If Boston Children's Museum could foster family interaction in a relaxed environment like Playspace, what could it do in two quite different areas: a women's prison and a busy airport?
At Massachusetts Correctional Institution Framingham, the state prison for women, children coming to visit their incarcerated mothers are now greeted not with a stark visiting room, but with bright colors, games and snacks.
With the help of the museum, Framingham officials created two rooms where families can be together. The Children's Visiting Center is a large room with toys, books and places for children to climb and quiet corners where more than 20 parents and children can play and talk. In the Parenting Center, one mother at a time can spend some private time with her children.
"We wanted to create a place where women would feel good about themselves and that would be warm and supportive and comfortable," says Jane Jamison, parenting coordinator at Framingham.
"We're trying to bond parents and children together," say Pat Cornu, director of the museum's Resource Center and former director of its Early Childhood Project, "and that's very difficult if it's a terrible place where kids don't want to go."
More than 70 percent of the women at Framingham are mothers, and 65 percent are single parents. Most of their children are under 10.
"We want to nurture the relationship," says Jamison, "because then when she goes back to her children, the transition will be much smoother.
"And the tie can be severed pretty easily. It's hard to be a mother in prison. You don't know about the dentist appointment. You might not know what's happening with the child in school."
Framingham also has an extensive program that includes providing transportation for children who live far from the prison and programs that encourage mothers to help their children learn to read.
"One of the things that keeps women going is their connection with their children," says Jamison. "I think it gives them a sense of purpose here and afterwards. Just having time to talk and to share and to catch up -- the children love their mothers and they need their mothers. We want to help the mothers so that they have a better chance."
At Boston's Logan International Airport, Massport is constructing a modified Playspace for children up to age 8 and their parents. The 750-foot space will open in the spring. About 10 million people a year pass through Terminal C, which will house the new area.
"A half-hour of rest and relaxation, for a mother traveling alone with two children, or a father traveling alone with two children -- it's useful," says Marsha Duffy, public service project coordinator for Massport, which manages the airport.
"We thought this was socially important," says Duffy. "There was a lot of positive feeling about it right from the start. Traveling in the 1980s involves a lot of transferring. It also involves long periods of time spent waiting. For parents who are traveling with young children, it's kind of a tough period."
To make it a little easier, parents can relax in the enclosed space as their children play with a 3-foot-high model plane and other air-travel-related toys.
"It's also a great place for interaction," says Duffy. "For parents who are traveling with children, or just in a strange environment, interacting with others can be very calming and educational."