Play is a hot topic these days. It should be, too! When it comes to children’s healthy development and well-being, play is one of the most important activities. Child development experts advocate for more child-directed play, which is when kids choose their activities and create their own rules for how to engage. But what exactly does this mean and what can we do to promote these experiences in everyday life?

Parents are busy people, and it can be hard to keep up with all the various messages regarding what is “best” for kids. At Pop-Up Adventure Play, we take experts advice about the importance of child-directed play and translate it in ways that are easily attainable.

One way Pop-Up Adventure Play supports child-directed play both at home and in the community is through the pop-up adventure playground model. Children are experts in their play, and there’s far more going on in play than what adults see from the outside. Sometimes it’s important for adults to re-frame how they think about their children’s recreational needs.

All it takes is a public space, such as a park, library, community center or courtyard. Add ordinary materials— cardboard boxes and tubes, string, tape, old bowls, buckets, fabric and tree branches or leaves— and a pop-up playground springs to life. If adults supply the space, time, open-ended materials and permission, children will come and play. Marvel at the power and joy of child-directed play in action and, when your child invites you in, join the fun!

Six organizations creating pop-up adventure playgrounds in Westchester:

  • Westchester Children’s Museum
  • Ethical Culture Society of Westchester
  • Child Development Institute, Sarah Lawrence College
  • Castle Gallery at The College of New Rochelle
  • Groundwork Hudson Valley
  • Pop-Up Adventure Play

In the midst of everyday life, the benefits of a pop-up adventure playground experience can be a breath away— as immediate as dumping your clean paper or plastic recycling onto the kitchen floor and adding some tape, string and an old sheet. Poof, it’s a mini pop-up! That cardboard box that’s been taking up space by the door becomes a rocket ship, a restaurant and then a puppet stage for hours of merriment.

Pop-up adventure playgrounds and mini pop-ups are catching on like wildfire in places as far away as Costa Rica and Alaska. In Westchester County alone, there are six independent organizations creating pop-ups, often in collaboration with each other. Pop-Up Adventure Play is thrilled about the potential for a grassroots movement in Westchester.

Mark your calendars for April 29, rain or shine, and bring the kids out to play because an Earth Week pop-up adventure playground is headed to New Rochelle. “As a person trained in art therapy, I am continually interested in the importance of child-directed creative play,” says Heather Caplan, the organizer for Earth Week Family Fun Day! by the Castle Gallery of The College of New Rochelle. “I have watched children working together to create amazing structures, not only demonstrating their apt construction skills, but the pop-up model also created a platform for social interaction and the development of negotiation skills. Through witnessing increased communication, social interaction, problem solving skills and positive family interaction, I have embraced Pop-Up Adventure Play’s work wholeheartedly.”

For more information on this event, call (914)654-5423 or e-mail Learn more about Pop-Up Adventure Play at and