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“Despite the strong medical and scientific consensus that play is a foundation of children’s lives and education, play is an increasingly endangered experience for many of the world’s children.” Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle from Let the Children Play

Experts like Angela Hanscom, Occupational Therapist and author, recommend that children spend 3-4 hours a day outside playing. In reality they spend approximately 4-7 minutes outdoors playing and up to 7 hours per day on screens. Why does this matter? Because less free play means less access to the benefits that play provides including an increase in: physical health and well being, attention, gross and fine motor skills, language and vocabulary development, creativity, and even better eyesight!

Rooted in Play is a nonprofit with one goal: to create time, space, and a place for outdoor, self-directed play. What does that mean? Simply put, Rooted in Play encourages kids to get outside and play independently from adults. Does this mean adults don’t supervise? No, it means that adults take a step back and don’t direct or organize the play, the children do!

How is Rooted in Play working to achieve this mission? In several ways: by providing information and education on the importance of child led play, by offering support and encouragement to parents and teachers, and by hosting popup adventure playgrounds! What’s a popup playground? A free community event that provides children with the opportunity to engage in loose parts play. Loose parts are materials that are open-ended and can be used in a variety of ways, for example: boxes, tubing, pots and pans, tires, and rain gutters. The children choose the ways in which they incorporate the loose parts into their play and are empowered to use critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. Rooted in Play activates public spaces by arriving at local parks with a trailer full of loose parts, thoughtfully arranging the items, and inviting children to come and play!

Do kids really enjoy playing with “junk?” If you’ve had the chance to attend a popup in the past, you know that they do! If you haven’t had a chance to visit a popup, check out this video below.

The best way to fully understand the magic of self-directed play is to attend a popup adventure playground yourself. Rooted in Play is hosting its next popup on June 19th at Charles B. Williams Park behind the Hubert Art Studio from 9:30-11:30 in celebration of International Mud Day. Come prepared to get dirty! We hope to see you there!

But, you don’t have to wait for a popup to incorporate loose parts play at home. Starting your own loose parts collection is quite easy as the materials are generally free and readily available. Just a simple search around your house or outdoor space will likely be enough to get you started. The greater the variety of your collection, the more possibilities there are for the children playing with them...think of items with different sizes, shapes, textures, and colors. The main thing to keep in mind when assembling your collection is to have an open mind. Rocks, sticks, and leaves can easily become open ended toys. So can pots and pans, bottle tops, tape, straws, and string. Try combining these items with toys your children already play with...blocks, playdough, forts, and legos all become more interesting with the addition of loose parts. For more information, check out the Rooted in Play Loose Parts Mini-Course!


We have been friends since middle school and were even college roommates! We were each running our own successful businesses when we learned about adventure playgrounds. As moms and professionals, we both inherently felt like outdoor, self-directed play was important and we loved the idea of an adventure playground in Tampa. We dove into the world of playwork, started playworker training, and were welcomed into the play community. After our first popup in April of 2019 we knew we were on to something special!


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