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The Pish Press




September 2010 Issue


Guest Author:  Educator Lauri Lee


Playful Ideas for Fall


Ah, Fall – a time when parents of school-aged children everywhere breathe a sigh of relief because their kids are going back to school and the parents no longer have to entertain them.  But wait – don’t stop having adventures with your kids just because they are going back to school!  In fact, this is a great time of year to get outside with your children, regardless of the weather.  And your kids need the opportunity to engage in free play even more now that school is starting up again. 


If it is still warm (as it probably is in most of the country, if this summer has been any indicator), take this opportunity to grab those last few gorgeous days and extend the lazy, relaxed feeling that all children associate with summer.  Go on a nature walk or enjoy a picnic; draw pictures together or take photographs to put up near your desk (and your kids’ desks) to remind you of these days in the heart of February, when you need it most.  When it starts to get cooler, have a contest to see who can identify the most signs of the changing season (fewer insects, changing leaves, burrowing animals, etc.).  See if your city has an outdoor movie night that hasn’t ended yet; many cities have them through September.  Or, plan an outdoor film night of your own with a few other families; for how-to tips, check out this article.  (This is an even easier and cheaper evening if someone can borrow a projector from work.)


                Keep in mind that many schools have cut back on recess time.  Even in schools that recognize the value of recess, kids are lucky to have at most an hour of unstructured play time outside (or inside, for that matter).  Organized sports, while they do have a role in children’s lives, do not take the place of unstructured play.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a report stressing the importance of play to children’s healthy development; not only is play critical to emotional, social and cognitive growth, but also it encourages crucial bonds between parents and children.  You can read the whole report online at AAP.  What qualifies as unstructured play?  Anything your kids would choose to do on their own (without electronic forms of entertainment).  Think back to your own childhood.  When you and your friends played outside, what did you do?  Did you look for creatures in a stream or bugs under a rock?  Did you build forts?  Dig for worms?  Climb trees or rock-hop?  Play tag or race each other?  Float sticks down a stream?  Many children today have little experience creating their own entertainment.  Make sure that you provide your kids with the opportunity to play outside, and if they can’t figure out what to do, give them a little help.  You and your kids might both be pleasantly surprised by how much fun you have together! 


                Do you have a playground near you?  Many playgrounds have become increasingly tame and less fun for children.  Primarily because of safety concerns in our litigious society, equipment such as slides, swings and merry-go-rounds are quickly becoming mere memories.  Former New York City Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern has said, “By and large, safety pressures create blander play equipment.”  But there are playgrounds that are breaking the mold, encouraging kids to take risks without endangering their lives.  There are a few truly unique playgrounds from around the world to fire your imagination at Mental Floss.  You can also search for playgrounds in your area, as well as read other parents’ ratings of them (and add your own) at Kaboom.  Maybe you’ll be inspired to spearhead a movement to build a great playground in your neighborhood!


                When it is raining, you can do plenty of things inside, too.  Build something together using blocks, empty boxes, Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, or Legos.  Make a fort with the pillows from the sofa and some sheets or blankets.  Make play dough or goop (try the recipes here).  You’re probably thinking that these sound like fun things to do with younger children, but you would be surprised how much fun even teenagers can have with these activities, if you can convince them to give it a try with you!


                Play teaches us to take reasonable risks, to try new things, and to rely on others for help when needed.  It teaches us that falling doesn’t necessarily mean that the game is over, and that getting back up again is ultimately a lot more fun than staying down.  Play is an important part of human growth and development, and your child will learn as much from play as he or she will from formal education.  This autumn, remember that a day of play is as worthwhile as a day spent at school or work – and it might be a lot more fun! 



Guest Author, Educator Lauri Lee


Lauri Lee holds a Masters Degree in Elementary   Education and is certified in Education Administration and Supervision.  She is an educator in Providence, RI who has over seventeen years of experience working with children ages birth through fifteen and their parents.  She can be reached through her web site at






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