Play Power Exhibit - Providence Children's Museum

Construct contraptions that send balls rolling down ramps and through mazes, propel objects through air tubes, transform the play dome with foam blocks and noodles in an imaginative environment designed for free play.

Play is essential for children’s healthy development.  Self-directed play not only helps children discover their world and strengthen physical skills, it teaches them to get along with others and builds self-reliance and problem-solving abilities.  Kids need ample opportunity to create their own fantasies, work out their own conflicts, make their own rules and play just for play’s sake.

Children’s time spent in unstructured play is dwindling.  Schools, concerned about kids testing well, are eliminating or reducing time for recess.  To keep them safe and give them extra opportunities, children are increasingly enrolled in structured out-of-school lessons and sports.  Television and computer games, with their predetermined outcomes, claim huge amounts of kids’ time.  Toys marketed to kids come with a Web or movie-based tie-in.  This trend has raised the concerns of pediatricians, psychologists, educators, parents and grandparents.

Play Power addresses these issues.  It is an environment filled with open-ended, powerful play experiences for kids and also encourages adults to notice and appreciate the importance of their children’s self-directed play.

Play Power was created with kids ages 5 to 11 especially in mind, but it’s fun for all ages. We all need to play and we all learn through play.  Museum play guides are on hand to encourage fun and learning.  A resource nook contains books, pamphlets and other resources about children’s play for adults.

Click here to download the Play Power play resource sheet. (PDF)Adobe Acrobat Document

Some things to do in Play Power


  • Turn the creature columns to mix up the frog, the puffin and the chimpanzee.
  • Put colorful pegs into the light wall. Try to make a pattern with the colors.
  • Go into the kaleidoscope and close the door.  How many of you do you see?

Ages 5 to 7:

  • Send scarves soaring through the air tubes. Try to stop them mid-flight.
  • With some friends pretend that the play dome is a submarine.  Or a space ship.  Or a secret cave.  Or anything you want!  Use the foam blocks and noodles to transform it.
  • Make up a tune to play on the musical pipes.
  • Find a place in the funhouse mirrors that makes you look very short and wide.  Find a place where you look tall and thin.  How else can you change the way you look in the mirrors?

Ages 8 and up:

  • Use the tubes and ramps on the magnet wall to create a crazy roller coaster for a ball.  Try to send the balls rolling around the edges or through the holes to end up on the other side.
  • Create a glowing design on the light wall.
  • Send scarves through the air tubes.  Have a race with a friend – who can get a scarf through the air tubes fastest?  Who can get one through slowest?
  • Get your family or your friends together at the funhouse mirrors.  Who looks really short?  Who looks really thin?  Who’s upside down?  Change places, move around, wave your arms, have a good laugh together!


  • Play with your kids!  Join in the activities they choose.  Ask open-ended questions (“What do you think will happen?”  “What else could you try?”) to deepen their play.
  • Notice your children’s play.  Maybe you will be surprised by their creativity, persistence, ingenuity or other unexpected behavior.
  • Watch the Play Power video or read a book about children’s play in the resource nook.  Take home a list of books and websites where you can learn more.
  • Play yourself!  Create a design at the light wall, construct a course for a rolling ball at the magnet wall, play with the air tubes, laugh at your reflection in the funhouse mirrors.

Other Exhibits:

Water Ways | The Children's Garden | The Climber | Underland
Littlewoods | ThinkSpace | Coming to Rhode Island | Iway | Strings Attached