Fetch It

Once again this year, Sundance, my Labrador, offered to do the “Playing from Scratch” activity for the upcoming month while I was at the Value of Play Conference.  Being the retriever that he is, this activity is one of his favorites and thus he had to share.  Thank you Sundance for your assistance with this month’s activity.

Supplies: duct tape, two cardboard tubes from trouser hangers

To make: put the cardboard tubes side by side. Wrap tightly with duct tape.

To Play: Tell the human you need to go outside. On the way outside, pick up the fetch toy.  When outside, drop the toy by the human’s feet, run a few yards, turn to look at the human, and smile.  Hopefully the human will understand, pick up the fetch toy, and throw it.  From here you know what to do.


pics for guest blog

Elements of PLAY in American History: Did you know? The average American was introduced to the concept of kindergarten at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition and World’s Fair in Philadelphia?

By Guest Blogger Stacey Swigart, Curator, Please Touch Museum

“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.”  -Friedrich Froebel

The Women’s Committee of the Centennial sponsored the kindergarten and wanted to introduce people to the concepts that had been developed by Friedrich Wilhelm Froebel (1782-1852) in Germany. Froebel’s ideas centered around three forms of learning including knowledge of forms of life (gardening, caring for animals, domestic tasks); knowledge of forms of beauty (design, color, movement, shape, harmonies); and knowledge of forms of mathematics (geometric forms/relationships). A trained teacher provided the guidance for children’s play through special materials, called ‘gifts.’ The gifts were wooden blocks, geometric shapes, balls of yarn and other to facilitate play and learning. Additionally, there were ‘occupations’ –handwork that was part of the kindergarten curriculum including beading, threading, folding, molding and embroidery.

In 1876 in Philadelphia, a small cottage was constructed dedicated to the Froebel system of education. The Kindergarten building was situated a few yards northeast of the Women’s Pavilion.  It was a one-story Gothic style cottage that was thirty-five feet high by eighteen feet wide, built of pine and polished and varnished to a “fine hue”. Inside, the building consisted of a main hall, with an alcove for spectators.

Sixteen (some sources say eighteen) children from the Northern Home for Friendless Children in Philadelphia were brought every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM to demonstrate the operations of a Froebel Classroom.

James D. McCabe wrote in The Illustrated History of the Centennial Exhibition, “The teacher was a lady from Boston, and the class composed of sixteen bright little ones…A more delightful sight than these happy children at their studious play can scarcely be imagined. The advantages of the Kindergarten are so well known that it would be useless to dwell upon them here.”

The central idea of the kindergarten (‘children’s garden”) was to provide a large, well-ventilated, well-lighted and pleasant space for learning that would open to a garden and play area. The garden would incorporate small garden plots that the children could cultivate on their own—flowers, useful vegetables, and even trees. Froebel did not use corporal punishment, but rather exclusion from play or gardening.

In 1876, there were a few Froebel classrooms to be found in major cities. The numbers increased post-1876. There are a number of educational institutions and programs focusing on the theories and ideas of Friedrich Froebel around the globe today.


Fun Facts:

  • Friedrich Froebel introduced his method of teaching to young children (primarily ages 3-6) in Germany in 1837.
  • The Northern Home for Friendless Children was founded in 1853 and still exists today as Northern Children’s Services. Learn more at: www.northernchildren.org
  • Miss Ruth R. Burritt of Boston was the teacher.
  • Furniture and material for the school were contributed by a Mr. Steiger of New York.
  • $1,500 was raised for the construction of the cottage by the Rhode Island committee of the Women’s Centennial group.
  • A woman by the name of Anna Lloyd Wright visited the Fair, saw the Kindergarten and bought some ‘gifts’ for her son. That son was future architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.  The son of Frank Lloyd Wright would go on to be the inventor of Lincoln Logs!
  • Milton Bradley (of toy fame) began producing “gifts” for resale in the 19th century.

Frosty’s Freeze Throw

by Grace Litteral (age 9) & Joyce Hemphill
Toss ‘snowballs’ and ‘ice balls’ through a snowman shaped target.


  • Aluminum foil, wadded into balls
  • Cardboard
  • Hole punch
  • Pencil
  • Pipe cleaners (optional)
  • Scissors
  • String
  • Tape
  • White pom poms (large)

To Make:

Make three rings out of cardboard.


  • On a large piece of cardboard (e.g., 15”x15”) make a big circle. Cut out the circle. Make another circle 1-inch inside the big circle creating a one-inch ring. Cut out the little circle inside that big circle. Now you have a large ring. Using a hole punch, make one hole in the cardboard ring. Next to the hole write: “10 points”. Set aside the large ring (Ring #1).

RING #2:

  • On a medium size piece of cardboard (e.g., 12”x12”) make a circle. Cut out the circle. Make another circle inside this circle creating a one-inch ring. Cut out the little circle inside that circle. Now you have a medium ring. Using a hole punch make a hole in the cardboard ring; directly across the diameter make another hole. Next to one of the holes write: “50 points”. Set aside the medium ring (Ring #2).

RING #3:

  • On a smaller piece of cardboard (9”x9”) make a circle. Cut out the circle. Make another circle inside this circle creating a one-inch ring. Cut out the little circle inside that circle. Now you have a small ring. Using a hole punch, make one hole in the cardboard ring. Next to the hole write: “100 points”.

Assembling Frosty:

  • Using a piece of string connect the small ring to the medium one. To do this put the string through the hole in the small ring and one of the holes in the medium ring. Tie a double knot; cut excess string. Then connect the medium ring to the large ring using the same technique.
  • If you would like, add arms by wrapping a pipe cleaner on each side of the middle ring and then letting it stick out to the side. Bend each pipe cleaner to resemble a tree branch.

How to Play:

  • Tape Frosty in an open doorway
  • Stand back 5 feet
  • Throw ‘ice ball’ (wad of aluminum foil) and ‘snow ball’ (pom pom) through the hoops.
  • Challenge your family and friends to see who can score the most points.

Homemade Play Dough

There are MANY recipes for play dough. Personally, I prefer dough that does not smell like something I want to eat (e.g., chocolate pudding, orange sherbet, peanut butter). I also prefer the texture of a cooked or heat processed dough.

Below are two recipes: one that uses wheat flour (gluten) and the other rice flour (gluten free).

Play Dough (Gluten)

1 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 T cream of tartar
1 T vegetable oil
½ cup salt
Food coloring
In a pot combine all the dried ingredients, oil, and water. Cook over medium heat while constantly stirring. After 3-4 minutes the dough will begin to form a ball and pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat. When dough is cool enough to handle turn out onto a flat surface and knead. If you want colored dough, knead in food coloring. If dough is sticky, knead in a little flour or cornstarch. Store in airtight container.
Source: I don’t have a reference for this recipe. It was handwritten on a piece of paper and given to me 25 years ago by a preschool teacher.

Play Dough (Gluten free)

¾ cup white rice flour
¾ cup cornstarch or arrowroot
¾ cup iodized salt
1 T cream of tartar
2 tsp grape seed oil or olive oil
1 ½ cup hot water
Food coloring
In a pot combine all the dried ingredients, oil, and hot water. Cook over medium heat while constantly stirring. After 3-4 minutes the dough will begin to form a ball and pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat. When the dough is cool enough to handle turn out onto a flat surface and knead. If you want colored dough, knead in food coloring. If the dough is sticky knead in cornstarch or arrowroot until you reach the desired consistency. Note: Dough will be less sticky when cool. Store in airtight container.

Source: Preschool and Gluten Free Play Dough (September 4, 2012). Retrieved from http://thesproutedlife.com/preschool-gluten-free-play-dough/


By Greg Harrison, creative director, Playworld Systems, Inc.
Bronze Sponsor of the 2015 Conference on the Value of Play

Today’s kids get 50% less unstructured outdoor playtime than those in the 1970s. Trends driving this shift include the over-scheduling of kids’ lives, security concerns and screen time. Without play, children’s cognitive development and socialization suffer.

At Playworld Systems, it’s our goal to save unstructured outdoor play. Kids have limited time for free play so we must value and make the most of it. Play promotes spiritual development and reduces stress, and obesity. It also unites and strengthens our sense of community.

As a leading manufacturer of playground equipment, our vision is to reinvent unstructured outdoor play. We hope you’ll join our mission to #SavePlay.  Check out our Save Play video.


The front covers of used greeting cards are perfect for games and activities.


Place a stack of card fronts face down on the table. Each player selects three cards and creates a short story that incorporates elements from his/her cards.  Players go around the table sharing their story.  Or play cooperatively whereby the first player turns over a card and starts a story based on the images from that card. The second player then flips over the next card and must continue the same story, but now incorporating elements from the new card. Play continues until cards run out or the story reaches a natural end.

Place a stack of card fronts face down on the table.  Each player selects three cards, carefully studies the designs, and identifies the ways in which his/her cards are alike. Once everyone has taken a turn, collect all the cards, shuffle, and begin again.  Or start by selecting two cards and placing them face up on the table.  Go around the circle and each person identifies how the two cards are similar.  If a person cannot point out a similarity s/he is out.  Once everyone has spoken, select another card and place it face up next to the first two.  Again, go around the circle and have each person identify how the cards are alike.  Keep adding cards and finding similarities among all the face up cards until there is only one person remaining.


Bronze Sponsor of the 2015 Conference on the Value of Play

schools1 schools2 schools3 schools4

Play comes naturally to children in the primary grades, but as students mature, attitudes toward the type of play they formerly enjoyed begin to change.

Nowhere is this more evident than when comparing a middle school campus with that of an elementary school campus. Gone are the swing sets, the slides, the jungle gyms – replaced by sports fields used only by athletically-inclined students. Gone, also, is much of the spontaneous physical activity that keeps younger children so healthy. For the students who do not go out for sports, enticements to physical activity suddenly become very few.

Educators face a challenge with the middle and high school set: How to encourage the same type of playful activity in youths who have moved beyond the playground?

Schools across the country have turned to outdoor fitness equipment in recent years. The structures, in some ways reminiscent of playground equipment, encourage playful activity in older children in a social environment that makes fitness fun. Schools typically employ the exercise units during PE classes, but also make them available to the students before and after school and during breaks.

Terrace Community Middle School in Thonotosassa, Florida employs its outdoor gym for PE classes, a practice that teacher Vivian Canaday says has been a great option for the students.

“It makes it enjoyable for them. They don’t realize that they are … getting some exercise because they are actually having fun,” she says.

A high percentage of students lack the upper body strength to do exercises on static units, such as pull-up bars. Therefore, to meet students on their level, schools have found body weight leverage resistance units as an effective alternative. Canaday says this type of equipment allows every student, regardless of fitness level, the opportunity to participate successfully.

A wide variety of equipment allows for not only upper body exercises, but also includes activities to strengthen the core and lower body, increase cardiovascular health, and provide for stretching. Students participate in groups – and many exercise units allow for several students to use them at one time. In this way, the exercise incorporates more of a playful element, giving students additional motivation.

“They challenge each other to see who can go longer on some of the equipment. It gives them a whole new view of different fitness activities,” she says.

Schools incorporating outdoor fitness equipment on their campuses often choose to extend the benefits to the greater community as well by designating the zones as joint-use areas. As a result, the benefits of playful fitness are extended to not only the students, but to adults as well – who often are in just as great, if not greater, need for physical activity, and who may not be able to afford gym memberships.

Palomares Academy in Pomona, California is one such example. A joint project between the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Pomona Unified School District, the fitness zone of 16 units allows for at least 28 students to participate in fitness activities during PE classes – and it also provides a fantastic opportunity for families in the area to enjoy exercise together after school hours.

By combining play with fitness, this unique concept has been gaining popularity nationwide and proving that play is a key to fitness not just for young children, but for teens, adults and beyond.


Oh No! There’s a Hole!

PFS pic 10-10

Players take turns snipping a net with the hopes that their snip is not the one that lets the ‘fish’ get away.


  • Large container (metal or plastic) with at least a 5” opening
    • Note: If you are using a metal container make sure there are NO sharp edged
  • Netting from a produce bag
  • Bottle caps, jingle bells, caps off squeeze applesauce pouches, etc.
  • Rubber band
  • Scissors

To Make:

  • Stretch the netting over the can. Secure in place with rubber band.
  • Place ‘fish’ – the small objects – on top of the netting

To Play:

  • Players take turns snipping the net.
  • Game ends when all the items have fallen into the can.




  • Ten plastic bottles of the same size. (Bottles need to have lids.)
  • Newspaper
  • Masking tape or painter’s tape

To Make:

BALL: Wad the newspaper into a sphere and wrap with tape.

PINS: Fill each bottle with about 1-inch of water, sand, pebbles, or dirt.

To Play:

Select an area that is safe to roll a ball and to retrieve pins.  Set up the pins in a triangular fashion: 4 pins in the back row, 3 in the row in front of that, 2 in the next row up, and then 1 in the front.  Take several steps back and try to knock down all the pins by rolling the ball.

To change things up a bit ….

  • Use balls of different sizes and weights
  • Use plastic bottles of different sizes.
  • Place number values on each pin, from 1 to 10. Start by arranging the pins in consecutive order with the front pin being 1 point and the pins in the last row getting 7, 8, 9, and10 points. Calculate your score by adding the numbers on the pins that have been knocked down.
  • For the next game, rearrange the pins so the numbers are not in consecutive order.