Before I joined the Collections Team at The Strong, I worked as a host on the Guest Services Team. I cannot begin to count the number of times I overheard a museum visitor point at a Barbie Dream House, a Lionel train set, or any of the thousands of artifacts on display, and exclaim, “I had that exact toy growing up!” This proved to me, time and again, that adults and children alike have meaningful experiences at the museum. Though not all adults may be up for a romp through Reading Adventureland or a shopping spree in Super Kids Market, the museum provides adults with the opportunity to reminisce and recount tales of their own playtime escapades. The next time you’re at the museum and experience a rush of nostalgia, take the time to share your stories, not just with your kids or relatives, but with the museum as well, using one of the two newly installed America at Play video kiosks! In an effort to preserve play memories, the museum recently installed two kiosks, one on the first floor near Super Kids Market and the other in TimeLab on the second floor. Equipped with webcams, the kiosks allow guests to create a video in a matter of minutes. These videos contribute to the museum’s expanding archives of play, and many make their way to the America at Play website. Of the diverse videos guests have shared, two in particular stick out in my mind. One of those, 4 Seasons of Fun attests to the fact that outdoor play can happen year round, even in chilly, snowy Canada. From horseback riding to constructing giant snow forts, this family truly embraces nature as a playground. Another video, Hula Hooping, tells a wonderful tale of determination and perseverance. Hula hooping requires a surprising amount of skill and patience, and in this story we hear how a nervous young girl blossomed into a hula hooping all-star.
These videos represent only a tiny portion of the complex, evolving, and universal story of play. Everyone has their own unique memories to share, especially adults. Recognizing and understanding how children play today requires no more than a stroll through the museum on a busy summer day—it happens all around. But how do adults play now? What games and toys did kids love in the 1960s or 1970s? What memories do you have of playing with your parents or siblings? What sports did you play growing up? Which of the National Toy Hall of Fame inductees did you enjoy most? The kiosks are in place to capture these memories, stories that only you can tell. Help us to further understand and better portray the many ways that people play, and have played, over the years. Too far away for a visit? You can post a homemade video directly to our website. Check out America at Play: Play Stories to find out how.