Guest Freeflow: playAGAIN with Lisa Zaretsky


As a long-time early childhood educator and mother of two grown humans, I have witnessed countless “aha” moments from children engaged in open-ended play. It's how children learn to interpret the world, experience joy, test theories, and form a sense of self.

In 2010, I created playAGAIN to highlight the incredible learning opportunities children encounter when they play with open-ended rePURPOSED materials. What some see as waste to toss in the bin, I see as valuable materials that encourage creativity, imagination, flexible thinking, and problem solving.

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These materials also offer language-rich experiences:

"Tape is sticky."

"A silicone trivet is squishy."


"Filling a cup with lids makes it heavy."

The firsthand knowledge children acquire from these materials is limitless:

  • Literacy is reinforced as children notice letters on the labels of an oatmeal container or a milk carton. 

  • Mathematical awareness is supported as they may stack, line up, and count bottle caps or keys.

  • Science is explored as they notice some things are dense and heavy (rocks) and others light (paper), and some objects retain the chill of winter (metal lids) while others don’t (a piece of fabric).   

Non-prescriptive materials also enhance cognitive development as children can substitute one thing for another. Children are empowered by the freedom to reassign meaning to things and therefore are inspired to experiment and explore.

My overarching mission is to encourage people to think about what they can do with what they already have. I hope, through playAGAIN, I can offer concrete ways we can all actively reuse and recycle. Ultimately, the children in playAGAIN are architects and makers, thinkers and planners, artists and scientists. Anything can be anything and play becomes the window into a child's heart, mind, and soul.

Kiyomi DongComment