Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The “Play Library”

 “What got you interested in music and play?” 

“Was it something you studied in college that led you to this?” 

If you “play” for a living, folks are bound to ask questions like this.  And they do.  No answer would be complete without beginning here:

I began this “work” while in college. But the most influential experience I had during my college years did not occur in a college lecture hall…….or in elementary school classrooms where I  carried out my student teaching. 

My interest in play – and my advocacy for recognizing all that children learn while playing – began when I was asked, at age 20, to lead weekly music play groups at a program called Lekotek.  Lekotek  is a support program, of Swedish origin,  serving families with children with special needs.   The word translates as “play library. ”

Lekotek programs (there are currently 19 of them across the United States) all feature a toy lending library, but I learned early on that the focus of the program was on play, not toys.  In fact, the reason why I was asked to lead the music play sessions, according to the Director of Family Services, was to help clarify the mission of the program:  play is an activity that is, by nature, inclusive for all children.  And while toys are sometimes a great vehicle for play, play has very little to do with toys. 

In fact, my instructions were to create music play opportunities.  No toys, just family play. 

I led weekly music play groups at Lekotek for many years and brought the same model of programming to a number of different therapy and family support programs  in the Chicago area.  I led weekly family music play sessions, at one site or another, for 20 years.

After graduating from college I worked at the Lekotek program as a staff member leading individual family play sessions.  My college studies prepared me to be a classroom teacher, but my experiences with the play groups led me to pursue work where I could, on a daily basis, be involved in play… both a joyful and  a serious way.   Many of the ideas that I will be addressing in my blog - such as the inclusive nature of play and the “language” of play  -  first inspired me, many years ago, as a staff member at Lekotek. 

As I mentioned, there are 19 Lekotek sites across the United States and even more programs with affiliation to the “play library.”   You can learn more about Lekotek at