10 life lessons learned on the playground (& a giveaway!)

The following is a guest post written by Sarah Olmsted of Imagine Childhood.

I‘ve always thought children are better teachers than yoga instructors. Don’t get me wrong, I love yoga.  It’s something that makes a huge difference in the way I feel on a daily basis. It strengthens my mind, my body, and my spirit. It helps me shake off the worries and cares of my day.  It reminds me to breath deeply and intensionally.

But my yoga instructor still can’t hold a candle to a kid when it comes to teaching me how to be open, present and engaged in my life.  In my experience, children are the definitive authority in this arena.

So, on days when I’m feeling particularly stuck, I tend to gravitate more toward the sandbox than Savasana.

Here are ten life lessons I’ve learned on the playground.

  1. Everyone you meet is a potential friend (no matter how many legs they have)
  2. Spontaneity is a quick way to change up your perspective (especially when it involves climbing trees)
  3. Both caterpillars and butterflies are equally amazing
  4. Getting your hands dirty is a good thing
  5. Circling the same spot over and over can be enlightening
  6. Illogical processes can lead to wonderful discoveries
  7. Every path is worth investigating (even if it leads to nowhere)
  8. The reward of the slide is worth the effort of the climb
  9. Cloud watching is a form of meditation
  10. When all else fails, running through the grass will always make you feel better

Chasing the Magic of Childhood

“Something about the place is familiar, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Off the bat, there aren’t any landmarks or striking features that jog your memory to a specific time or event, but still, it feels like you’ve been there before. The way the trees move when the wind goes through them, the smell of damp earth, the deer trail stretching up the hill—they all point to something you can’t quite reach.

With each step down the path, the colors get richer as the light becomes more and more filtered by the green canopy of aspen leaves above. Under your feet, leaves from seasons past crunch and crackle, and for just a moment, gravity feels different. As if somehow it’s pulling a little less. As if the space between your feet and the ground has widened by the width of a single hair.

With this new sense of gravity, your steps are quicker, more playful than the daily gait you’ve become accustomed to. Their rhythm is a syncopated cousin to the pace you know, to the tempo you’ve settled into after decades of traveling from place to place.

It’s almost as if your feet have a mind of their own, a memory that your brain can’t connect to. They lead you through the woods with a sense of purpose, a directive you can only hope to be clued in on at some point in the near future. Your hands pick up sticks and throw them in the air so your eyes can see them float through the branches, weightless, if only for a millisecond. Your arms pull your body up the trunk of a tree. Your lungs breathe in the scent of leaves and sap.

More and more, you realize you have been here before. Glimpses of faded memories float by your eyes like passing clouds, changing their form with the wind. At first it’s like an old movie, a story you learn as the scenes unfold. Then the characters slowly begin to come into focus—inch by inch, frame by frame.

In the foreground, there’s a small figure wearing a blue shirt and a pair of jeans. It’s running and laughing, building forts from fallen branches, lying in the grass and gazing at clouds. Turning your head, you see the same shapes in the sky. Looking down, you see the same blue shirt.

The faded memories have become focused on the world in front of you. On the grass where you’re sitting. On the landscape of childhood.”

~ From Imagine Childhood: Exploring the World Through Nature, Imagination, and Play

You have to go away to come back.  I’ve heard that phrase over and over again throughout my life but I don’t think I really felt the full truth of it until I began writing this book.  Until I began wandering through those woods again, until I began playing again.

This is a book of projects, but it’s also a book of experiences.  It’s as much about making and doing as it is about being, but mostly. . .

. . . it’s about living. . .

. . .  in the magic. . .

. . . of childhood.

It’s beautiful here, won’t you come out and play?

IMAGINE CHILDHOOD: Exploring the World Through Nature, Imagination, and Play-  25 Projects that Spark Curiosity and Adventure.

This book is a celebration of childhood through the crafts and activities that invite wonder and play. The twenty-five projects and activities in this book are meant to speak to the way children engage with the world.

These projects are not about what is produced in the end (although that part is fun too) but rather they are stepping-off points—activities that spark curiosity, an adventure, or an investigation.

They’re about the process of getting there. They’re about the conversations that happen while making things together. They’re about getting to know the world inch by inch. They’re about exploring imaginary universes and running through real forests. They’re about living in childhood . . . regardless of your actual age. They’re about being a kid.


Roost Books is generously offering THREE Simple Homeschool readers a copy of Imagine Childhood!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post, answering this question: “What life lesson have you learned from watching your children play?

This giveaway has now ended.

If you’d like two additional ways to enter the giveaway, here’s how:

Additional Entries

1. Follow Imagine Childhood and Simple Homeschool on Pinterest. Then come back and leave an additional comment here, telling me you did so.

2. ‘Like’ Imagine Childhood and Simple Homeschool on Facebook. Then come back here again and leave a comment, telling me you did so.

This giveaway has now ended.


  1. I have learned to love more deeply than I ever though was possible before having kids. I have also learned to see the world in a new way. That you have to question everything. Finally, I have learned to name pretty much every truck imaginable which is not a skill I ever thought I would need :-).

  2. I have learned to trust in yourself, and your abilities.

  3. I have learned that anything can become something else with imagination. And that it is fun to carry little things around with you!

  4. I have liked both of u on fb

  5. I am LEARNING (always learning it seems) to tackle projects or follow passions when inspiration strikes instead of waiting to get all the plans in place. My kids get an idea for a project or play activity and they take off, never worrying about whether all the supplies or materials are available – instead, they improvise along the way. I need more of that mentality in my life!

  6. I am following both of u on pinterest

  7. I have learned that simple is often better.
    (Think cardboard box forts)

  8. Melissa White says:

    I have learned to laugh!!! :)

  9. Melissa White says:

    follower of imagine childhood on fb :)

  10. Melissa White says:

    liker of simple homeschool on fb :)

  11. Watching my children teaches me that toys are incidental props in the landscape of their imagination, usually a stick or piece of fabric will do : )
    Emmalina’s latest post: Pumpkinpaloosa

  12. Tammy Eldridge MacIsaac says:

    I have liked both of you on facebook

  13. Have liked imagination childhood and SH on facebook and am following on Pinterest : )
    Emmalina’s latest post: Pumpkinpaloosa

  14. I have learned to SLOW DOWN. And to listen, because if I don’t listen when they are ready, I won’t hear it.

  15. I like you both on FB!

  16. Sounds like a great book! I love that children are still in awe and amazed by the little things and I want to be more like that!
    Krissa’s latest post: Healthy Living ebook Bundle {$29 for $300 worth of books!}

  17. Life lesson from play: The important stuff, like playing, takes time… don’t interrupt it. And follow you both on Pinterest!!!
    se7en’s latest post: Saturday Spot: Cape Town by Night Thanks to City SightSeeing Cape Town…

  18. I have learned to see joy in very simple things …. a rock, a bird flying, etc.

  19. My kids have taught me that there can be magic in the mundane. I love Imagine Childhood and can’t wait to read the book!
    Casey’s latest post: GFCF Chocolate Zucchini Snack Cake

  20. I follow both on Pinterest!

  21. I Like both on Facebook!

  22. Crafty Mama says:

    I’ve learned how much of their lives revolve around play, and how important it is for them to play. A lot of things they learn throughout the day are practiced when they play, especially sharing. :)

  23. Crafty Mama says:

    I follow Imagine Childhood and Simple Homeschool on Pinterest! (StephanieW——)

  24. I’ve learned that a good day ends with dirty feet.

  25. Crafty Mama says:

    I “like” both on Facebook! :) (StephanieW——)

  26. I like both on Facebook.

  27. I have learned to take a deep breath and enjoy playing WITH my son, instead of trying to get him to go in the direction I think play should be.

  28. Great book!

  29. I like you both on facebook and pinterest!

  30. I’ve learned to pay attention to the lite things- the tiny bugs, the wind rustling the leaves and rely delight in them.
    I follow both on fb.

  31. Jennifer E. says:

    I’ve learned that it’s wonderful to slow down and enjoy the simple moments together.

  32. I’m following both on Pinterest.

  33. I have learned that we were designed by God to play, create, and enjoy life. What I deem as so important is not actually that important at all. Playing is learning. My kids have amazing imaginations because they have been allowed the time to foster their creative side through outdoor play.

  34. I have learned never to underestimate anyone, never to assume I know what they do and do not understand, and therefore to think the best of people. My daughter continually surprises me with what she can do.

  35. Two things I’ve learnt from watching my kids play –
    1. The best time is NOW.
    2. Tidying the lounge is an act of futility.
    Nova’s latest post: Little guys

  36. Following on Pinterest & “liked” on Facebook too!
    Nova’s latest post: Little guys

  37. No offense–This is kind of a disappointing website. I was under the impression that this Homeschooling site was established to discuss methods of teaching your children the importance of learning academics, such as math, reading, etc. I don’t want another website that teaches how to explore nature and make even more arts and crafts (that will eventually end up in the garbage). I was expecting copies of worksheets, different teaching methods and links to websites for such, and maybe some fun word problems. I was wrong. Again, no offense: I will just find somewhere else to go. Much success and love to you and your family.

  38. Let Go…….

  39. I have learned that exploring is so much more fun if I know I have a secure base to which I can return, and rainy days can be fun you’ve got the right boots–prepare for and embrace the disappointments!

  40. I have learned that even though my children are small, they still want to be heard.

  41. I followed you both on pinterest.

  42. I followed you both on facebook.

  43. Some books are best read cover to cover in one sitting. (Especially big thick ones.)

  44. I learned it’s OK to be adventurous even when that means getting out of my comfort zone.
    Southern Gal’s latest post: Multitude Monday

  45. I followed you both on Pinterest.
    Southern Gal’s latest post: Multitude Monday

  46. I have learned that the coolest discoveries come when we set aside the electronic gadgets and fancy toys and get outside.

  47. I have learned that making a mess IS really fun!

  48. I have learned that you enjoy life so much more when you truly focus on what you are doing IN THE MOMENT. Rather than worrying about what else there is to be doing at any given time, children put all of their energy into what they are doing in the here and now. It’s much easier said than done, but when I make a conscious effort to enjoy what I’m doing, rather than think about what else needs to be done, I realize why young children are naturally so happy.

  49. I learned to shut up, although it’s still hard to do!

  50. 2. ‘Like’ Imagine Childhood and Simple Homeschool on Facebook.