Elephant, Horse, Bird & Little Me: Space for Play

I stumble across a gallery in Bucharest filled with children’s toys.


This interactive exhibition is part of a long term project from a non-profit in Bucharest seeking to make a permanent, interactive museum for children in Bucharest. Adults are welcome too, of course. They are hoping this exhibit will draw the funding necessary to secure a permanent space.


A young woman shows me around the exhibit and explains that a few members of the non profit and several volunteers – herself included – set up the exhibition. There is great attention to detail in the placement of each toy and layout of this space. This intention in spacemaking allows the space to flow freely.

The extensive toy collection was donated by an 80 year old Romanian philosopher, world traveler and toy collector. He gathers toys from every place he visits because he believes toys are incredibly informative, easily accessible and understandable cultural artifacts. This collection of play objects from different cultures exposes the viewer to international similarities and invites them to enter a blended state of play across boundaries.

All toys, except for a fragile few, are free to use. Additionally, there is a station to build your own toy, a puppet theater to create and put on your own show, a drawing area and a musical instrument area.

The non-profit had to rent the gallery space from the joining art center ARCUB that appears to be like a smaller version of the money focused art center in Budapest. I had originally come by to explore ARCUB but found it less than interesting and very detached. In contrast, this non profit is seeking to create spaces for all children, no matter their economic status, where they can play, collaborate and explore their talents. This is everything I am seeking and am so proud of them. Not to mention I get to build my very own toy, Tumble:


The translated title of the exhibition is, “Elephant, Horse, Bird and Little Me.” This is Little Me, the collector’s favorite toy:


What we learned

  • Play is so universally important.
  • Toys can induce a state of collaborative play in both children and adults alike.
  • Intention in space making is so important to create a space for organic, free flowing expression.
  • Focusing on creating spaces for children allows a space to maintain a sense of innocence and freedom.
  • Toys are fascinating artifacts of culture.
  • Community space is needed not just for adults – underserved children do not have the freedom of space to explore and play.
  • Children (and adults) are more drawn to making their own toy than playing with existing toys.
  • Interactive separate sections of drawing, theater, music, etc. is a theme present in nearly every art space I have found.
  • Funding for permanent space is difficult across interest categories.
  • Beautiful group of volunteers dedicated to creating a space for children to play.
  • A gallery exhibit can be used as a blueprint, fundraising tool and step to a more permanent space.
  • Precedent of using an art gallery as an interactive play exhibit.