Child’s play: A playground is at the heart of every well-adjusted or not-so-well-adjusted adult

I wrote this book review some time ago for a class at University. I feel like I have been in school for too long… I read it yesterday in order to study for an exam for another class.

Its pretty good; I’m fairly impressed with myself. Even though there are a few glaring grammatical errors and organizational flaws. But I’ll leave those for you to sift through. I like things a little mish-mash-y (at least I do if they aren’t being graded). That and I’m too lazy to go back and edit for no apparant reason than appeasing some anonymous reader of this fairly sparse blog.

Either way, my thoughts still pertain, and I still think that this is an amazing book! Take a read! The book is called “Child’s Play” by Silken Laumann. I’m sorry for subjecting you to my extensive ramblings in pretentious academic speak, but its really your own choice to read/

Read On…

Society in Western Culture has evolved to the point where parents are concerned about the safety of their children in the streets of suburbs, where teachers worry about the physical and mental safety of children on the playground and where coaches worry about the importance of training more than education and enjoyment. This worry and uncertainty is leading to the disintegration of unstructured play in Western society.

In her book, Child’s Play: Rediscovering the Joy of Play in our Families and Communities, author, Olympic champion, mother, and advocate, Silken Laumann stresses the importance of unstructured play in children’s lives. She gives a framework for parents, educators, caregivers and coaches to follow in order to allow children more freedom to learn how to function in society through play.

Laumann (2006) emphasizes the advantages of letting children play, as it allows them to stay healthy and alert, teaches valuable life and allows them to foster important ties with both peers and adults. Active play entices children off the couches and away from the screens, allowing for more cohesive neighborhoods, more social interaction, and healthier lifestyles. An active child is a healthy child, and will tend to impose their healthy attitudes on the rest of the family as well.

While Laumann (2006) does not completely deny the importance of youth sports teams, she does warn against the perils of it. Sports teams may cause children to take the view that being active always has to be competitive. As an athlete herself, Laumann knows the dangers of taking things too seriously, and as a parent knows how much her children enjoy both healthy completion and unstructured play.

The book also stresses the importance of activity in school, and notes the disparity of the physical education system across Canada. Teachers are not being trained properly as physical education instructors, and as a result children are lacking basic physical skills. When a child doesn’t know how to throw a ball properly, they are less likely to want to throw it, similar to how if a child does not know how to add they are less likely to want to do their math homework. An avoidance response is likely to prevail in both situations, as the child has not been educated properly.

The information set forth by Laumann (2006) is of benefit to teachers, parents, and coaches alike. The setup of the book allows caregivers to become aware of the issues, shows them how to deal with it in an easy local way, and what they can do in a greater sense, and gives specific examples of how to implement programs and initiatives to enhance their children’s’ lives.

Silken Laumann explores the importance of play as a community builder in her book, Child’s Play. She stresses the fact that without active, outdoor play, children are cut off from each other which subsequently cuts neighbours off from each other; This creates an unsafe neighbourhood, as parents don’t know where their children are or who they are with. Unstructured play in a supervised environment also allows children to spend time with a variety of adults, and they are able to distinguish differences in status which are defined by society (Kostelnik, 2012, p. 223)

Children are spending increasing amounts of time alone with the rising popularity of video games, computers and television, causing them to lose valuable time learning social cues from their peers. (Fogel, 2010, p. 1) Through peers, children learn to figure out their social identity (Kostelnik, 2012, p.223); less time with peers in an unstructured context can create instabilities in a child’s view of self. Play and social learning have a complex relationship which includes play as an avenue for both new learning and a way to practice this social learning. Play allows a child’s brain to develop properly and is integral in developing abstract thinking, self-esteem, cooperation, and conflict resolution skills. (Carlton, 1996).

Play is defined as being “essentially enjoyable”, where children are “actively engaged”, and when they are intrinsically motivated. (Kostelnik, 2012, p. 189) It is this intrinsic motivation that is important for children to learn. A large amount of the rest of a child’s life is pre-set, including school, chores, family obligations, etc. However, once a child reaches adulthood and goes to leave the home, they must have the learned intrinsic motivation to be able to succeed later in life. Play comes naturally to children, as it is inherently fun, and therefore it is easier to be self-motivated. Play is one of the first things that a child will be intrinsically motivated to do (Carlton, 1996) and this is a big stepping stone for them on the route to having more willpower. In order to be more intrinsically motivating, an activity will bridge the gap between the new and the old ideas, therefore creating new neural pathways in the brain, and teaching the child even more. (Almy, 3) Play will give them a sense of autonomy as they have decided to do something themselves, and a sense of joy in the act of doing so.

“Play is about creating a world in which, for that moment, children are in control and can seek out uncertainty in order to triumph over it – or, if not, no matter, it is only a game. In this way, children develop a repertoire of flexible responses to situations they create and encounter.”(Pellis, 2009, p.3)

Pellis (2009) iterates the importance of play in that a child will feel autonomy and individuality while at the same time learning for the future how to adapt to certain situations.

Unstructured play creates a framework for a healthy and well-adjusted life. As a child matures, so also does their self-discipline. A child first learns their habits from the external regulation of a parent or important adult figure in their life. (Kostelnik, 2012) This means that even before setting good examples, a parent must be willing to actively tell the child if or when they should perform an act. By learning that play is good or bad from a parent, the child will either want to continue or stop.  A child will not understand that play is an acceptable part of the day if he or she is not told that it is from approximately age 3. After this, a child will learn from experience with an adult and use modeling to replicate the adult’s actions (Kostelnik, 2012, p. 293). This is where it is important for the adult to also engage in free play activity, so that a child may learn by modeling. In Child’s Play, Laumann suggests, “Many parents struggle to find a window of time for their own exercise. But sometimes integrating family time and exercise time really works.” (Laumann, 2006)  Parents are not the only avenue for learning by modeling; teachers, caregivers, older siblings and coaches are also very important role models.

Although unstructured play is important in a child’s life, organized sport is a healthy and important way to instill a sense of pride and competition in a child. Organized sport is beneficial in the sense that it will teach children life skills, and creates strong bonds between teammates and coaches; however it does have its downside. Much organized sport is not tailored to age or skill groups which leaves the child either bored, or frustrated. Laumann (2006) suggests that children under the age of 4 should not be expected to know how to follow complicated rules, as their executive functioning is not yet developed to that extent. Children under the age of 6 typically do not see others points of view which in turn inhibits the likelihood that they will be able to cooperate in a team environment before that age. (Kostelnik, 2012, p.297) In Child’s Play, the author states from experience, “It is so important…that we don’t project our adult perceptions of sport onto our children. Let them play, learn some new skills and make some friends.” (Laumann, 2006, p.117) This is ultimately what organized sport will teach children; it will show them communication skills and cooperation among other life skills. Unstructured play will also teach these values, but organized sport is an important avenue through which to convey direct information about play. The information is coming from a respected adult figure who, according to Kostelnik (2012) will likely be a person that the child identifies with. When a child identifies with an adult, he or she will learn ideals and standards from them. Previous to identifying with an adult or multiple adults, a child will have acted on the basis of extrinsic rewards and punishments. Learning that physical activity, play and sport are acceptable forms of learning will enhance the child’s sense of self-discipline both through childhood and later in life.

Play is not only a pastime for children, but needs to be fostered through physical education, giving the children a framework for games and play. Laumann (2006) expresses that Physical education is highly underrated in schools today, stating, “We need to understand that gym is not a luxury; it’s a time when kids are strengthening their bodies, developing motor skills and building the attitudes and habits that can lead to lifelong well-being.” (p. 149) She also goes on to relate a discovery of her own, “I teach them [children] the game, and they create their own version of it… Kids are the expert on play, not us, and we need to encourage them to play how they want to play, not how we want them to play.” (Laumann, 2006, p.156) Physical Education teachers have the means to supply the children with this framework so that they may begin to create games on their own with rules that mirror the culture and respect systems in our societies. Physical Education teachers are in a similar position to coaches in this way, and they are able to be role models for children who will learn to identify with them and their ideals.

It is stressed throughout this book that play is an important avenue for children on their way to being functioning members of society, in their level of intelligence and their overall physical and mental health. The book aims to show that play is not only used for instant satisfaction of a child but for delayed gratification as a means to further one’s life later on. Play allows for learning of social skills, learning about one’s body, creating confidence, and above all, enjoying life.  I believe that this book encompasses all the reasons children should be allowed free play, ways in which to sustain this, and valuable tools for parents, teachers, coaches, and caregivers.


Kostelnik, M.J., Gregory, K.M., Soderman, A.K., Whiren, A.P., (2012). Guiding Children’s Social Development and Learning 7th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Kengage Learning

Laumann, S., (2006) Child’s Play: Rediscovering the Joy of Play in our Families and Communities. Random House Canada

Carlton, M.P., (1996). Intrinsic Motivation in Young children: Supporting the Development of Mastery Motivation in the early Childhood Classroom. Midsouth Educational Research Association.

Fogel, V.A, Miltenberger, R.G., Graves, R., Koehler, S. (2010). The Effects of Exergaming on Physical Activity among inactive children in a Physical Education Classroom. Journal of applied behavior analysis. 43: 591-600. University of South Florida

Pellis, S. and Pellis, V. (2009). The Playful Brain: Venturing to the Limits of Neuroscience. Oxford: Oneworld Publications.

Link to view cover of book:


Environment… Activate! Throwback Fort Mac.

I purchased two things today. One was to protect my brain. The other to protect my home.

The first, I wont say much about; I bought a helmet. I do way too much cycling in a city where drivers shouldn’t actually have drivers liscences to be wearing a helmet with a crack in it from about 1970. Not cool. So I got a new one. It’s pretty. And keeps my noggin in tact.

The other was a membership to the Wilderness committee. This is not in fact what I had set out to do this morning, but they had such good sales tactics, how could I not. Their brains are CLEARLY in tact. An environmental activism group set up in the lobby of MEC in North Vancouver, and they are handing out fresh baked cookies AND they are two hot guys?? Really, I mean how could you not stop and chat at least. So I stopped, he gave me his shpeal, and I walked away with a membership.

On my way home however, I thought a bit about what we had chatted about. I told him I was from Fort McMurray; he asked about it; I gave him some insight on what it’s actually like up there, or at least what it once was like, and dispelled the propaganda he was living by. It was fairly successful. But me being me, and being a bit slow, I kicked myself a bit, because I realized there was more that I should say. SO I’ll write it here instead….

Yes, Fort McMurray is a drug and crime ridden town, and yes there is some shit that goes down there. But where doesn’t shit go down? And doesn’t most of Alberta and Indeed, many other places besides have similar ideas about what oil’s role in the world is? Do you drive a car? Do you buy ANYTHING with plastic packaging. Do you paint your walls? If you live in a city, it’s highly likely that you and your idealistic ideas about oil can just go straight to jail, do not pass go and do not collect 200 dollars. Because you and I are a living lie. I try to be good. I fail a lot. I get plastic bags at the grocery sometimes. I bought a helmet made of PLASTIC AND STYROFOAM today for petes sake. But…one step at a time. My point is this….

its great that groups like the wilderness committee are promoting environmental activism, and its great that they are trying to save the BC parks and wilderness, but where does the water that feed this wilderness come from? It comes from the same place that the oil comes from: The Mackenzie Watershed and the Athabasca River feeding into the muskeg lands of Northern Alberta and making its way into the Canadian Arctic into the ocean, and Voila! into our tap water. Hmm…intriguing. So yes, it is great that we are aware here in BC where it is relatively easy to keep our easy-growing rain-forest lush and beautiful, but what about the fragile north; what about the frozen tundra; what about the delicate wetlands; what about the barren alpine regions; what about the southern Alberta desert? It is more important that ever to keep these way-points clean and working. And the way to do that, as we are seeing is to have people who are aware, and actively care about the environment living in these areas. In my opinion, if they don’t the problem will likely just propagate, the social structure will diminish, the health and wellness of citizens will decline, and the whole caring about the earth thing will just go straight to shit. It’s what has happened in good old fort Mac I am quite sure. When I lived there, there was nice young families, people taking care of the trail systems, and recreating and being healthy. Not so much now, and I believe this is because it got too hard. I am partially to blame; I left. I cared about that area and I left. And other people took my place, who don’t care. I even encouraged my friends to leave as well, who also cared. And people took there places who didn’t. We left because it was too hard. We wanted to be around people who also cared, and go to those places that were easier to care about. But it’s so much more important up there! I am truly worried about it. The Wood Buffalo Region is truly beautiful, and deserves to be treated as such. It deserves people to be using the land for healthy activities who respect it and enjoy the area for all it has to offer. And we cant expect the people working in the oil sands to treat this area well if they don’t care for it. How do we do this?

It starts with caring for yourself. Be active; use the landscape to keep you active. Run up a hill. Reduce morning traffic by riding your bike or carpooling. Care for the food you put in your body. Make sure you know where it is coming from and how you prepare it. Chances are if it is healthier for you, it was healthier for the land it was reaped from.

Care for your home. Keep a nice house and situate it around your friends. Make sure it is easy to get places by foot, bus or bike. Build yourself around your community; dont expect your community to build itsself around you.

If you care for your home, you will probably want your community to be nice as well. You will pay more attention to issues at hand, and be more involved, thus leading a more active, social lifestyle, be more aware of social justice issues, and more concious of your environmental choices.

Travel. You never know how to care for your own area if you dont see how it is affected by everything else in the world. Because it is. And I mean everything.

I think it is so important for a community to be aware, and to be invested in its future. It is for this reason, I encourage you to settle somewhere that maybe there are not like-minded people to yourself. Be a pioneer. Start the change in the community of your choosing. Sure, its lovely living in a place like Vancouver where everyone is all nice and hippy-dippy-trippy. But I challenge you to be a pioneer; start a revolution. Its got to start in the dirty oil mining towns. Skim off that layer of oil and see the beauty in the town!

And buy a helmet. I know they are made out of plastic, but they will save your brain, and we need brains like yours to go out there and make a difference 🙂

And with that, I will leave you with the recipe for my lunch. Its a beautiful sunny day, and I’m craving a drink. Instead I settled with procrasti-blogging and making a delicious drink inspired salad. Bottoms up!

Mojito Salad


Half a cucumber

Half a Nectarine or peach or stone fruit of your choosing

5 leaves fresh mint, minced

2 tsp Hemp hearts

2 tsp shredded unsweetened coconut

zest of half a lime

Juice of half a lime

sprinkle of sliced almonds

Mix er up, down that salad, feel good about yourself, and go be active!



Let The Waves Wash Over You

I figure I should probably say something about the whole flooding situation. Alberta is my home. It always has been and it always will be. It was where I was born and where I grew up and however much I move and however much I claim I am a west coast hippie now, I will always be “Alberta Bound”. Its true. It made me sadder than I thought would happen to see the devastation in Alberta, especially in my hometown of Canmore. It’s one thing to see disasters in nameless places that I have yet to travel to, or places that I have seen in passing, but when it happens to your own home, its a bit of a different story. And I really dont think that I can exactly put into words how it made me feel (I’m not quite the veteran blogger I like to believe I am yet).

But I can say this. It made me realize maybe some more imminently pertinent and personal issues in my life. Some old middle school friends came to visit me this weekend, and while I have kept in touch with them over the years, we have led and continue to lead very separate and very different lives. We have been growing apart for some time now, and even though, I think we will always be friends just because of how long we have known each other, it is now clear to me how much I have actually changed. I have a different lifestyle, different values, and different pastimes. I was trying to grapple with the idea of my town being destroyed and they were busy shopping and worrying about celebrities. This is not what I had in mind for priorities to say the least.

Some things I learned;
-I don’t care in the least what people from high school are doing now. It may sound insensitive, but I mean really; I didn’t exactly form long lasting friendships in that school, and I don’t exactly want to remember my time there.
-If I have to spend more than about 30 seconds putting on “a face” in the morning, I absolutely will not enjoy my day, because it probably means I am doing something mundane and annoying with more annoying people
-I refuse to spend money on food that I can make at home. I mean seriously. WTF. Spend money and don’t get to have fun making it in my own kitchen and don’t get to walk around in my underwear in the process, AND don’t get to tweak it and make it exactly how I want to? Talk about quadruple loss.
-I have changed. Completely. And I have no time in my life to make an effort to cultivate relationships with people I wish to not cultivate relationships with.
-My home is important to me. Not because of my things in my home, but because of the memories that reside in a place. Canmore, Kananaskis and Calgary may not hold any of my worldly goods at the moment, but they do hold the majority of my memories. And when the landscape changes it kind of fucks with those memories. Sounds a little wierd, but I am writing this blog and I will choose what I want to say.
-No matter what, NOBODY, I repeat, NOBODY should or can make you feel like less of a person. No matter what names they choose to call you; no matter what they judge you for; and no matter who they are. You are who you are, you have something in you past they don’t know about, no matter how close they are to you, and every part of your past makes you who you are today, and as such makes you an amazing person.

Ok, enough with the emo kid ramblings. Sorry for that. I will post some recipe goodness soon because that is really all that matters in this world and can make anybody feel better! Some family is coming to visit and will bring some delicious veggies from their amazing farm in the Okanagan. So I will make something with said veggies and share.

Happy Monday!

A Solitary Siesta… And Lemons because Who Doesnt Like Lemons

Well, I’m doing just great with this whole “lets start a blog” thing. I think its a great idea, and then the problem is, I get so caught up in the fun and stress of actual life, that I don’t bother to sit down and write some things up for a blog. Ah well, it must just mean I am having too much fun for my own good.

Anyways, I thought I would use this post to write a bit about a recent trip that I took to Saltspring Island. I have been wanting to do a solo bike trip to Saltspring for a while for a couple of reasons.
1. I need to get out of the city periodically
2. I love Saltspring and it holds quite a few childhood memories for me
3. I wanted to see what travelling alone is like and it seemed like a good idea to go somewhere familiar for the first one.

My travel Buddy Maurice waiting for the ferry with me.

My travel Buddy Maurice waiting for the ferry with me.

Turns out, I love every single part of travelling alone. Well, not completely alone; I had my trusty steed Maurice along with me the whole time! And what a good travel companion he turned out to be!
Travelling alone is not so lonesome as one would believe it to be. I had time to be with my own thoughts, and work some things out in my head (One of the reasons I generally like running, biking etc alone), I didn’t have to wait or hurry for anyone, and if things went wrong I had only to blame, and only myself to be responsible for. It was at this point of things going wrong that I realized; This is the reason I get stressed out over pretty much anything. For instance, when I drive, I never road rage when I am in the car by myself, although frequently when driving someone else somewhere. When studying, I am fine by myself, but get frustrated quickly when trying to understand something with a study buddy. I always liked individual time trial starts better than mass starts or relay races when I ski raced. It goes on…

A solitary breakfast. The best way to start the day

A solitary breakfast. The best way to start the day

And from this, what have I learned? I like to think that since this “revelation” I have become a slightly more tolerant person, and less concerned about things that happen that may be out of my control. I’ll just let it happen, because if I was by myself that’s what I would do.

Take a chill pill, Hil! That’s the motto of the day! Easier sad than done, but since my little soul searching trip I figure it seems to work! Why? Well, I seem to have made a number of new friends and acquaintances since then, be getting along better with my family, and being less stressed throughout the day.
It may not work for everybody, but for me, why not?


And with that, I will leave you with a recipe that I am in the process of creating. Please try it out, let me know what you think, and help me out! I am trying to recreate a lemon loaf at a coffee shop that I like to frequent. It has been taking a bit of a chunk out of my wallet lately so I have been experimenting with my own. It turned out a little bit dry, so next time I think I will cut the flour out completely and add a quarter of a cup of ground oats. We’ll see…

1/2 C Soft Margarine
1/2 C Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 C Applesauce
Grated Rind of 1 lemon
1 C Flour (Cut this out, and add 1/2 C ground oats)
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 C Milk
1/2 C Millet
1/2 C Shredded Coconut

Mix wet together and dry together and combine in a bowl. Bake in a 350 degree oven in a parchment lined loaf pan. Pour glaze over hot cake and let it sit for a while.

Juice of 1 Lemon
1/3 C Granulated Sugar

Like I said mine turned out a bit dry, most likely because millet likes to suck up all moisture ever. Please try this recipe out and tweak it yourself; then let me know what you did and if it turned out!


Taking a shit in the Woods

I know I’m new;

and the title of this post probably scares you off right away;

but read on;

I had an epiphany yesterday….

So I went for a run yesterday and it was raining like a mo fo, so I was going at a reasonably good clip and there was hardly anybody else on the trail. And then one of the most annoying things…

Shit, shit, shit, crap I forgot to take a shit at home, crap!

Oh well, guess I’ll just go in the woods.

Point for trail running. You can take a crap on the side of the trail. Can’t really do that on the road now can you? Excuse me ma’am may I please take a dump on your lawn?

I digress. So I found a nice spot on the side of the trail, away from prying eyes should somebody come along, dug a little hole in the moss, dropped trow and popped a squat. And that’s when my epiphany came along. Not everyone can do this. In fact; this may well be a great measure of overall health of an individual. Can you take a shit in the woods? If you can’t your life probably isn’t quite up to par. If you can it probably means most of the following are true, and all coincidentally high determinants of health:

1. Physical leg strength to hold a squat

2. Capacity to relax enough to actually go in a squat

3. Physical/cardiovascular prowess to be able to get into the woods in the frst place

4. Decent living situation if you live close enough to a forest to do so

5. Environmental consciousness to cover your terd

6. Social consciousness to go off the trail far enough that someone doesn’t come upon you

7. Wilderness knowledge to dig a hole and cover it

8. Education on Foliage and local trees to not wipe with poison Ivy

What does the ability to take a poo in the woods mean to you? Leave your thoughts; I would love to hear them.