2020 Summer Block Champion – Kacy Hughes


Kacy Hughes, Director of Community Engagement Boston Children’s Museum

Kacy oversees a program called Family Play Week. The program started five years ago as a one week special, but has grown to a three-week program, with the last week being in Spanish. Typically the program is based in a donated space, like a church or library, but this year has transitioned to being Zoom-based. The idea is to bring families with one to five children together to build community play. In previous years, Kacy has brought Imagination Playground blocks for play, and this year families will receive small blocks to play with from home for the week. With kids attending the program from home this year, Kacy and her team have created boxes with all materials needed for the 5 days of activities and delivers them to the families.  These boxes include a set of small Imagination Playground blocks! After the program has concluded this year, Kacy plans on distributing the leftover blocks to community partners who offer playgroups and then will be a virtual guest to show families all of the wonderful ways to play with the blocks!

Here’s more about Kacy and the Boston Children’s Museum:

What is your title/role at the museum?

Director of Community Engagement

Tell us a little bit about you and your role!

I partner with other non-profits to figure out ways for all families to access play experiences at the Museum or in their neighborhoods. I also run a Parent Ambassador program where I give parents who are leaders in their community a free membership to bring other families to the Museum who might not come on their own. My Ambassadors are key in helping the Museum identify challenges to visiting that we haven’t thought of and helping us think of solutions.

How long has your organization had Imagination Playground Blocks?

I think we’ve had them for 10 years.

Were you part of the initial decision to bring the Blocks to the museum?

Yes. My former boss, Jeri Robinson, saw them at a conference and showed me pictures and we both decided that Boston Children’s Museum NEEDED them!

How did the museum fund the Blocks?

Our first set was bought with an IMLS grant funding a school readiness program.

Tell us some examples of the lessons/activities you use the Blocks for!

The large ones we currently have out all the time in one of our exhibits for on-your-own exploration but occasionally we bring them outside and add other materials or loose parts (tubes, fabric, cones, animals, balls, trucks, water) for exploration. We have some challenge cards for families who are unsure of how to enter into the play. “Build something that you can sit inside of”….”Build a vehicle”…”Build something with a team of people”.

We’ve used the large channel blocks with water outside. We set up a baby pool and have a pump so the water is always flowing down the channel and kids can experiment with what objects or toys will go down the chute best or they can make something with recyclables that will flow down the chute.

We’ve used the channel blocks with paint too – dipping a ball in paint and rolling it down the chute onto a big piece of paper to make colorful tracks.

The medium set is the one we most often take out of the building to events but sometimes we mix the large and medium in our play outside.

The small set is used often in PlaySpace, our infant toddler exhibit but all ages enjoy the smalls. In addition to building structures, we’ve used them as stamps with paint, or you can trace the shapes and have kids match the blocks to the shape outline, they fun for water play because they float and you can make tiny boats, and my favorite way to play with them is to add some shaving cream! My co-worker figured out that the shaving cream acts as glue/cement to keep the blocks in shape so you can attach blocks horizontally – super fun!

How did COVID-19 effect your use of the Blue Blocks?

So far we’ve only been using the large blocks and they’re out in the exhibit where they typically are – we just clean them more often. Due to COVID, we had to do a program on Zoom that we typically do in person and I was able to supply families with sets of small blocks and shaving cream to use at home and lead a building activity with them virtually. After some building challenges we added the shaving cream.

What is your favorite thing about the Blue Blocks?

They’re open ended and versatile and good for all ages. Sometimes we see parents building without their kids.

What would you tell another educator that was considering buying the Blocks?

They might seem like a big financial investment but they are so worth it and can be used in so many different ways.

Is there anything else you want to share about your experience with the Blocks?

I’ve met so many adults who look at the blocks and are initially not that excited because but are amazed at what they see their kids doing with the blocks. I wish I had a big set at my house!