Three must-know things about discovered in play

I filmed this short video as part of a WordPress Daily Post video challenge. The challenge was to make a one minute (one take!) video of yourself describing the three most important things you’d like visitors to know about your blog. I think the best part, by far, is when I stick my tongue out at the end… :p

Three must-know things about
discovered in play

1. discovered in play started out as something a little different, but it’s evolved. That happens when you’re playing. Sometimes it’s just fun to go with the flow and see where things take you!

2. It’s a blog about THE MEANING OF LIFE. Or, if you’d rather ease into it… it’s about Play, Creativity and Happiness. That sounds nice, right?

3. I’m pretty sure one of the big reasons I started writing this blog was so I could reach YOU. What do you think? Wanna come play? :)

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2013

Jack White on the Work of Creativity

In honor of the fact that I’m at Lollapalooza right now (wooooo!!!!), here’s a great video of Sunday night headliner, Jack White, talking about the work behind creativity:

“Inspiration and work ethic — they ride right next to each other…. Not every day you’re gonna wake up and the clouds are gonna part and rays from heaven are gonna come down and you’re gonna write a song from it. Sometimes, you just get in there and just force yourself to work, and maybe something good will come out.”

I think it’s really enlightening to hear about the obstacles he throws in his own path in order to push himself into a creative state of mind: “constriction to force ourselves to create.”


Thanks to Maria Popova, from the super-cool blog Brain Pickings, for sharing this video, as well as a letter on this same subject of “inspiration and work ethic,” by the legendary composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky:
Tchaikovsky on Work Ethic vs. Inspiration | Brain Pickings.

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2012

Wanna Learn Counter Terrorism Techniques? Eat S’mores? Adult Summer Camps Have You Covered!

If you attend an adult summer camp, you might find yourself doing something like this…

True confession: I’ve never been to summer camp.

Never. Not even once. Not even a day camp.

What on earth did I do with my unscheduled summers as a child? I remember lots of running around barefoot on our farm, staying up late and sleeping in, riding my bike, lying in fields daydreaming, summer reading… I believe some baseball games were attended and watermelon seeds were spit. There were trips to Six Flags (Log Ride!).

Point being, I (unlike my husband, who spent pretty much every summer of his childhood as a camper, and two as a counselor) have zero nostalgia for the whole summer camp experience. But… I could change my mind. It’s never too late.

Turns out, there’s a whole slew of summer camp opportunities out there–for adults only–and they sound pretty fun (and persuasive). Here are some of my favorites:

Club Getaway (Kent, Connecticut) Set on 300-acres in the Berkshire Mountains, overlooking a lake, this camp offers guests the opportunity to indulge in all their favorite camp pastimes from childhood–water sports, team sports, zip lines, trapeze artistry, zumba and pole dancing, wine tasting–okay, there might be a couple new ones thrown in there. Cuisine is prepared by chefs from the Connecticut Culinary Institute, and cabins feature air conditioning, private bathrooms and daily housekeeping. Also, there’s s’mores! (And drinking!)

Covert Ops Adventure (Miami, Florida) Guests of this camp spend four days learning what it’s like to be a member of an elite Israeli counter terrorism unit. This entry falls into the category of Camps I Am Least Likely to Attend… But Most Likely To Pretend I’ve Attended. Why? Because it sounds really badass. Learn Israeli martial art Krav Maga! Shoot a gun from a moving vehicle! Practice “a proven method of kidnapping, used on terrorists in the Middle East”! Yeah, I spent last weekend at special ops camp, but I can’t talk about it because then I’d have to kill you…

Surf Camp (Maui, Hawaii) Surfing and yoga. Yoga and surfing. In Maui. Seriously, what else could you ask for in a summer camp experience? And if, like me, you’ve never even set foot on a surf board (other than inside your brain)–no problem. This camp’s for all skill levels.

Idyllwild Arts Camp (California) The offerings for adults include painting and drawing, jewelry and metals, hot clay and ceramics, Native American arts, sculpture, printmaking, writing–all in a gorgeous setting on the western slopes of the San Jacinto Mountains in Southern California. There’s hiking, swimming and dancing too. Want to bring the whole family? It gets even better: Idyllwild Arts Family Camp promises a camp experience everyone can enjoy together, including (appealingly) “no cooking, no cleaning, no driving, no hassles”

Coney Island’s Sideshow School (New York) For anyone looking to brush up on their sideshow skillz– you know, like fire eating and breathing, sword swallowing, bed of nails stunts, glass walking, straight jacket escape, snake charming… all in a safe and controlled atmosphere. Summer schedule at the Sideshow School also includes a serious-sounding burlesque master class, taught by Professor Jo Boobs. Sweet! Okay, maybe this is the camp I’m gonna pretend I’ve attended…

Space Camp (Huntsville, Alabama) A classic for “ages 7 to 107.” I visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center for a field trip when I was in elementary school, and it struck me as a super-cool place, although I didn’t actually attend the space camp. Adult trainees at space camp alternate roles in a hands-on, interactive space mission, train on astronaut simulators like the 1/6th Gravity Chair and Multi-Axis Trainer, and build and launch a model rocket. How great to know you’re never too old to feel what it’s like to be an astronaut!

So which camp sounds the most fun to you?

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2012

U.S. Play Coalition Conference: Play’s the thing!

Just a tiny fraction of all the amazing ideas I heard about at the US Play Coalition conference back in February. Thanks, Sunflower Creative Arts, for sending me!

Some of the topics covered at the conference: overwhelming evidence for the necessity of play for children’s development… the future of outdoor play… our role as parents in saving play for our children… and what sort of person makes a great play advocate (hint: they’re a lot like YOU!)

Originally posted on Sunflower Creative Arts’ blog, March 2012

Sunflower Managing Director, Jennifer Ligeti, and I recently attended the US Play Coalition Conference on the Value of Play at Clemsen University. We came back with heads full of practical information from the leading thinkers and advocates in the world of play.

Here are some highlights from the conference.

Good News: We’re all on the same page
The best part of attending the play conference? Being with a group of over 265 other like-minded people (parents, play practitioners, educators, medical professionals, landscape architects and others with an interest in play) who all ‘get it’ when it comes to the benefits of play for people of all ages.

The message we heard over and over from researchers, educators and child development experts should be a familiar one to Sunflower families: young children require experiential hands-on learning through play–including self-created/self-directed experiences and opportunities to play with open-ended “loose parts,” as well as significant time (at least an hour) outside each day, for healthy physical, social, emotional and intellectual development. In fact, play is not just a ‘nice extra’ supplement to children’s academic work; it’s a basic biological drive, on the same level as eating or sleeping. Of course, older children and adults are no different: play is crucial throughout the lifespan.

The future of outdoor play
Speaking of outdoor play: it’s getting harder and harder for children to get enough of it. There are probably several reasons for this, from fears about children’s safety and cuts in school recess to our ever-growing daily absorption with technology.

As a parent, I know I’ve often lamented the fact that the outdoor play experiences of my childhood are not available for my own children. In his keynote speach, Dr. Geoffrey Godbey of Penn State University, put this thought into stark perspective. In his opinion, “the old forms of play we grew up with are unlikely to come back.” I heard this echoed a few times throughout the conference: the world is different today than it was when we were children. We’re at a new starting point, so let’s acknowledge that and move on from here. Instead of getting lost in nostalgia, we need to adapt today’s world to fit our human need for nature and play.

That means playground and community design that integrates nature back into our everyday lives. Nature playscapes (where nature is the focus, not human-made elements) are a huge new trend in playspace design. These playscapes allow children to experience nature, and natural loose parts, firsthand, with all their senses. Not all natural play spaces are built environments. In one session at the conference, I learned about a program at North Carolina State University that is training interns to be play workers* in wildlife refuges, giving children the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in these wild environments.

*Play worker, just as a concept, is on my personal short list for Best Job Ever.

Parents and Play
Of course, as parents, the job of turning off the technology and getting our children outside and interested in the natural world is uniquely ours. For better or worse, we are the gatekeepers to our children’s play.

In a fascinating session presented by husband and wife team, Dr. Kathleen Burriss and Dr. Larry Burriss of Middle Tennessee State University, I learned of a study that described parents’ understandings and concerns regarding children’s outdoor security and activity. The conclusion: parents’ anticipated danger for children’s safety (from injury or abduction) does not appear to balance realistically with potential risk factors. According to Kathleen, whose background is in early childhood education, children who are denied the opportunity for free play tend to lack initiative, are less willing to accept responsibility, less able to relate to others, and may experience extended emotional and psychological dependency. The challenge for today’s parents is to have the courage to do our own risk-benefit analysis (based on facts, not fear) and allow our children the freedom to take their own risks. “Kids need to go outside and explore for themselves,” said Kathleen. “Emotionally, you can’t give that to them. They have to get that for themselves.”

Which is where blogger (and fellow KaBOOM! guest blog finalist) Mike Lanza comes in. “I’m a father,” he explained in the session he presented, Neighborhood Play Everyday. “so I want solutions.” Mike’s book Playborhood, coming out in April, promises to be an inspiring look at exactly how parents can bring play to their own neighborhoods.

“[The decline in children’s outdoor free play] is a social problem,” said Mike. “So it needs a social, not an individual, solution.” Thinking big picture sometimes means stepping out of your comfort zone (Mike and his kids went knocking door to door in their neighborhood, making new friends and inviting them to come out and play. At least one family didn’t answer the door, he says, because they never imagined that somebody they wanted to talk to would be knocking!), other times it’s more about being in the right place at the right time (“play in your front yard where your neighbors can see you!” Mike advises).

Play advocacy (we’re all play advocates)
Yes, that means you. If you’re reading this blog, if you’re a parent or an educator, then you care about children and the future of play. If you know there’s a problem, then you have a responsibility to be a part of the solution. As a parent, that has been an extremely empowering message for me, a message that was only reinforced at the play conference. There is so much I can do to make the world a better place, just by making sure I’m educated and speaking up. You can too. Go play!

© Jaime Greenberg, 2012

Where are all the kids?

Originally appeared on KaBOOM!’s Play Today blog (1st place winner, Parents & Play contest)
Published February 2012

When my husband and I found our new neighborhood, it was love at first sight. It was exactly what we’d been looking for: family-friendly and filled with more at-your-fingertips nature and open play spaces than we typically see here in South Florida, where zero lot line heavily-landscaped communities are the norm.

Our neighborhood has a total of five—count them five!—parks. Four are open spaces, intersected by sidewalk trails. The fifth holds a sand-filled playground—with monkey bars, slides, tunnels and the most incredible swings.

My daughters and I spend a lot of time at the playground park. One evening just at sunset, as we were swinging together, my 7-year-old turned to me and said, “mommy, where are all the other kids?”

That’s a good question. Despite ubiquitous “Caution children at play“ signs sprinkled throughout our neighborhood, we very rarely see any children playing outside.

One day, though, it was different.

A couple of months ago, an unexpected flash flood filled our low-lying parks with water, turning them into ponds in a matter of minutes. The transformation was magical.

I rushed my daughters out the door with me to check it out. At our favorite park (now pond) spiders swam for their lives and wood ducks glided across the sidewalk that used to be our scooter trail.

It took a few minutes, but soon I heard it all around me: the unmistakable, joyful sound of children playing. Slowly, kids of all ages were streaming from their houses to check out this new world.

We saw a group of teenagers floating across a submerged valley on a paddle board. On the other side, boys were riding their bicycles into the water, daring each other to go farther. One boy glided in pedal-deep before giving up and turning around.

My daughters and I crossed the street and waded into calf-high water. The seams of the sidewalk bubbled and percolated like a fish tank, “Something’s breathing in there!” my 4-year-old said, her eyes wide with wonder.

It seemed like everyone was full of wonder that day. But soon enough the floodwaters receded. The ponds turned back into parks again and all the kids went home. The spell was broken. Sadly, I haven’t seen that many kids just playing outside in my neighborhood since.

We have amazing play spaces in my community, but it literally took an act of nature to get kids outside. It’s enough to make a parent ask: what kind of magic would it take to keep that playfulness alive on a daily basis?

But, really, it has nothing to do with magic. It has to do with us: the whole community of adults in our children’s lives.

Maybe this is the best way to tackle the play deficit: at its root. When we adults remember play–the wonder and magic in everyday experiences–maybe we’ll realize what’s being denied to our children, and we’ll be outraged enough to shake things up and finally, for real, do something about it.

© Jaime Greenberg, 2012

Guerilla Swinging

Why the world needs more swings | KaBOOM!.

As a big fan of swings, myself, I found this public art project by Jeff Waldman pretty inspiring.

The project, which is currently raising money to hang swings in Bolivia, is “about processing the root of an emotion and finding the vehicle to draw it out. That emotion [is] happiness and that vehicle, swings.”

Waldman’s isn’t the only illicit swing project happening in the world. The Red Swing Project also is hanging swings in public places, from its origin in Austin, Texas, to India, Thailand, Brazil, Taiwan, South Korea, France, Spain, Portugal, Haiti and Poland.

That’s a true testament to the universal happiness to be found in swinging, and even just the surprising joy brought on by seeing swings hung–expectantly, full of promise and possibility–in random spots.

Under the “L” in Chicago, Ill. Photo by The Red Swing Project

Sometimes it’s easy to be myself…

…sometimes I find it’s better to be somebody else.*

When my older daughter was about three or so, she’d wake up and get dressed in either one of two outfits: a tutu or a princess dress. Whichever outfit she chose, she’d wear all day, wherever we went.

Grocery store trips took forever because every nice grandma-type lady would stop us to say, “Oh how beautiful! Did you have ballet class today, sweetie?”

Of course Suzie would look blankly at the nice ladies, “No,” she’d say, and then after they left, “Why did they ask me that mommy?”

Exactly. I understood Suzie’s confusion. After all, why did she need a reason to get dressed up in her favorite costume? She was just expressing who she was on that particular day. Wasn’t that reason enough?

Watching her get dressed in the morning, I confess I was always a tiny bit envious. Wouldn’t it be cool, I thought, if I (as an adult) could express myself like that? How much fun would it be if I could wear a costume whenever I wanted!?

I think that’s one of the reasons Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I suspect it’s probably the only day of the whole entire year when I actually could wear a tutu to Whole Foods and not look like a complete nutcase (Well, maybe. At least people would understand why I was dressed up).

Speaking of tutus… my family and I went to a Halloween costume party Friday night as the vampire cast of The Nutcracker.

(clockwise from left) vampire Herr Drosselmeyer, vampire Sugar Plum Fairy, vampire Rat Queen, vampire Clara and (of course) vampire Nutcracker

We were pretty proud of our theme; if nothing else it cracked the four of us up every time we talked about it. My husband and I died laughing each time we looked at each other in our costumes.

Besides having fun with my family, I discovered that I also enjoyed the time off from being ‘Jaime’ for a little while. I’d been in a really rotten mood for about a week and I just couldn’t snap out of it. Truth be told, I was getting more than a little tired of being inside my own head.

Enter vampire Sugar Plum Fairy. For a few hours I got to be her—proper, sweet, beautiful ballerina on the outside/wild, sexy, scary vampire (complete with fangs!) on the inside. (For those of you who know me very well, I invite you not to analyze that costume description too closely!)

People reacted differently to vampire Sugar Plum Fairy than they would to Jaime. I scared more than a few small children with my ‘surprise’ fangs, and even one grown man. Yeah, it was a good night.

By the time the night was over and I took off the tutu and the fangs, I was feeling much happier than I had in days. Even better, I was ready to be Jaime again–and, finally, ready to take myself and my ‘problems’ much less seriously.

Reason number 8 million why I love my husband... he actually went along with this! :)

It’s a shame we adults don’t get more opportunities like this to just play at being someone else for a little while. Sometimes it’s good to take a break, to force yourself into a different perspective, a different outlook on life. You never know what (or who!) you might discover.

*(Note to self: I seriously need to stop my obsessive quoting of DMB songs…  ah, but sometimes it’s just so appropriate! Plus it all fits so nicely into my grand theory on the meanings of life, love and happiness…)

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2011

DEAR SUGAR: “Dare to inhabit the alternate universe of your original mind”

DEAR SUGAR, The Rumpus Advice Column #82: The God Of Doing It Anyway – The

I deeply adore Sugar and her writing (whoever she is*).

This is pretty much what it feels like each and every time I write something new to share with the world (all the really good stuff anyway):

“In life, we have to make ourselves. In art, we have to make that self over and over again and present it to the world. We have to put it up on the wall or down on the page or project it on a screen or allow it to resound or glide or crackle across the room. And each time we do that, we must endure the sense that perhaps all has failed, that no one wants this, that we are too much that. Too ordinary or female or obsessed with turtles or experimental or rural or Jewish or derivative or slutty or neurotic or sentimental or gay or Jesus-worshipping or Asian or emotionally restrained or outside-the-whole-MFA-thing or linguistically dense or offensively lewd or just incredibly stupid and weird and boring.

Each time!

But Sugar says that’s okay. Having the guts to go all in and truly be yourself (in writing, in living) is “more vital, more real, more sacred than anything.”

Thanks, Sugar. I (always) need to hear that!

*Okay, so now we know who she is. She’s Cheryl Strayed. :)

The Trees Grew Emotions (via Flickr Blog)

Dreaming trees. Or “If wishes were trees, the trees would be falling.” (Aaaah–now I have more songs stuck in my head!)

This just kind of captured my imagination this morning…

The Trees Grew Emotions             “He who plants a tree plants a hope” — Lucy Larcom

For more information about the history of wish trees, click here. Also, be sure to take a look at Yoko Ono’s wish tree project … Read More

via Flickr Blog

Bring that beat back to me again…

I recently got back from an amazing vacation, visiting a wonderful, playful, up-for-anything friend and seeing my most favorite band in the world (Dave Matthews Band ♥love them!♥).

I went completely on my own–no kids, no husband–and it was beautiful. For five days I got to play, play, play and do exactly what I wanted to do. As a mom of young children, I can assure you, this never happens (although my husband might beg to differ).

It was a trip filled with so many new experiences for me. When I got home, I admit I was a little sad to be returning to my normal, predictable, responsible life. I truly love my life, and I love my family, but it was such a refreshing break to be just Jaime for a short time–in as pure and powerful and unadulterated a form as possible.

I think everybody needs this kind of reconnection to self every once in awhile. There are lots of ways to get there, but the way I do it–the way I get back to my essence and remember who I am, really–is through play.

And, the more I think about it, the more I realize a large part of my need for play as an adult is to fill a craving for new experiences. When we’re kids, everything is new; everything is an adventure. Sometimes as adults, if we’re not careful, life starts to get a little too routine. We lose that wondrous, innocent feeling of experiencing everything through fresh eyes. But we don’t have to…

The experience of my transformative trip inspired me to make a list of all the ways I loved to play as a kid… and the ways I love to play today, as an adult:

The ways I played as a kid:

    • Go exploring in nature (my family had a dairy farm; I’d spend all day roaming around the pastures and woods, naming and mapping out landmarks and having adventures)
    • Ride my bike
    • Play with my animals (at various times: cats, dogs, a goat, ducks, chickens, a calf, box turtles and tadpoles I’d caught, etc.)
    • Draw
    • Play dress-up
    • Pretend
    • Make up stories
    • Daydream
    • Dance and sing, listen to music
    • Make movies, take photos, write stories, pretend to be a reporter
    • Read
    • Bake (actual edible) cakes and cupcakes… and also mimosa-leaf soup and roly poly mud-cakes
    • Climb trees
    • Build forts (in the cedar tree in my mom’s yard, between the hay bales at the farm, in that old oak with the nails in the bark…)
    • Play in the rain/mud/creek

This is me playing today... at DMB Caravan with Susan. I swear I have not been happier in ages!

The ways I play as an adult:

    • Go exploring in nature; explore my neighborhood
    • Travel
    • Ride my bike/run
    • Play with my kids (it’s a good excuse to slip in the occasional game of hide-and-seek or tag)
    • Play dress-up (although now, unlike when I was a kid, I usually have somewhere to go after I get all dressed!)
    • Pretend/make up stories/daydream (aka “I’m a writer”)
    • Dance and sing, listen to music (at home, at concerts, in my head, all the time)
    • Write/blog/think about interesting ideas
    • Take photos
    • Read
    • Cook, enjoy, try new foods
    • Good conversation and laughter with friends
    • Climb trees, play in the rain/mud (yeah, sometimes!)

So… what about you? How did you play as a kid?  How do you play now? See any similarities? Feeling the urge to dive back into some forgotten passions? Listen to this and think about it a bit, then I wanna hear all about it!

“Scream and shout it loud, oh innocence! In the days when all we did would never end. …Bring that beat back to me again…”

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2011