What is play? Play is the pirates we fight in our front yard with broomsticks and cardboard daggers. Play is the hiding spot in the closet where we’re certain that we’ll never be found. Play is the pink lipstick we put on our brothers.

But if play is only thought of as an activity for children then how can I argue that play is critical to the life experience of all humans? Because not only is play the method through which children learn the world, but adults use play in the same way. We shy away from calling it play, choosing instead to let psychobabble and complicated terms stand in for a very short and simple four letter word.

~ Dylan Kendall in “The Ball:  Man’s Most Important Invention” on The Huffington Post

And more playful food for thought:

Playborhood, the blog, is now Playborhood, the book! Read about it (and where you can buy it) here!

“Let’s Play: Books and Creative Free Play” by Carrie St. John on Hilltown Families

“Ban homework for before third grade; support children’s play” by Bonnie Harris, The Christian Science Monitor

“Bucket List for Kids: 50 things to do before they’re 12” by Catherine McLean, The Globe & Mail (via Free Range Kids)


Playful math?

Ever since I read the post “Mothers Talk Less to Young Daughters About Math” on the NY Times Motherlode blog, math has been on my mind.  Now since I only have a young daughter, I don’t have any comparison data for our family. However I am aware of my junior high-induced math phobia that still creeps into my life all these many years later.  Storytelling, word play, and general goofing around with language comes easily to me. Playing with numbers? Not so much. As LP nears kindergarten, I’m very aware that I need to clean up how I talk about math and my own abilities.

And now the Motherlode blog has pointed to a wonderful resource in the post “Goodnight, Moon. Goodnight, Math Problem.”  Yes, just like a nightly bedtime story, the Bedtime Math site posts a nightly math problem to share with your little people (that scales to their age/ability).

I’ve used the ideas from Bedtime Math every day (not at bedtime because our bedtime ritual is already a bit too long).  Two great things that I’ve discovered in the past 4 days…one is that these make for great discussions while we are on the road to and from preschool or waiting in the dr’s office or passing time hanging out in the potty. LP loves them! Number two is that the example math questions have helped me think about incorporating math questions and interactions into our daily interactive storytelling.  Now as we tell a story about dogs making cookies, I’ll ask LP how many cookies do the dogs eat if each of the three dogs in the story gets three cookies. The addition of this kind of question seems to delight her and fit right into the other questions I ask to create the story.

So say “YES!” to playful math!  And I’d love to know…how do your little people respond?

” I find that my daughter utilizes junk in her play as much as her store bought toys. Junk is anything that may have ended up in a trash or recycle bin, but my daughter has rescued it for a better purpose.  When she is outside, items such as sticks, rocks and water are essential tools to her play.   Both junk and nature finds allow her to engage in abstract thinking by imagining these objects are something different.”

~ Rebekah of The Golden Gleam in “Playful Parenting Tip #3: Junk and Nature Toys”

More playful food for thought from around the web:

“8 Ways to be Creative (Without Doing Art)” by Amy on Let’s Explore

“The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development” by Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD on Psychology Today

And to see the project I’m excited to try with LP…check out “Holding Children Competent” by Teacher Tom on his blog of the same name!

It was a parenting bliss moment.

LP & I were looking at a long 2 hours before dinner at the end of a long, rainy day. I proposed a few projects that she was not into and then she said, “could I use the glue gun?”

I set up the table with the usual supplies (cardboard base to glue things too and a selection of stuff — pompoms, feathers, tongue depressors, small sticks, googly eyes) and plugged in the hot glue gun with the usual safety reminders.

Then I said “I’ll get my book and come back to keep you company.”

And she said, “No thanks, I’ll be independent.”

Music to my ears!

“Our creativity as humans is inspiring. When we creatively solve problems or express ourselves in creative ways we spark new life, and ignite ideas in others as well.”

~ Michael Stanclift, N.D.,  “Getting More From Every Day: Reigniting Your Creative Fire” on the Huffington Post


More playful food for thought:

“How Creativity Works” NPR interview with Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works

The PlayChastain project…check out the amazing vision for a natural playground in Atlanta!

“Why do you ‘bother’ living commercial-free?” by Brandy King on The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood blog.  I’m going to add a quote here because she articulates something I’ve thought about a great deal much better than I ever have! Here it is:

I want my children to have constant practice creating amazing stories and environments from scratch. I want them to learn for themselves that necessity is the mother of invention. I want them to rely on their own ambition to navigate through life rather than waiting for someone else to tell them what to do. And I believe that limiting the pre-defined personalities and scripts inherent in licensed characters helps them toward these ends.



The Six Alabamas

The 6 Alabamas lead LP's herd of horses (the one on the far right has an elaborate chenille stick headpiece on!)

I’ve always been fascinated by how LP names her stuffies and other critters. Some of her names are deliciously inventive (Violin Case, Exploding Strawberries, Glue), some are tributes (most of the pandas are named after real pandas she’s learned about through books or at zoos), some are classic (Quackie the duck, Heehaw the donkey) and then there are a few names that she just loves and uses again and again.

For awhile she used her favorite names just twice and then on different critters ~ there was an Amanda the panda and Amanda the horse, a Mama Lynn the panda and Mama Lynn the horse, Alabama the horse and Alabama the ukulele (everything gets named around here!).  At first, I admit, I thought it was a bit odd, but of course, she knows more than one Sofia and more than one Jonah and more than one Sasha.  Why not share a favorite name?

Over the past few months, a number of new horses have come into her life and now she has six with the name Alabama.  Yesterday she rearranged the herd so that all the Alabamas were in front and gleefully said, “If someone says ‘Alabama!’ six horses will neigh!” And she laughed and laughed and I laughed with her.

It will be interesting to watch the name thing evolve…will the Alabamas hang together as a group? Distinguish themselves in certain ways? Be renamed? Or….will there be a seventh Alabama?

It was too quiet yesterday morning.

I knew it was the kind of quiet that I should probably check on, but LP and I had already had a long weekend of solo parenting and oh, the quiet.   So I sat on the couch with the Sunday paper. I drank tea. I enjoyed the quiet.

I could hear LP going back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room table. I could hear her moving the step-stool around, the rattle of dishes and the occasional unidentifiable sound.

Then the call, “Will you change the grind to large?”

Ah. That sound was the salt grinder.

The table was covered with water and spices. LP had four or five bowls going with various combinations of water, spices and leftover toast scraps from breakfast.  What was she doing?

“Making a cake for Harness! It’s her 92nd birthday!”

I had no idea she was 92…you have to admit, she looks great:

Well, can’t deny a 92-year-old stuffed dog a birthday cake.

I admit I was not in the mood for the mess AND I’ve really been working to actively encourage LP’s independence and taking initiative.

So I re-iterated some boundaries for LP (especially how she is supposed to ask before using spices.  I think I’ll be rearranging the spice rack to put ones she can use with abandon on the lower shelf and ones that I reserve for cooking up higher.) I changed the grind on the salt and pepper to the largest setting and got out a pan to cook the cake.

After cooking for 30 minutes at 350, Harness’ cake came out of the oven and it was time for the crucial step of swirling whipped cream in it (LP’s idea, naturally).

The half hour of cooking, gave us time to work on cleaning up together. I’ve realized that I do far too much of the cleaning up and so things are changing around here on that front too!

LP sampled the finished cake and pronounced it “delicious!”

And Harness seemed happy too.

“I like my noggin.

It holds things like the old sheep jumping the fence.”

~ the Little Person (who has been fascinated with the old sheep character in Charlotte’s Web and has created all kinds of back and side stories for her)

And here are some links as delicious food for playful thoughts:

“How to…Invent a Recipe with Kids” by Rachelle on TinkerLab

“10 Simple Ways to Raise Creative Kids” by Rachelle (of TinkerLab) on Kiwi Crate

“Tell a Better Story – Storytelling made Simple” by  Melissa Taylor on Imagination Soup

“How to Pretend” by  Kim Rowe  on Little Stories

Birthday Traditions

In our home, by this year’s 5th birthday, we’ve managed to solidify (by which I mean do at least 2 times!) a few traditions, including…

…waking up to a birthday muffin and getting to eat it in bed.

…a treasure hunt for birthday presents. I really love this tradition because it spaces out the presents and she stops to play or read or explore each gift.

Treasure Hunt Clues

Found one!

A camera from Grandpa! LP loves it!

…cake or sweet treat of your heart’s desire for dessert (this year was sour cream chocolate cake with strawberry-cream cheese frosting and red sprinkles on top)

AND this year, I finally got around to making a felt birthday banner to hang up for all of our birthday celebrations…not exactly what I pictured, but certainly good-enough for my improvised crafting sensibility.

Puppy Party 2

Another year, another puppy party… we celebrated LP’s 5th birthday yesterday!  Tomorrow is the actual day and we’ll have family celebrations and also her long awaited trip to the toy store to buy a gumball. (About 2 years ago, I randomly answered that she could have a gumball from the machine there when she was 5 and she has remembered that and reminded me of it often!). This year the party was expanded from just dog friends to include a couple of kid friends too which is a lovely sign of social growth.

We set up a dog house door to her room:

(These days LP’s dog name is “Skits” a la Martha Speaks books/tv show)

and puppy crowns for kid friends (the dog friends were “bring your own ears”):

The 20 “bones” were ready to be hidden for “find the bone” game in our yard:

The dog books were ready for story time:

With dog music playing on the ipod, we were ready.  4 kids, 3 dogs and 7 big people partied it up puppy style.  A gift of a hula hoop gave the kids some new dog games to play (none of the dogs were into it).  It was a lovely mix of free play with LP’s toys and organized “puppy” activities of finding the felt bones hidden around the yards, a low key version of  “puppy says” (a la Simon says), singing the one dog song I learned on the ukelele (“I Wanna Be a Dog”) and (my favorite) acting out a made-up story about a teeny, green dog named Chicken Chicken Chicken who went exploring underground to find a treasure of delicious bones.

And of course, ice cream with dog bone sugar cookies:

At the end of the day, LP was one tired, happy pup….and so was her mama.