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?!?)


bagsWe have almost all of our events for 2013 planned! The final details may change, so check back to the blog or Facebook page as the events get closer. Some of these events will require an RSVP, so watch for that as we get closer as well.

March 30, 3:30-5:00 p.m. – g2g at the Zoo (Farm Families program)

May 16, 6-7:30 p.m. – g2g goes Fishing at the Great Plains Nature Center

June 19, 5-6 p.m. – g2g Digs Into Books (near Central Library)

July 6, 10-11:30 a.m. – Icy Dino Dig at Exploration Place

August 8, 6:30-7:30 p.m. – g2g goes Creeking at the WATER Center

September TBD – Mock Camping at Lake Afton

October 2, 5-6:30 p.m. – g2g at Botanica (visit the Woodland Garden and learn about Tree Foods)

November 18, 6:30-7:30 p.m. – Night Hike at the Great Plains Nature Center

December 14, 3:30-5:00 p.m. – Bird Watching in the Jungle Building at the Zoo

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?

family of four sunset 3Tired of spending Friday nights in front of the TV? Get outside and enjoy the full moon with your friends at the Great Plains Nature Center

Walk with a nature guide on the trails of Chisholm Creek Park.  Enjoy the moon, stars, night air and the creatures that come out at night.  Call a few friends and join the adventure!

For all ages
Friday, December 28, 7 p.m.
FREE, Registration required – Contact Lee Ann at 683-5499 x 106 or


Check out the other great GPNC Programs HERE!

Take a different kind of walk with your family this week.  Try a COLOR WALK

IMG_20121210_164719Find a notebook and some crayons or markers.  On the left-hand side of the page, make a square for each color and leave room on the right for the kids to make tally marks.

While on your Color Walk have the kids tally as they see each color.  Tailor the number of colors to the age of the child.  The number of colors should be the same as their age.  After age 13 this rule no longer applies.  35 colors is too much for anyone to deal with 🙂

Before the walk have the kids predict which color they will find the most of, and which color they will find the least.  Keep your lists and do this in different seasons and find out how the colors change throughout the year.

It is the time of year we count our blessings.  As you and your children list what you are thankful for, don’t forget to think about the things outside that you love and would not want to live without.

Take a Thanksgiving Walk.  The weather is supposed to be nice across most of the US on Thursday, so no matter where you’re spending Thanksgiving you can go out for a pre- or post-dinner walk.  As you stroll count 5 things that you are thankful for.  Stop midway through your walk and ask your kids what their 5 things are.  (If your kids are small make it 1-3 things or have them announce their things as they walk.)

Do any of your Thanksgiving things match?  Did someone think of something you never thought of before?  Did you think of BIG things and little things?  On the second half of your walk can you think of any more as a group? 

I am thankful for all of you g2g Outside readers and those that participate in the g2g Outside events.  You all make going outside to play fun!

Here are a few Thanksgiving Games I posted last year for more fun outdoor ideas for the family.  Let’s get EVERYONE outside this week!

It’s time for Fish Tales Tuesday November 13, 10am-11am

Join the WATER Center Staff for a free storytime and nature suprise!

The program is designed for Pre-K aged children, but all are welcome to attend.


This month’s book is “No More Water in the Tub” by Tedd Arnold.  The theme for the day will be Use Your Imagination!  The activity will be decorate a bath tub.

The WATER Center is located in Herman Hill Park on the corner of Pawnee and Broadway.  You can park in the lot by the playground or behind the WATER Center building.  The building has fountains out front.  Wander up the path towards the fountains and enter the building for storytime.  After storytime you can play in the museum or hike along the streamside paths towards the Arkansas River.

Next Page »