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


  1. Jim,

    Thank you for posting this. We live in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We moved here to be closer to our son's hospital as we has a rare form of muscular dystrophy and his specialist is located in Philadelphia. It turns out that there is a Lekotek center in my small tiny country town! I cannot wait to give a call on Monday and get some more information. We are all about play and finding ways for all of us to interact in a positive, loving, and fun way! Thank you for sharing this.


    MaryBeth Eberhard

  2. You just made my day! I'm so glad that you found my post and that this led you to a Lekotek! I just started to blog because I realized that in my appearances at conferences and training workshops I'm not finding the time to share some of the what I learned about play back in those days at Lekotek. And the biggest lessons I learned came, most often, by following the lead of the children and parents that I worked with. Feel free to pass along news about my posting to other families....and certainly to the folks at Lekotek!