Imagination Playground™

Playing with Imagination Playground

Imagination Playground™ has been cited as a tactile teaching tool, a creativity-enhancer and a teamwork motivator, and has been lauded for its effectiveness with children on the autism spectrum. Learn more about how Imagination Playground™ and loose parts play can benefit your children using the resources below.

Play Associates
A Play Associate helps a kid stack blocks on a noodle.


In September 2012, Dr. Jim Elicker, Assoc. Professor, Human Development & Family Studies at Purdue University, led a collaborative research project, sponsored by the A.L. Mailman Foundation and KaBOOM!, to investigate the impact of large-scale block play on the behavior of young children. Learn more about the study.

In the playspace

Educators can utilize Imagination Playground™ in many parts of their curriculum and free play! Imagination Playground™ provides a rich environment that encourages free play and a variety of play patterns. Imagination Playground™ blocks and other loose parts offer opportunities for creativity and sensory exploration as well as opportunities for collaborative play.

Through symbolic play, children begin to form meaning for objects in their minds and act those meanings out through gestures or by substituting items for something else. With loose parts, you see kids playing with objects that are similar in shape to the object they are pretending to use. They also exercise their ability to imagine and envision, creating their own structures and spaces, dreaming up scenarios and roles, and initiating their own activities.

Logic and mathematical skills
Logic and math skills may develop as children construct with blocks. Loose parts play provides opportunities to count, make classifications, and estimate (for example, "To make the steps look right, I need to add one Block to each stack as I go.")

Problem solving
When children build their own constructions with loose parts, they set up problems for themselves and invent solutions (for example, "I need a heavy weight on the back of my diving board to hold it steady.")

Social and emotional development
Through play, children have opportunities to empathize with others, support one another, and develop inter and intrapersonal skills (for example, "Are you afraid it will fall? Here, I will make the bottom stronger"). Playing together with a finite supply of materials also requires children to master the art of negotiation. For example, if children are working together to build a house they must negotiate which blocks to use and how they will be placed.

Play Associate resources

Play Associates are trained adults who enable a setting in which children can direct their own play. They allow play activity to evolve naturally by maintaining a safe and secure environment, and by renewing and varying the supply of loose parts. Our goal at KaBOOM! is to continually provide resources for our play associates so they can provide the fullest, richest play opportunities possible.

The Play Associate Training can also be viewed in segments using the links below.

Part 1: Play Itself
Part 2: Play Types and Patterns
Part 3: Child Development
Part 4: Role Choices for Play Associates
Part 5: Factors Affecting Role Choice
All Videos
Print Resource
Imagination Playground™ User's Manual

In addition to the online Play Associate training, Play Associates can reference Guidance to Play, a booklet written by George Forman, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts at Amhearst. Guidance to Play shows Play Associates common activities performed by children with Imagination Playground™, translates that into child development terms, and provides ways to enhance those positive activities.

Download Guidance to Play now!

For Play Associates to better understand how children engage with Imagination Playground™, they should have a play session of their own. See how the educators at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School did it.

Play prompts

  • Build a tool that can lift something
  • Make something you can get inside
  • How many different ways can you join three pieces?
  • Make something that will take you to the center of the earth.
  • Using 15 pieces develop a contraption that can ________.
  • Make a contraption that incorporates a loose part (i.e. box, cloth, etc.) in a useful way.
  • Invent something that uses an empty box.
  • Develop a creation that includes a chair.
  • Now that you have made a something, look at your neighbor's creation and find a way to join your two structures to make a new one. What might it do?
  • Create a structure that would allow you to live on a cloud.
  • Build something that would allow you to ride a whale.
  • What is the tallest, free-standing structure you can make with 15 pieces?
  • Use Imagination Playground™ to make a friend.
  • Make something that will take you to space.
  • What can you build with 20 pieces?
  • Draw a picture of your creation and label the parts. Next, give instructions for how it works.
  • Tell/write how each of the parts work in your creation.
  • Tell a friend about your creation.
  • Name your creation.

Building blocks

  • For children age 2+
  • 105 blocks total, all parts manufactured in the US
  • Blocks are made from 100% biodegradable non-toxic blue foam that is soft, lightweight, waterproof and resistant to sun, heat, mold, mildew, corrosion and micro-organisms
  • 8 week lead time; ships from Providence, Rhode Island
  • Requires a minimum play area of 450 square feet
  • For use in indoor or enclosed outdoor settings
  • Great for use with water or sand
  • Can stand alone or serve as an addition to existing play equipment

Safety with Imagination Playground

Imagination Playground™ should always be used in a secure and safe environment for children to play. Imagination Playground™ Blocks and Loose Parts are intended for children ages two and up. Always follow all applicable safety rules and procedures with Imagination Playground™. Play Associates, parents, or caregivers should always be present during play sessions. Monitor where the materials are taken, and be sure they are not deposited within the bounds of the active areas of a playground including areas with fixed play equipment, where they could be a hazard to running and sliding children. Play sessions may become active and boisterous. Be watchful and ready to step in and give direction. Encourage children to take turns and share. If there are too many Blocks and Loose Parts in the given area, put some away. Please be aware of particular safety issues:

  • Children are not permitted to play on or with the Carts.
  • Make sure that all materials offered for play are age-appropriate.
  • Do not allow children to stand on or jump off of stacked Blocks.
  • Do not allow ropes and fabrics to be used on fixed equipment or tied around children to avoid the possibility of strangulation.
  • If you use sand, do not allow the children to throw sand.
  • If using a sand box in the play area, limit the number of children in the sand box.

Care of your Imagination Playground

Imagination Playground™ in a Cart was designed to be customized to a community's needs. It is attached to a set of wheels that allows it to be moved indoors or outdoors as needed on a solid, level surface. It must be stored in a secure, enclosed space. It should not be left outdoors without supervision, and should be covered from rain, snow and other inclement weather. Use a non-toxic detergent and water with a sponge or a soft-bristle scrub brush to clean your Imagination Playground™ Blocks and storage unit. Do not use strong cleaners (such as bleach), which can potentially harm the surface of the Blocks. The inside of your carts should be dry before the Blocks and other loose parts are stored inside.