Posts in the play category

Play Lab Summer Camp 2017

Play Lab Summer Camp 2017 is here!

A play-based art camp for kids in Brooklyn, NY August, 2017

Play Lab Summer camp is open to anyone ages 5 – 100+! The camp will be five days from 9 a.m. to Noon and led by art educator and play enthusiast, Priscilla Shen. During each session, we will play, make art, share, reflect, and experiment with ideas and materials. Learning will be self-propelled, self-motivated, and help us become more engaged in the creative process. We will discover the expressive and meaningful qualities of simple materials. We will be resourceful, and most importantly we will recycle. The final workshop will conclude with an exhibit and share of our work at the bodyLITERATE Studio.

LOCATION: the bodyLITERATE Studio (320 Dean Street, Brooklyn). Some days we may also journey around the neighborhood making or finding art.

PARTICIPANTS limited to 8. Open to ages 5 – 100+

TIME: August 7 – 11. All sessions: 9 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

FEE (includes materials): $250 until July 18th (after July 18th $275)

REGISTER TODAY: by emailing

OPEN PLAY: Play Lab June 4, 2017

Next and last Play Lab this Spring! 

June 4, 2017. 


Come and join us for an open session of play and art making. We will have our usual supply of recycled materials, but please bring in your own to use and share. Everyone can explore their own ideas during this session or collaborate with a fellow Play Labber and make something extraordinary!

LOCATION: 808 Union Street, Park Slope

TIME: 10 a.m. to Noon

FACILITATOR: Priscilla Shen



PARENTS: Drop off only

Participants: 4 kids maximum per Play Lab


pic-play-lab-may-7NEXT PLAY LAB!!!
May 7, 2017

Toys can’t walk on their own 🤔, so it is hard to get them to places where we can play. Come to the next Play Lab to make a traveling toy for the park, for a restaurant, or for a friend’s house. You may want to make an art set, a parking garage/city in a box, a kitchen set, or your own creation. We will be using traditional art supplies and recycled materials. Feel free to bring your own materials as well.

LOCATION: 808 Union Street, Park Slope
TIME: 10 a.m. to Noon
FACILITATOR: Priscilla Shen
PARENTS: Drop off only
Participants: 4 kids maximum per Play Lab

RECAP Transformation Play Lab – December 20, 2015

This Play Lab was filled with Zombies, Ninjas, Farmers, and Transformers. It was Halloween Part II. Participants used fabric, cardboard, foam, ribbon, tape and paper to transform their identities for Play. Towards the end of the play lab, Zombies took over! This led to large scale drawings of Zombie lands.

Here are some pics recapping all of the transformations.


Any paper bag can be transformed into the vest of a cowboy, a transformer, or a construction worker….

IMG_1085IMG_1087 IMG_1090IMG_1091 IMG_1099 IMG_1088IMG_1086


Group Zombieland drawing

RECAP Play Lab: Drawing with Tape – Dec. 6, 2015


Studio 5 – Empty and waiting for some tape drawings.


What happens when you give tape to kids and let them draw with it all over a studio? Here are some of the masterpieces made by Play Lab participants on December 6th. Some kids reproduced their favorite superhero or stuffed animal. Others let their imagination take over. In the end, we had beautiful works to enjoy on the floor, walls, and door. We had interactive drawings with which we could perform. AND when all was done, we had a gigantic tape ball to play “Hot Potato”!


RECAP: Light Play Lab – Nov. 29, 2015

IMG_0669IMG_0675 IMG_0679 IMG_0672

Here are some pictures from the second part of our Luminous Play Lab, in which participants used paper, tape, scissors and light to make drawings. Shadows, reflections, and light beams were used to cast temporary drawings on all surfaces of the studio.

How do we incorporate play theory into learning?

Play is an essential part of learning and intrinsic to child development. “In psychology and ethology, play is a range of voluntary, intrinsically motivated activities normally associated with recreational pleasure and enjoyment” (wiki).  Play is voluntary and intrinsically motivated. The impetus for play is pleasure and is  activated by a sense of enjoyment.  At its core, play has structure. Play theorist, Johan Huizinga, describes play as an activity that “proceeds within its own proper boundaries of time and space according to fixed rules and an orderly manner.” (From “Homo Ludens). Often the players are intently focused on an objective; this type of play is know as a game, and has Its own set of rule and is goal-oriented. On the other hand, fantasy, imagination, day-dreaming are other types of “play” where a player embarks on a solo journey of role-playing, testing out mentally created scenarios that may enable him or her to reality test real life situations.

Play and learning are connected. Playing is the act of testing scenarios, though the imagination, or in structured games. Through these scenarios that mimic real-world scenarios, people reality test solutions to various “problems/conflicts” present within the make-believe scenario. Through this testing, information is gathered and through the joy or repeating play, the players build an internal library of information that preps them for real-life situations.

Is it possible to play, while simultaneously tracking information, so that through each iteration of “play” one is tracking and honing technique. How can technical mastery be built through play?

play theory

Using the environment
Educators can encourage play while simultaneously facilitating learning by creating an environment that guides students to choose activities that we, as educators, want them to choose.  Setting up the correct environment, means laying out enticing materials (such as Legos, video games etc.) and gently guiding the student by listening and engaging the learner’s interests. The guide is also “playing” in these moments, connecting to their intrinsic interests and exploring a dialogue of “play and exploration” with the learner.  If the facilitator has an active interest in exploring a specific activity, then he/she might as questions or pose challenges, “what if…” statements that probe certain explorations into various games.
lego stacks city
Making a game to teach a technique
In addition to using guiding questions that offer various challenges to pique intrigue, educators can directly teach technical ideas through play. If there are particular techniques that are necessary for a student to develop in order to obtain success within certain fields (academic or other), then educators can isolate the elements that formulate the technique, and then use the individual elements to form games.  For example, organizing ideas into the traditional five paragraph essay can be a challenging concept to learn. To explore this skill (which is actually multiple skills combined), we can break it down into its composing elements:

  •     sequencing ideas
  •     finding evidence
  •     creating an argument

As an example, one element of this technique is sequencing.  With this in mind, can we create a game about sequencing (within any medium).? We can; for example, have the student build a house in Minecraft and talk through how they sequence a room–the door is the opening, the furniture proves the rooms function–in essence the student has structured a room in the way one might structure an essay–an opening introduces the idea and support points prove the idea.  Finding connections between play and academic tasks can be helpful; students learn from intrinsic understandings and translate this into academic related tasks.  Once a element is explored, educators can use dialogue to reflect with the student how he/she sequenced his/her creation and how sequence is a key to communicating meaning.
To use play, one must as a teacher, maintain the idea that play is a voluntary process, full of joy and discovery.  Because of this, the educator acts as a guide, encouraging various scenarios, setting up an environment and dialogue/reflecting with the student about what is going on.  Often times, educators will become stuck trying to fulfil specific rules of a game, until both educator and student are no longer “playing,” but rather trying to get something correct, losing the idea of joy, discovery and voluntary action.  Educator and student both enter into a  process of play, using structure, but allowing new organizations to be created, enabling the flow of curiosity and pleasure to guide the game forward.  It is essential that the educator allow this “chaos” to form around the play and to use dialogue to maintain a awareness of learning and of identifying patterns: what works and what does not.

In sum:

  • Isolate The necessary technique (5 paragraph essay fractions, annotating etc. )
  • Analyze the technique, breaking it into composing elements
  • Pick on element and make this element into an activity of play (a game with a goal, a creative exploration, a fantastical story).
  • Explore this activity (make this fun)
  • Dialogue and reflect on this activity, understanding decisions by student, what works and how this element relates to real life situations
  • Go back to original technique and either work on another element or use the new found gathered information as a seed to begin teaching the technique (without play).

Play can be structured (as in a game) or unstructured (such as in a day-dream). The following types can be incorporated within both structured and unstructured:

  • Attunement, establishes a connection between newborn and mother.
  • Body, where one explores the way one’s body interacts with the environment. This can be seen in jungle gyms, or utilized in experiential anatomy.
  • Object, where one plays with toys, or everyday objects exploring them in games or make-believe.
  • Social involves play with others in activities that involve communication: tag, catching a ball, etc.
  • Imaginative involves the student creating a fantasy, alone or with others. This can also be done through online universes or video games.
  • Narrative is storytelling and develops language and sequencing abilities. One can read to a child or create collaborative stories.
  • Transformative, is a type of play where a player re-imagines his or herself in a higher state beyond the present reality. This may involve thought explorations where the player imagines transcending his or her realistic abilities, such as imagining that he or she moves at the speed of light while running, or becomes a bird to lighten up while dancing, or grows deep roots to say grounded while nervous. Through this play, the player might realize various organizations that he or she might apply to life activities.  By wondering about things that aren’t yet known, players can bridge unproven ideas with their current body of knowledge, stretching their understanding.

In Sum:
Play is an intrinsic part of learning. Through play, educators can reach a broader population of learners and support life long learning that is joyful and effective. Play supports:

  • Flexibility of mind
  • Testing “real world” examples
  • Creativity
  • Happiness
  • Optimism
  • DIY learning