Tag Archives: PLAY



When my son was 4 he built a playground for caterpillars. He made it from cardboard and it was an enclosed space with a slide, some swings and some ramps for the caterpillars to crawl up and down. It took days to make, and many caterpillars were encouraged to play in it. Then one morning he discovered there were no caterpillars in the playground, only caterpillar fluff. Seems my 2 year old son had found the caterpillars and the scissors and……well, all that was left was the fluff.

 Cardboard continued to be an essential play item for my boys, from making a miniature city of ruined buildings for warhammer, (if you have preteen boys you likely know what that is) to a giant skate board park for finger boards (tiny skateboards).

 Parents and ECE’s have long recognized the value of cardboard: it’s free, accessible, and multi functional. Add materials from the recycling bin, some glue, tape and paint and the possibilities are limitless. But without two key elements all these great materials will never reach their potential: time and space. Kids need time to develop something out of cardboard, which means they need to work over a period of days or weeks. Which in turn means that the project needs a place to be stored.  ECE settings are notoriously short on space, and time is often chopped into small chunks for play, snack, outside time, nap etc. But look at what can be achieved when these barriers are overcome!

My good friend Sarah Hilliard at Lansdowne Preschool followed the children’s interest in robots……

boxes, egg cartons, fruit flats, paint….
and hours of collective work, became this….
a robot with a crown.

And the next year her kids were fascinated with castles so…..

became this!

 And if you still need more motivation check this:  an international cardboard challenge inspired by a 9 year old boy and his cardboard creation. 

Imagination, creativity, hands on learning, building community, sharing stories, inspiring wonder, possibility, and engagement……all this can be had with cardboard!

Share your cardboard stories with us!

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Everything is Better on the Beach: Part 2

Danielle is right, everything is better on the beach.

 This past weekend, my family and our closest friends went camping. We’ve been doing these trips annually for 27 years starting with the four of us and one baby. Now there are four adult kids plus partners, 12 of us in all. While the trips were wonderful when the kids were small, there is something even more amazing about camping with them now that they are in their mid 20’s. Watching these intelligent, talented and caring adults still enjoying each other’s company well, if you are the parents of adult children you know what I mean. So there we were with lots of great food, campfires, guitar and banjo music, maybe a bit of wine and beer(!!)…..and the beach.

 We set ourselves a challenge: make something from materials found on the beach. We brought along a few hand tools, some sandpaper, some string, some glue. We spent an entire day at it, no deadline, no expectations, no pressure. Some people started making something and never finished, others gathered materials and then just left them in a pile, and some didn’t do anything at all. Others made intricate and complex pieces.



The found materials didn’t demand perfection. They are beautifully odd, randomly curved, smooth and cracked, rough and silky. They allow a freedom in creation that commercial materials don’t offer. Perfection is not an option.


At the end of the day we all felt equally satisfied whether we made anything or not. There was joy and camaraderie in the making, mistakes and imperfections were embraced as part of the creative process.


No matter our age we all thrive in the freedom to play, to create, to embrace a project of our own choosing…..or make a pile of sticks and leave it be.


The spirit of the beach……that ‘s what I want all year.

Outdoor weaving from the always inspiring Let the Children Play



Outdoor weaving from Purpleclaire Textiles

“One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.”  Henry David Thoreau

I dropped into a child care centre yesterday and chatted with the children and educators. We all observed how much we enjoyed the slow pace of summer, the relaxing of routines, the long times spent outside.

Ideas for building forts from Tinkerlab

Which led to the question of Why? Why can we only slow down in the summer?

Outdoor weaving from the always inspiring Let the Children Play

How can we bring what we love about summer programs into to the rest of the year?

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The Big Deal


Sam is working hard. He has a 3 foot piece of PVC pipe and is trying to make it stand up on end in the sand. He is shovelling, packing sand, testing stability, shovelling and packing more sand.

We educators are standing close by, but not paying much attention. We are discussing the high value that is placed on a child learning to print his/her name. How child care centres, schools and parents often see this as very important, proof of a quality program and evidence of a child’s intellectual abilities. We discussed that copying letters might not be such a difficult task, but because it is measurable, quantifiable, it seems to be a big deal.

Then we looked again at Sam. He has the pipe not only standing upright in the sand, he has filled it with water. And it stays standing. And the water doesn’t leak out the bottom.

Now that takes intellectual ability. That should be the big deal.




Bears, Broken Glass, and the Obvious Question

What do you remember from your childhood about playing outside?

Some educators and I have been talking about this and we’ve been writing down our stories;

As a child we would break glass bottles and then use the pieces as ‘covers’ for our flower and leaf arrangements…

There was a weeping willow tree that we used as a fort, we played in it for hours, we all knew we just needed to be home for dinner….

My brothers and I would use left over construction materials to build forts in the forest. We were told to make a lot of noise while we played there to keep the bears away…..

We used a rope to swing over a stream, but if you fell in you stayed wet all day, no matter what the season…..

We played hide and seek with all the neighbourhood kids and designated nine back yards as the game territory….

This leads me to think about discussions Danielle and I have with educators around rules, specifically the “slide rule”, you know the one I mean: no going up the slide, feet first coming down the slide, come down on your bottom please!

Danielle and I use this rule as a starting point for discussion, and boy, do we get discussion! Educators want to keep kids safe, they want to help avoid conflict, they want little kids to feel safe among big kids so they have the slide rule.  All with the very best of intentions.

But it seems to me that we might be missing something when we create these rules, we miss that fact that kids can negotiate, that they they can take care of little kids, that falling off the slide might be worth the benefits of the great fun of climbing up it.

Reflecting back on our own childhoods might be a way begin to rethink some of the rules we have. Relative to broken glass and bears a slide is pretty tame!

Let me ask the obvious question…..did anyone ever tell you how to use the slide when you were a kid?