Free Play

One of the gardening blogs (Garden Rant) that I read regularly had a guest post this morning about getting rid of your lawn to facilitate children getting outside to play. Here’s a little excerpt:

The good news is that means the yard is yours! Even you young parents can feel justified in ripping out the lawn and remaking your yard to your gardener’s heart’s content.

The really good news is that doing so can actually make your yard more enticing to your kids than a lawn ever could.

Here’s why. Kids like big rocks to climb on. They like bushes to hide under. They like trees to climb. They like water to splash in. They love trying to catch lizards and holding out a sweaty hand to see if a passing butterfly will land for a moment. They love riding trikes and scooters on circuitous routes through a garden, the junglier the better. They like digging in dirt.

You should absolutely go read the whole thing. I think part of it is our mentality as adults. We think that if we put so much time and effort into a non-lawn garden, then it needs to be kept pristine and we can’t let the kids “ruin” it. We also do default to the “space to play ball” mentality, but there are lots of parks for that. Thinking about it, we had a huge “lawn” area south of the house (actually it was mowed weeds – farm, you know.) Yes, we occasionally went out and played kickball or baseball, but more often than not we were playing in the windbreak, in the vegetable garden where there was lots of mud, or in the tall weeds behind the barn.

What do you think? Would having something other than just lawn actually facilitate more outdoor play?

(P.S. – The guest post I linked to above is written by a woman who actually wrote a book on the subject and is promoting it in the post. I haven’t read the book and so I am not recommending it or otherwise. It looks interesting, but who knows how applicable it is to Kansas?!?)


Wichita Parks & Recreation announce a new program that encourages and rewards residents for visiting public parks. The Park Passport program encourages residents to visit 18 specific local parks. A Park Passport can be picked up at any recreation center, Watson Park or printed at To be eligible to win rewards, participants must:

  • Visit as many of the 18 parks listed on the passport;
  • Locate the Park Passport sign at each park, which ensures a participant is in the right area;
  • Answer the park question on the passport and turn in the passport at any recreation center or Watson Park by September 3.

Three winners – one entry per household – will receive one of three Family Fun Packs donated by Academy Sports & Outdoors. The fun packs include items such as camping equipment and bicycles.

Okay, so I realize that spring break is almost over, but I figured I should post this article anyway. Dr. Peggy Drexler answers the question, What to Do with Kids over Spring Break? Her answer: NOTHING. Let them be bored. Let them learn to play on their own. Don’t over organize their activities. With only a couple more days of spring break, you might be tired of trying to find things for them to do, so let them find their own things to do!

Read the rest of the article: What to Do With Kids over Spring Break?


With most local schools on their 4th snow day, it can be tempting to think about how much wasted “learning” time that is for our kids. Even though their official “school” activities are very important to learning, there is so much learning that takes place during free play time! With g2g Outside, we always want as much of that free play to be outdoors as possible!

Here’s a couple quotes about play from Exchange magazine:

“Historically, play has been viewed as a frivolous break from important endeavors like working and learning when, in fact, a child’s ability to fully and freely engage in play is essential to their learning, productivity, and overall development,” observe Steve Gross and Rebecca Cornelli Sanderson in their article, “Play is the Way,” in the Beginnings section of the September/October 2012 Exchange magazine. They continue:

“A natural drive to play is universal across all young mammals. Children from every society on earth spend time playing. Why? Because play is a crucial vehicle for exploring and learning, developing new skills, and connecting with others. From an infant’s first smile to a preschooler’s careful construction of a tower, children use play to engage with and learn about their world. Play has key neurological, cognitive, socio-emotional, and physiological benefits for children’s health. Most importantly, play is the way in which children form loving, trusting relationships.

“People often think of play in terms of specific ‘play activities’ such as tag, soccer, or playing in the sandbox. In contrast, they think of work in terms of activities like raking leaves, cooking, cleaning, or doing homework. It is our belief that any activity, as long as it is done with a playful approach, is play. In other words, it’s not about what you do, it’s about how you do it.  Playfulness is the expression of our natural drive to freely and joyfully explore, engage, and connect with the surrounding world.”

I think it is important for children to learn to view work as “play,” because it is part of them exploring, learning, and being part of their world. I grew up on a farm, and I still view many of the “chores” that I had to do as fun. I have positive memories of even things like cleaning out calf pens in the spring and pulling weeds in the garden. Somehow, I associated them with play more than work.

As parents, I also think that sometimes we need to learn to view our kids’ play as “work” as well. We need to respect the dignity of what they are doing as they learn and explore. As much as we can encourage free play (without structure, electronics, or lots of adult interference), the better! It might just seem like a nuisance when a child digs a hole in the yard and comes inside covered in mud. It is tempting to try to direct that playtime into planting flowers or doing something that seems “productive” to us as adults. Yet if we let that child explore that muddy hole until they are tired of it, digging in the dirt to plant vegetables or pull weeds may not seem like a chore when they get older.

What do you think? Do we enforce our views of “work” and “play” on our children too often?

Have you seen all the great “toys” that are falling from the trees right now? 

A leaf makes a great art supply, spark for make-believe or piece for a game.  Now is the perfect time of year to use these brightly colored, one of a kind objects = LEAVES!

Ideas for playing with leaves

  • Leaf Puppets – glue leaves onto a popcicle stick or regular stick to make the puppet.  Googley eyes or sharpie faces give the leaves some personality. 
  • Leaf Collection – collect as many different types of leaves as possible.  Use books, the internet or the Leafsnap app to find out the type of leaves you found.  You can even make a book of your leaves with labels.
  • Leaf Creatures – using leaves and other nature objects make your own creative creatures.  You can make them 3-dimensional or you can glue them to a page and hang them on your fridge.
  • Leaf Games – have your kids make up a game involving leaves.  A matching game?  A color game?  A counting game?
  • Leave Piles – Do I even need to explain the popular “leaf pile and jump-in” activity?

Nothing celebrates Christopher Columbus Day like floating some boats on a pond or in a puddle.

Make 3 ships to sale. Remember to teach the kiddos their names (Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria).



Boat Design Options

  1. Old plastic containers, straws for masts and paper for sails.
  2. Use one cork or glue 3-5 corks together for boat, toothpicks for masts, paper sails
  3. Tie twigs and branches together with string, twig for mast, leaves for sails
  4. Walnut shell boat, use melted wax to hold up a toothpick mast, leaf or feather for sail
  5. Freeze water into a boat shape and make an ice boat (see pic at top)
  6. Also try balloons, tuna cans, sponges or egg cartons as boats.

Don’t forget to decorate the boats with markers or paint.  Also tie a string to you boat if sailing in a large pond.  You don’t want a sinking boat to  turn in to “litter.”

Well the kids are back in school, and there are LOTS of activities and events starting up.  It is nice either before, after or in between running from here to there to take a few minutes and play and be outdoors.  Trust me it will help with the hectic feelings.

If you only have 10 minutes this is an activity you can go do outdoors with your kids or send them outside to do it on their own.  You can even do this without them just for yourself.  Print off the My 10 Minutes in Nature page. 

The My 10 Minutes in Nature Activity asks kids to think about what the see, hear, can touch and feel and how being outside makes them feel internally(happy, relaxed, energized, etc).  Kids can write words or draw pictures to answer the questions.  Have them find their own “special spot” to spend their 10 minutes. 

If 10 minutes is too long, adujust the time to be age appropriate. 

The cool thing about this activity is that they can repeat it over and over, anywhere and anytime and the answers will be different.  You can stop off at a park in between school and home.  Or stop by a neighborhood pond between piano lessons and dinner.  How is it different here from your backyard?

This is a great chance to see how your children observe and view the world and what they see and experience.  Doing activities like this over multiple years will show them how they grow and change over time.

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