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Kids and Independent Play: How Parents can Create Hospitable Neighborhoods

In order for kids to freely engage in independent outdoor play, parents have to take the time to fully engage with their neighborhood,  integrating it into their daily lives.

Reading the independent play literature, I see a lot of references to adults who either generally disapprove of kids playing independently outside, or who have actually inhibited kids from playing in any number of ways including stopping the kids to ask what they're doing, haranguing the parents, or worst of all: calling the police.  Allowing kids to play independently outside is an important issue to me, and I'm glad to see it's being addressed, not only by concerned parents, but also by governments--Utah recently passed a law that 'legalizes' kids playing outside on their own.  Kids playing outside is an odd thing to have to legalize in a  'free' country, but in the face of the police being called when kids are spotted alone, I suppose some guidance is necessary.

While I've also …
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Catnip Reservoir, Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada

We spent our first night at the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge at Catnip Reservoir.  The reservoir and its resident avian conglomeration are gorgeous! We saw Canadian geese, wood ducks, and sandhill cranes.  (OK, I didn’t just see sandhill cranes, I was loudly escorted out of one section of the reservoir by a pair of sandhill cranes who had decided I was just too close to their hidden nest.) 



The campsites are ‘primitive’ which in this case means they don’t have running water, but they do have a tent pad of sorts, and a fire ring.  The campground also has a lone bathroom.  The eaves of the outhouse are populated by nesting (cliff?) swallows.



ProTip: If you take the campsite in front of the outhouse, the swallows have decimated the local mosquito population.



We hiked up and across the bluff bordering the reservoir in search of an attractive looking fishing spot and a trail down to it.  We found neither, but the hike was a blast nonetheless.  The gang—(7 y.o. No. One, 5 y.o. No. Two, …

"Bug! Adventures of Forager" Rings True

The creators of Bug! Adventures of Forager are coming to our local comic book shop today!  Seven year-old No. 1 and I read Bug! starting about a year ago.  I picked up a copy when we went to the same funny book shop to meet the creators of another of our favorites, Doom Patrol.  Both comic books are produced by the DC Comics imprint, Young Animal.

The book written by Lee Allred, drawn by Michael Allred, and colored by Laura Allred picks up where DC's 1988, Cosmic Odyssey left off.  Turns out Bug wasn't dead at the end of the '88 book he was, "...merely dormant. Science, blah blah blah."
#LinerNotes My stick figure for the Metronsplaing panel vs. Mike's actual art. Dear DC: #IcanHazArtJobNow? pic.twitter.com/IEkFKfaqeK — Lee Allred (@lee_allred) May 12, 2017 Bug, aka Forager, almost immediately encounters a talking teddy bear, and a ghost girl.  The three become fast travelling buddies, after an accident triggers a Mother Box made of Dominoes to open portals …

Hanging with the Gang

I see this question a lot, "What kind of activities can I do with a kid that they'll enjoy?"

For me, the word activity has come to mean something designed specifically for children as in 'Activity Book'.  The question starts to answer itself when that word is removed to give, "What can the kid and I do that would be enjoyable?"



In my experience, kids really enjoy seeing, and participating in life, as it exists now, unabridged for their consumption.  So, my answer? They enjoy doing pretty much everything they're included in! Here's a list on answers I compiled the last time I heard this question.  Got any favorites you'd like to add?
Grocery shopping, putting them on them on the ground to help me with shopping, or just to explore as we go.Running errands, the gang loves going pretty much anywhere to see new things. The pipe & tubing store was a big hit for example. Feed stores are fun. There's always something new going on. Where we use…

Meerkats and Ravens

One... TwoThree.  One... Three... "Ummm... Oh hey! Hey Two!" Two, Three, Meerkat!  One just piqued a Meerkat!  I waved, just barely, quick eye contact, a tip of the head, a grin, a gentle raise of my hand in a faint parenting salute.  The meerkat's eyes flashed from mildly alarmed to mildly amused as they turned to watch One hook it down the sidewalk at a rocket pace, hands held flat for 'maximum speed' as she ran, jumping to a stop a few feet before the corner.

The gang--7 y.o. No. One, 5 y.o. No. Two, and 3 y.o. No. Three, were having a blast with their urban version of 'beneficial risky, independent play'.  They know they're free to do as they please as we wander around downtown, as long as they check every driveway, and stop to wait for me at every corner.  On the long city blocks, they tend to get way ahead.  I watch for a patch of pink polka-dotted tights, or a bouncing lock of ultra-blonde hair to flag them as they bob and weave through the cr…

Risky Play Urban-Style

'Risky' play is a new term for what a lot of us would have just called playing as kids.  It involves doing things like digging around in the dirt, climbing trees, and exploring the neighborhood with little or no supervision.  I'm a huge fan of 'risky' outdoor play having partaken in it as a kid myself.  We camp, hike, and/or we hit the beach most weeks.  OK, the gang--7 y.o. No. One, 5 y.o. No. Two, and 3 y.o. No. Three--hikes every day.  They also dig in the dirt, climb trees, run away from waves, and dash down hills routinely.

I'm also a fan of what might be deemed 'risky' urban play, which I haven't seen discussed as often in the modern literature although Colin Ward was a proponent back in the '70s.  Here are some of the ways we try to practice 'risky' play when we're in town:

Venturing Ahead
The gang tends to cruise out ahead of us when we walk around town.  They know they can go as far as the next corner, or the next driveway.  …

Bus Surfing, Dorian Gray, and Loveness

The gang, (7 y.o. No. 1, 5 y.o. No. 2 and 3 y.o. No. 3), are reading "The Picture of Dorian Gray" this week.  I hear that the story will become more variated as we go on, but for the moment, it's been easy-going and pleasant.  Two somewhat attractive men, one an artist putting the finishing touches on what may be his greatest painting, the other a Lord lounging on a divan made Persian saddle bags are discussing a beautiful man, the subject of said artist's, said painting.  This, like The Island of Dr. Moreau before it has sprung from 2's interest in ghosts and zombies, and our library's book group studying Mystery and Horror in Victorian England.  So far, it's a blast.  We're learning new words, new turns of phrase, and new, albeit fictional and archaic, surroundings.

The gang have also been studying movement.  They're working on balance, strength, and falling.  Their work has changed our public transit system from a living room surrogate to a gy…