My Last Post About Play

In my twenties, I fancied myself an artist. My work was always playful, so naturally, I spent some time learning about kids. What a mistake! I was horrified to discover that kids are so much better painters than I might ever be. Of course, this is a secret that they keep form grownups by scrubbing the heck out of their masterpieces so we can’t see them. I used to trick my students by pulling their work off their easel after a few minutes and giving them fresh paper. Parents loved seeing the work of their little geniuses rather than the typical big dark mess.

I’ve been blogging about play for nearly a decade, and I’ve come to the same place as I did with painting. It’s time for me to stop blogging about play environments as there are better information sources than I can possibly create. Oh, I will still write about what interests me about kids, but if you want to know what sort of environment kids need or how best to support their development, check out the resources I will list below.

I’m only going to list books here as I want you to be changed by what you read. I will list the best online sources in another post as, while these are great, I find that the short form of blogs is less transformative. While these authors are early childhood experts and much of what they discuss takes place in preschools, their advice and insights apply equally to backyards. So, let’s dive in.

Teacher Tom’s First and Second Books.

To prove my point about the value of books over blogs, let me share this experience. I am a loyal reader of Tom Hobson’s blog, and so I didn’t buy his first book as I thought it to be just a collection of his posts. Circumstances caused me to miss some of his posts last year, so I bought his Second Book. Being able to read the posts chapters carefully curated into a narrative allowed me to embrace his perspective fully.

Why should you read his books? Tom sees kids as fully formed and perfect human beings. He has an insatiable curiosity about each child he encounters as a fully formed person with their own logic and goals. He helps us understand that the best way to know kids is by standing back and observing, intervening only when absolutely necessary, and only then at the very last moment.

The following books focus on the play environment, which those of us in early childhood consider being the third teacher. Note that the first teacher is the parent, and to do that job, you will be vastly better at that responsibility by reading and incorporating the practice that Tom so compellingly sets forth.

Buy direct from the source:

Nature Play at Home

Nancy Striniste has written the definitive work on small scale outdoor learning spaces. What I love most about the book is that it combines the knowledge of an expert in child development, and the spirit of a gardener, with a how-to manual. She doesn’t just give you the background on why kids love hiding places but also shows you how to create a living willow structure or a mud hut.

The book is copiously illustrated and comprehensive. Need to know what to plant? Is it here? Want to add a bit of drama? How about a stage and the loose part props as well?

Buy direct from the source:

Adventures in Risky Play

The title of Rusty Keeler’s book is a bit of a bait and switch. The real risk in the book is not for the kids so much is it is to our adult propensity to be wildly overprotective. He makes this message work by sharing stories and powerful images that allow us to remember our own experiences growing up. In this way, he opens our hearts and minds to the fun and developmentally essential experiences of risky play. 

While Rusty’s book covers many of the same subjects as Nancy’s, his perspective is that of a dad. This comes out in such ways as the section on rough and tumble play. Rough and tumble play is a subject that is getting increased attention as early childhood experts have focused on emotional intelligence and the importance of children testing each other. In his discussion, he shares the same perspective as Tom Hobson in that we tend to suppress these challenging moments to the detriment of our child’s ability to function socially.

Buy direct from the source:

One thought on “My Last Post About Play

  1. Crud – that was a heading NOBODY wants to see….this Industry owes you A LOT….

    John P. LaRue

    P.O. Box 209 – Little Compton RI 02837

    Looking for something new in the playground industry?

    Click to view a 30 second video – Rotating Net – URL link: – our full line – our FREE Resource Page – our non-profit

    800.986.3716 – Tel 866.222.2561 – Fax

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