Playtime, It’s Serious Work!

Mr. Rogers once stated, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning, but for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” A public figure beloved by many and renowned for his skill in teaching children many of the abstract lessons missed by algebra and grammar, Mr. Rogers hit upon a common fact among modern childhood development: play, in all its forms, is essential to a child’s growth. Whether it’s imaginative play or physical play, the games and toys that children interact with, from infancy through their pre-teen years, are how they explore the world. Play is a child’s natural means to learn and too often it is neglected in favour of the more structured desk learning that we depend on as a society.

Not only are children often discouraged from engaging in play earlier than they should be, and then made to grow up when they are still learning, but many factors of our modern world make it more difficult to engage in play with complete freedom. Typically, the average family is living in a smaller home than ten to twenty years ago, meaning that for most, the kids ‘rec room’, where they had endless space and freedom to play as they wanted, is a thing of the past. Furthermore, when you’re a busy family, juggling work, school and extra curriculars, you can often become rushed, unintentionally forgetting to leave designated time for unstructured play.

This, in part, was what motivated co-owners Sarah and Amy to create The Imagination Space, located on George St in Arthur. Busy moms themselves, Amy and Sarah noticed a need in the community as they tried to find activities they could enjoy with their own children. While they loved the resources provided by EarlyON Centres, the limits created by the set hours meant that there were large chunks in what remained of the week in which they were either driving all over to find an appropriate alternative, or stuck at home… bored.

At first, The Imagination Space was little more than a pipe dream, something they would bat back and forth with the ever familiar “but wouldn’t it be great if…” while not seriously intending to do anything. It wasn’t until an opportunity to take over a budding play place in Mount Forest arose, that they teamed up to make their dreams a reality. When they realized that their goals stretched beyond what the Mount Forest space could provide, they began looking for a new location, jumping on what has ultimately become The Imagination Space’s home, with help from a loan from, Saugeen Economic Development Corporation (SEDC).

Their goal with The Imagination Space has always been to create a welcoming environment that is not only accessible to all, but provides something for everyone, no matter what sort of play is needed. Achieving this goal has meant a few things to the running of The Imagination Space. Firstly, they keep their playroom rules to a minimum. There is no wrong way to play and they want children to be free to safely explore as they wish. Another big one for them was pricing. In response to seeing a lot of people struggling, they made the decision to lower their prices – play shouldn’t be a privilege for those in a certain wage bracket, therefore they wanted to make their space as accessible as possible.

The last, and possibly most important thing, is that they’ve ensured that their playroom has a wide variety of activities that encourage all types of play, meaning no child is left out, no matter what they need that day. While many kids respond with “everything” when asked what they loved most, Amy and Sarah enjoy hearing any feedback, particularly when there was one item that was adored. Playroom toys may have to stay put, but many of their popular items are also available for sale in their store front. Sarah and Amy find joy in being able to send children home with their own little piece of The Imagination Space, or hearing about their playroom inspired play stations at home.

Although it is a newer endeavour, The Imagination Space has also begun “tiptoeing” into creating some regular programing, for both older and younger kids. Most of their programming is made possible with the help of skilled community members – which fits neatly into their story, as much of The Imagination Space’s journey has been made possible with the collaboration of the community. They’ve always wanted to be a place for community to connect, as well as play their own role in expanding connections.

So, no matter what you’re looking for, The Imagination Space is open for the very serious work of play.

WRITTEN BY: JILLIAN KENT | PHOTOS & RESOURCES: THE IMAGINATION SPACE

Author: LivingSpaces

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