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.

Learn more about Pop-Up Adventure Play at and

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  • Anna Housley Juster and Sharon Unis

    Anna Housley Juster is a founding member of Pop-Up Adventure Play and serves as the managing director of program development and parent outreach. She is an early childhood consultant and a certified pre-k to 3rd grade teacher with a M.A. in developmental psychology from Teachers College/Columbia University. She has had many years of experience promoting child-led play for families. Also a founding member of Pop-Up Adventure Play, Sharon Unis serves as the managing director of community initiatives and business development, drawing on many years of working with nonprofits and small businesses. She earned her B.A. in economics and environmental science from Barnard College, Columbia University and specializes in helping communities to build grassroots play initiatives.

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