Playing with Purpose

Playing with purpose

New Market museum offers quality time with children

by Priscilla Loebenberg, published Nov. 10, 2013 in the Carroll County Times

After Ellen Przybocki took her 10-year-old daughter, Jemma, to a children’s museum in Gettysburg last Fall, she was so impressed by the concept that she decided to take a leave from her job as a teacher at Frederick County Public Schools and open her own exploratorium.

“My husband told me to sleep on it,” she said.

But, after her spouse, Mark Przybocki, realized she was committed, she said he supported her all the way and helped her plan and build out the The Original Playhouse (TOP) Exploratorium and Museum in New Market.

The playhouse held its grand opening Thursday with more than 200 people attending.

An experienced educator with a passion for teaching children to read, Przybocki said she did not undertake the venture lightly. She said engaging children’s imagination is just as important as all the subjects that are being tested in schools. Unfortunately, she said, the creativity quotient is very difficult to measure.

“Play time is really important in allowing kids to learn,” said Przybocki.

Upon entering TOP and paying the admission fee, children are given four tokens which they may use to make items that they can take home with them.

Przybocki said this teaches children conservation and perseverance.

“This helps kids think about what they are using before they go through several pieces of paper or other materials,” she said. “It gives them more time to spend on each piece. What they produce will have more quality instead of quantity.”

The museum is arranged into six themed areas where adults and children can play together. In each room, suggestions are hung on the wall at eye-level for adults on how to best navigate the rooms with their child.

“What children get out of it is equal to engagement of parent,” said Przybocki.

Art 101

The art room features sample artwork created by children, a large variety of art supplies and a worktable in the shape of giant curly-tailed lizard named Artie. Children may use a token to create their own masterpieces to take home with them.


In the Exploratorium, visitors will find tools, blocks, Legos, marble ramps, magnetic toys and a sensory trough, which is currently filled with scented and dyed rice. Children may use a token for the STEM challenge in this room.

The challenge occasionally changes. The first one is set up with plans and materials to build a spaghetti tower using marshmallows as connectors.

Wonders of Water

A large water trough and play station, and a bubble tub are the centerpieces of this area. Przybocki said the activities are a great way to help build fine motor skills.

Children can also learn about changes in state by playing with ice and learn about volume with an assortment of activities.

Village Market and Home

The country and culture featured in the international market area will change. Currently, the culture of Uganda is on display. Pretend foods, currency, clothes and other items indicative of the culture are available for play.

The area is designed to increase exposure and awareness of other cultures.

“The world is smaller every day and it’s good to have a sensitivity of different ways of doing things,” Przybocki said.

Nature Nook

A large mural dominates the Nature Nook. Children can play vet with a selection of toy animals and explore other wildlife and environmental activities.

Przybocki said the nook provides sorting opportunities.

A token can be used to plant a seed, which the child can take home and watch grow.

Reader’s Theater

In the theater, children can dress up in a variety of costumes and use scripts to put on plays or make up their own stories.

“Our main goal is to allow parents to get on their kid’s level and to encourage imagination and pretend play,” Przybocki said.

She said when she planned the playhouse, she had ages 3 to 8 in mind. However, parents have brought in children age 2 to tweens who have enjoyed the museum.

Przybocki said she is working on creating a membership or punchcard option for those interested in return visits.