Omaha Urban Thinkscapes


“Play is the foundation of learning, creativity, self-expression, and Constructive problem-solving.  It’s how children wrestle with life to make it meaningful.” – Dr. Susan Linn



  • At Home
  • In Nature
  • Alone or With Friends
  • At Church, Synagogue, & Mosque
  • At play
  • In Books
  • At Clubs & Activities
  • In school



Collaboration & Play

University of Nebraska Omaha College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences; Connect GO with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce; and Metro-Omaha Raise Me to Read are collaborators in this collective impact and community engagement initiative.

The vision of Omaha Urban Thinkscapes is to create playful public spaces that improve the health, well-being and development of babies and children and their families in Metro-Omaha.  The Thinkscapes project will help design, build, research, and plan cultural/educational events on new public spaces for playful engagement and learning.





  • Create a playful sense of place in Omaha public spaces that showcases the art and culture of Omaha neighborhoods

  • Engage children and families with playful learning experiences while using public spaces

  • Increase the mental, physical, language, and cognitive development of Omaha children and residents

Current Partners & Community Community Advisors

The Omaha Urban Thinkscapes team continues to develop enthusiastic partners and advisors across the spectrum, including arts, transportation, planning, design, STEM, civic offices, education, play, natural resources, and community and health and wellness initiatives.


In launch events held in October 2021, work included leadership team planning and direction from Dr. Sarah Lytle, Executive Director of Playful Learning Landscapes Action Network, and a keynote address to the public from Dr. Kathy Hirsch-Pasek from Temple University.  Attendees practiced community engagement activities together and committed to the work of the project

Community Engagement

Community Engagement is key to the success of this project.  Our first community engagement sessions are supported by the  Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties at the North and South Omaha Learning Community Centers.

Video ~ Philadelphia Urban Thinkscapes EngagementLearning Community of Douglas & Sarpy Counties

Omaha Urban Thinkscapes Play Day

The first two community engagement “Play Days” have occurred at the North and South Omaha Learning Community Centers!

The Learning Community of Douglas & Sarpy Counties has been a key partner in establishing these playful learning experiences and introduction to the concept of Omaha Urban Thinkscapes. 

We learned about the importance of play to parents, and about their community hopes.

Children learn complex skills through play, but a key takeaway was that Families + Play + JOY.

Photographs of Thinkscape projects around the world


Communities around the world discovered that collaboration and development of small public spaces for children led to further research in issues of children and families, budgets that increased investment in public spaces, and new ideas for childcare and digital platforms for families.


“. . . Developmentally appropriate play with parents and peers is a singular opportunity to promote the social emotional, cognitive, language, and self-regulation skills that build executive function and a prosocial brain. Furthermore, play supports the formation of the safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with all caregivers that children need to thrive. . . .Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function (i.e., the process of learning, rather than the content), which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions.” American Academy of Pediatrics



Learning and Play: Research, Initiatives, Books, References

Throughout the world, city leaders are recognizing the need for development of community spaces to improve the lives of young children and their families.  Organizations such as Urban95 from the Bernard van Leer Foundation, Playful Planet, Child in the City, Streets for Kids, The Lego Foundation – “Build a World of Play Challenge” and Playful Learning Landscapes Action Network are coordinating and supporting efforts of city planning that includes children’s rights and well-being.


Research conclusively supports the significance of play, and the paramount importance of parent-child interaction from birth onward.  “Children are hard-wired for learning. The question is:  Are we prepared to enable, encourage and expand the opportunity for learning?  —That’s the challenge that this movement is taking on; and it is taking it on by looking at the larger environment, by looking at the built environment, by heartening back to the wonderful literature about third places, and recreating this notion that there are places and spaces where community happens, and in those places and spaces, we have this opportunity to promote a vastly enriched and expanded notion of learning. ~ Ralph Smith, Managing Director Campaign for Grade Level Reading