the way and invisibly keeping the play going for hours.
“Our job is to recognize that the choices are all up to the child and to create an environment where that can happen,” said Richard Renner, the director of City Play Corps. He started the group three years ago after seeing the benefits of the true play approach in real life.
“I attended a conference for Adventure Playgrounds in 2016 where teachers and practitioners from all over the world shared their practices and passion,” Renner recalled. It was only a matter of time and finding support for him to begin doing the same in Lawrence in 2018.
The City Play Corps got a big boost when it was awarded a Rocket Grant from the Andy Warhol foundation. It has since gone on to get support from Kansas Creative Artis and Industries Commission, Midco, the Douglas County Community Foundation and Ranjbar Orthodontics. The Play Shop is made possible by a Reimagining Places grant through the KCAIC.
The Pop Up Play Shop is free for all to attend and is now open on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays through the end of January (except Dec. 25, Dec. 26 and Jan. 1). It will also be open the Tuesday and Thursday between Christmas and New Years. See the full schedule at this link.
Interested families can find more information on the organization’s website, cityplaycorps.org.