Have you heard the phrase, “color outside the lines?” When we use it, we mean to think creatively and do things in unconventional ways when solving problems. These ideas are critical to a lot of things we do at the Children’s Museums of Tacoma and at JBLM, and are even implemented into our playscapes. One of the main ways that we practice this innovative way of thinking in our Museums is by engaging in fun, open-ended activity sessions throughout the day. We call these sessions PowerPlays.

What is a PowerPlay?

PowerPlay sessions are special activities at each of the Museums where families are invited to explore a playful experience in one of the Museum playscapes. Greentrike’s Playguides facilitate these playful, fun, and educational activities that provoke curiosity and thoughtful investigations.

PowerPlays have an element of spontaneity, so you never know what we’ll be doing until we begin! One day, we might be making our own playdough, the next, we might be investigating different animal tracks, and another might be spent studying flight by making and launching paper aircrafts through the Museums! Playguides are inquisitive and ask questions to encourage children to experiment and think critically about the activity.


These activities encourage teamwork, creativity, and social skills for children and their caregivers! Just as we do every day in the Museum, we encourage adult caregivers to get involved with the activity and have fun as well as the children. After all, everyone can benefit from play!

PowerPlays are also excellent opportunities for Playguides to stretch their creative and leadership muscles, as they are encouraged to come up with their own ideas, themes, and questions. In one of our recent sessions, our Playguide Emma led a group of children and their caregivers on a sensory adventure while making and playing with their own playdough. The recipe colored the playdough with flavored drink mix so that even those that might not be able to identify the colors by sight can still tell them apart with their other senses. Our friends in the photo below are playing with a yummy-smelling cherry red, using tools like cookie cutters, rolling pins, and presses to knead, shape, and explore the texture of the dough. Later, families even got the opportunity to take their creations home with them!

PowerPlays are an excellent way for Museum staff to build relationships with kids and caregivers alike. “I really like the personal, face-to-face engagement that our Playguides get with the community,” says Latisha, assistant museum manager for Greentrike. “I remember when I was a Playguide, parents would come in and recognize me from a PowerPlay we did.”

PowerPlays are also an opportunity for families to play together and use common tools in new and unconventional ways. Sometimes, this really does mean literally coloring outside the lines. Our Museum Manager, Maria, enthusiastically described a recent session, saying that, “one of our Playguides, Emma, really likes window painting, for example. So that’s what we did for our PowerPlay yesterday. Parents were like, ‘really? On the windows?’” She laughed as she recalled it, before nodding. “But we did! And it turned out beautifully.