Create the Space for Unstructured Play
Our garage was built on a steep hill and had an unfinished “cellar” space below, with an open side accessible from the steep hillside. We called it “down the hill.” My sister and I were in elementary school and we put our heads together: Hmmm…what to do with an empty space below our garage down the hill?
This question, born of curiosity and answered with the endless imagination that all kids possess, was our jumping-off point for unstructured play that spanned years. After all, an empty space begs to be transformed. Of course, we dubbed it “The Clubhouse.”
The first incarnation of The Clubhouse was inspired by the straw that we found there. It was a stable for imaginary horses that we groomed and cared for. That was fun! Wait! Next it was a theater stage for a play about Rumpelstiltskin and we would spin the straw into gold.
Now the theater stage idea had legs! We started creating a long series individual plays and dressed up The Clubhouse according to the subject of the play. In an early sign of entrepreneurial moxie, we bought bags of candy and re-packaged them in smaller units for our neighborhood audience members, marking the candy up for a nice tidy profit. We used the money to paint the outside of The Clubhouse our favorite Crayola color: Sky Blue
After a successful run in our off-Broadway venue, we decided to shake things up. We lived next to a state park, complete with wild and wonderful nature…a perfect place to look for specimens for our new soon-to-be-opened museum! Our museum contained a snake’s skin that had been shed, live crayfish from the creek, pressed leaves and butterflies and lightning bugs, among other motley specimens—all beautifully displayed in the dark dank space that was our museum.
Eventually, we tired of collecting museum specimens and decided it was time to turn The Clubhouse into a library—the perfect idea for two bookworm sisters. We busily transported our books from the house to “down the hill” and of course, we created themed sections in our library as we arranged the collection. Checking books out to the neighborhood kids was a kick! We even charged overdue fees.
Not content to just be librarians, we had bigger aspirations. Why not be an author? Yes, we decided to write and illustrate our own books. And the neighborhood kids were eager to check out our books—I guess you could call us bestselling authors—at least in our neighborhood.
After 40+ years in my business career, I can see how enterprising I was even as a kid, thanks to my lifelong memories of our unstructured play inspired by The Clubhouse! My company, founded in 2000 and called Funosophy (The Wisdom of Fun), has never stopped evolving. Just like The Clubhouse, Funosophy had many incarnations. The company became a “space” of sorts, begging for the kind of transformation that only imagination can bring.
What kind of “space” can you create that inspires infinite unstructured play? What kind of "space" can you create that calls forth infinite creativity? Create the space!