Children at Play

“We’re bored!” I cried in unison with my sister. We were off from school for spring break and my mom was trying to set up a new bookcase for our room. The floor was littered with screws, tape and packing material; and my mother was buried in a huge cardboard box.

“Why don’t you play with your new toy?” she suggested, looking at my younger sibling. The top of her head bobbed just above the box as she spoke. Jen had got a brand new Barbie hot tub toy for her birthday. You could fill it with water and press a button to make bubbles. Barbie took one bath and Jen was bored with it. She didn’t realize she’d have to clean up the mess that Barbie and her friends made, and I wasn’t about to help her since I hated playing with Barbies.

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you!” she sighed as she flung the box over her head. It landed on the carpet in front of me. “I’ll take you to the park when I’m done. But we have to eat lunch first,” she said as she unwrapped more tiny bags filled with screws.

“I have an idea!” I whispered to Jen. We dragged the box into our room. I broke out my pencil case filled with Mr. Sketch markers. We decorated all six sides of the box with different settings. The cube transformed into a fire engine, a train, a rocket ship, a pirate ship, a stage, and a fairytale castle (that was Jen’s idea). We acted out plays, invented songs and married several different princes. Before we knew it, it was time for lunch.

“So,” my mom began, wiping the sweat from her brow. “We’ll eat lunch, go to the park, then stop by the library to get books for your new bookcase.”

Jen and I looked at each other. “Can we stay here and play?” we asked. My mom silently shook her head as she poured us apple juice.

If you’re spending this April vacation week here in Litchfield, I’m sure you can relate with my story! The Library is booming with families looking for something to do to fight the “I’m bored” whines. With spring in bloom, it’s the perfect time to spend outside with your own thoughts or inventing your own games. Aside from our fabulous programs, wooden farm animals and dinosaur toys, you can find ideas in our stacks:


What Game Shall We Play? by Pat Hutchins (JP HUT) is a classic story of hide-and-seek. The woodland animals are bored in the forest and ask each other, “What game shall we play?” By the end of the story, they are hiding from owl that has to seek them out. A great choice for a friendly neighborhood game!

Things to Play With by Anne Rockwell (JP ROC) has a Richard Scary feel to it. The double-page spreads depict child animals using different things to play with. Each spread has examples of things to play with in the park, in the yard, at the beach, and my personal favorite noisy things to play with. That reminds me…we have to buy a present for my friend’s soon to be eight-year-old. I bet we’ll buy something from this page!

Antoinette Portis’ Not series (JP POR) is a great book to breed creativity. The bunny plays with a plain brown cardboard box, and a run of the mill stick. Of course, they morph into a race car, a sword, a fire hose, and a rocket ship (to name a few) and are newly named Not-a-Box and Not-a-Stick! Perhaps you can create your own.

A short, beautifully illustrated story is I’ll Play With You by Mary McKenna Siddals (JP SID) with paper-cut pictures by Caldecott winner David Wisniewski. The main characters ask the sun, the wind, the clouds and the stars to play with them. A perfect bedtime story for spring time!

If you’re at a loss of suggestions for your child The Secret of Play: How to Raise Smart, Healthy, Caring Kids From Birth to Age 12 by Ann Pleshette Murphy (649.55 PLE) will help! This easy to read manual breaks down age appropriate and developmental activities with milestones by age. Fun statistical facts and tips are sprinkled through the book. Did you know that a mirror in a baby’s play area promotes the development of building neck muscles? Or, by age six children can see the value of donating money to a cause they deem worthy? Or that stringing beads develops the small finger muscles which helps their writing skills? (I didn’t either until I read this book!)

Explanations of the different kinds of toys and how they help childhood development are given in The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children by David Elkind (155.418 ELK). The conversational tone relates anecdotes that you’ll be able to connect with while learning the value of play at any age.

Children at Play by Howard P. Chudacoff (305.231 CHU) is an academic history of play in the United States. Focusing on children aged six to twelve, this book delves into the shifts of play from the colonial era to the present. From rich to poor, from urban to rural, and from free play to organized activities, Chudacoff covers it all. You can read about the toy revolution, the invention of television, and direct marketing to children to determine how these affected your play growing up. Even though the copyright date is fairly new (2007), I’m waiting for an updated edition to further delve into electronic and screen-based play to determine how these affect our children now growing.

The Case for Make Believe by Susan Linn (155.418 LIN) makes a strong case against the dangers of Teletubbies, Disney Princesses, and Baby Einstein on a child’s development. Vignettes about play therapy are shared to get a full sense of the power of play.


Lisa Shaia is the children’s librarian who gets to use her imagination and make believe everyday.

One thought on “Children at Play

  1. I agree. My favorite playing as a child required nothing that cost any money. My sisters and I would make homes outside and I would cook up bowls of mud and leaves…

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