What happens when we prioritize play?

This morning, I spoke with someone who said she’d been following my blog ‘for years’.  I started this way back in 2009, and for a long time it was a place to deposit the stories I carried home from play sessions – those moments which captivated or haunted me.  It’s been a document of my shift from ranging work to long-distance support, and a way for me to process attempts to prioritize play in my own life as well as those of children.

The same questions drive me as always.  What is play?  How does can look and feel?  What does it mean, to make play your first and guiding priority?

That’s why I couldn’t be happier to announce that Pop-Ups is partnering with KOOP for an upcoming conference on EXACTLY THAT.


I’ll be one Keynote, followed by (oh my goodness) Peter Gray!

We’re enormous fans of Kelsey and Naomi, and VERY pleased to help offer information on adventurous play and Playwork across the Mid West.  There’s still time to book your spot at the Early Bird rate, and to help spread the word about this event!

Register here

Press release


Bounding into the cold and bright

I love this little patch in between holidays, when the nights are long and the world seems quiet.  Freezing rain encased everything in a thick clear candy shell, and gave the thick powder snow a crust like creme brûlée.


It’s a good time for reflecting and planning, and if you can do that while eating mashed potato all the better!  In the next year, I won’t be taking any long-term residencies because it’s time for me to live in Vermont instead.  However, I couldn’t give up traveling completely!

What’s your plan for summer staff training?

As Pop-Ups, we’ve done keynotes and workshops with educators, parks staff, librarians and community center volunteers.  I’m now taking expressions of interest for two mini-tours which you could be a part of.  Are you in:

MA or CT (late March/early April)

OH, IN, IL or Upstate NY (late April/May)

Workshops, film screenings, play audits and public events – there are so many ways to welcome more play in your setting and community!

Sessions are always bespoke, and common themes include:

– Incorporating opportunities for risk incrementally

– The history and future of adventure playgrounds

– Working with parents and the public

Whatever your plans, I hope that you have a marvelous year to come, and that you tell me all about it.

Gender and playwork, the return

This story and picture were kindly contributed by a friend and colleague who wishes to remain anonymous.

“I’m gonna draw you.” says a kindergartener. We’re both sitting by a patch of sand. I had been drawing abstract lines in the sand with a stick while chatting with children and she took to the sand with a stick as well. “Okay.” I said.


“Here’s your head, and your arms are like this.”, she looked up at me then back to her drawing, a practiced artist wanting to get my likeness.
“Stop moving!” Whoops. I had gotten distracted and looked away but got back into my pose at her urging.
As she drew the details of my head she said, “Your hair is short, like a boy’s… Are you a boy or a girl?”
“I’m a little of both.” I answered, with a shrug – one of the handful of answers I give depending on context.
She took that in stride and moved on to my neck, and my body. No further questions needed for now.
I think a lot about how the children see me. I try to make sure I show through my body language that I’m available for play. I’m sure that even if I presented as more stereotypically female or male they’d still get the impression that I’m different than other adults by the way i move: I run and hang upside down on the monkey bars, I climb into small spaces and lie on the ground. But I do think that being read as “in-between” in gender adds to my representing an “in-between” adult.