Celebrating letting children use their minds and creativity by playing with recyclables and everyday household objects to build things, Pop-Up Play gives children a chance to use their imagination.
“Pop-Up Adventure Play was created by two women in England, and it’s actually an international organization … There are Pop-Ups forming all over the world. It’s really neat,” said Elizabeth Marcello, director of Lycoming County Pop-Up Play. “So, they help people in local communities do it, so I reached out to them.”
The setting for a Pop-Up Play site may seem mildly unusual as it tends to be many boxes, empty jars or containers, tape, cardboard, tubes, wheels and other random items that might otherwise seem like they belong in recycling. Gathered together in one area, children are welcome to come and explore the items. They’re encouraged to tape things together or cut out holes. They can construct ballerina tutus using cardboard, a race car made out of a tube or pretend scuba gear with a jar and some tape.
“A Pop-Up Playground is recyclables, re-usable materials. It can be plastic, wood, cardboard … We try to stay away from anything that would be hazardous, but a big part of it is just open-ended, child-lead play,” Marcello said.
She said children are intended to figure out what to do and make on their own.
“It’s very creative. We ask that if parents get involved, they let the child lead the play. So, they don’t decide what they make for the child, the child decides,” she said. “It’s a really big part of what it is.”
She said the playground itself was mobile as all the items can be loaded up in her car and transported anywhere. In the summer, she likes to host the playground outside, but in the winter, it can be moved indoors.
“It can be in a park or anywhere. We try to rotate locations throughout Williamsport and Lycoming County,” she said.
She started it locally in 2015, but activities have started picking up more often.
“This was our busiest summer,” she said. “I’ve booked about eight of these this summer.”
Betty Brown, of Williamsport, brought her grandchildren Josie Wilson-Brown, 10, and Isaih Wilson-Brown, 11, to visit the Pop-Up Play site at the James B. Brown Library recently.
“We went to the movies and ate out, and now we stopped by here because they wanted to see what it was about,” Betty Brown said. “They wanted to come out and play. It’s very fun for them. I think it’s great to have.”
She said it was a great way for her grandchildren to use up some energy before getting on the bus to go home.
“It’s fun because you get to build stuff,” Josie Wilson-Brown said. “I really like to build things.”
Isaih Wilson-Brown said he was happy they got to come out, and his favorite thing was using the tape.
Katie Ritter, of Williamsport, brought her children Caroline Ritter, 6, and Jonathan Ritter, 3, to play.
“It’s fun just to let the kids explore. It’s great to let them use their imagination to try something different,” she said. “Kids don’t need screens to entertain themselves or to engage with their surroundings. Having friends with them, meeting new friends, and playing with everyday materials is good. It’s healthy. It’s great to reuse stuff in this way.”
She said she liked that it teaches her children to think outside the box by finding new, creative uses for everyday items.
“It’s fun to watch them explore, and I’m just sitting here not doing anything. It’s a hands-off time for them to enjoy playing,” she said.
Visit www.facebook.com/Lyco mingCountyPopUpPlay/ for more information.