Play Free

What is Play Free?

Play Free from the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center is play-based education and exploration program for children with an incarcerated mother (in some cases, grandmother). The program invites children to come to the museum for a day of fun with their moms, encouraging educational play and family bonding to increase children’s resilience.

Play Free supports children who need opportunities to play in a safe, caring environment. Through no fault of their own, these children have experienced the pain and confusion of separation from a caregiver. Play Free allows these children to gather outside the prison walls, for a day or normalcy in a challenging time.

Why Do Kids Need Play Free?

Every child deserves rich and diverse museum experiences. Play is particularly important for children who have experienced trauma.

Having an incarcerated family member or an absent caregiver have been identified as adverse childhood experiences (ACE) that later increase children's risk for violence, alcohol or drug abuse and poor health (CDC-Kaiser, 2008). Programs to promote healthy bonding between children and their incarcerated caregivers make a difference in the lives of children, strengthening the attachment that makes children more resilient.

With more than 1.7 million children having a parent in state or federal prison (Glaze & Maruschak, 2008), Play Free is important than ever.

How can my family participate?

Referrals are accepted from Topeka Correctional Facility. For more information about Play Free, please contact Payton Friess at pfriess@kansasdiscovery.org or 785-783-8300.

How is Play Free funded?

Play Free is provided by generous individuals and businesses. To allow more families to access Play Free, donate now. 

Play Free makes a difference for families.

“My daughter said: ‘this is the best day ever!’ It was wonderful to experience such a memory.”

“If I stay out of trouble, I can look forward to this again.”

“[Play Free meant] a day of fun to spend with my kids”

“It was a time for my children and I to reconnect.”

“My favorite part of the day was bring able to walk on the trail and just have one-on-one time to talk.”

“It means a lot to me and my son and we definitely will not forget this day.”


Play Free on CNN: More mothers are ending up behind bars. Meeting the needs of their children is becoming a bigger priority

Anissa Gray, CNN, March 18, 2019 - "The program is one of a growing number that aim to strengthen ties between American mothers serving time and their children, whose welfare faces grave risks if those family bonds weaken. The need for initiatives like these, as well as for more legal options and social services for mothers facing criminal charges, has surged, advocates say, in step with the explosive growth of the number of people in lockup -- particularly women. ... In Kansas, the Children's Discovery Center launched its Play Free initiative in partnership with the Topeka Correctional Facility, the state's only women's prison. It's modeled on the New York City program. Chicago is considering a similar move."

Learn more about KCDC Cares

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