How will you play?

A collection of custom-made plywood furniture, fabric, cardboard boxes, ropes and other loose parts that can be shifted and remade by children and adults in infinite ways.

MAKE/SHIFT is unique in the contemporary childhood because it is a space where kids can truly control their play: play for their own reasons and in their own way.

The inspiration for MAKE/SHIFT comes from the adventure, or “junk” playgrounds, that emerged after World War II in Europe. On adventure playgrounds, staff called Playworkers might stock a yard with lumber, fabric, cast-off toys and other “loose parts,” and then support children as the children decide how and if to build or otherwise interact with those materials.

At The New Children’s Museum, the Museum’s design team spent three years training Playworkers in this tradition. While doing so, they used a design thinking process to approach this question: “How might we create an indoor adventure playground that offer children the same level of control of their play?”

The result is MAKE/SHIFT, a space designed by adults but controlled by kids. Unlike traditional playgrounds, MAKE/SHIFT structures are on wheels and can be rolled into new formations. Wall panels with sturdy anchor points create opportunities for tent-making, and lots of cardboard boxes–recycled from the Museum’s shipping department and through donations–allow for large-scale fort building. Museum Playworkers do not lead “activities,” but, rather, observe the space and, if necessary, make subtle changes in order to create a space in which all children can play.

Who Made This?

MAKE/SHIFT was designed and developed by the Museum’s artist design team and Museum Playworkers: professionals trained in “playwork,” a practice that began in Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. The New Children’s Museum is the first children’s museum in the country to train its “floor staff”–the people who work directly with Museum visitors–in this unique practice and tradition.