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’ve learned that a smile can invite almost anyone in to play.
    Caroline’s latest post: His Voice and Our Voices {Five Minute Friday}

  2. I am following Imagine Childhood and Simple Homeschool.

  3. Angie Alston says:

    The simplest things sometimes bring the most joy.

  4. dawn finch says:

    I have learned thatypu don’t always have to be perfect. having fun can be messy and that is ok

  5. As I watch my children I am often in awe of their ability to forgive so quickly & sincerely & then continue in their play. What a life lesson to the adults in their lives! :)

  6. that playing really feeds the imagination

  7. I have learned from my daughter that just because something is familiar, that doesn’t mean it is boring. Finding new joy in the daily routines (or favorite toys) is a great lesson in contentment that she has shared with me (albeit, unknowingly!).

  8. Hoping to win it!

  9. Kimberly R. says:

    I have learned from my daughter that even things I thought I knew about…I am seeing them in a new light, through her eyes.

  10. Favourite life lesson I learned from my kids playing is tha there’s always time for a hug or a kiss!

  11. Kimberly R. says:

    I also like both simple homeschool and imagine childhood on FB!

  12. I’ve learned from watching my kids that everyone has a different way of interacting with people and that it’s ok to be yourself: whether shy, outgoing, serious, gregarious, loud, or imaginative.

  13. I already like Simple Homeschool and Imagine Childhood on Facebook. Thanks for the giveaway!
    Lorinda Davis’s latest post: Blackberry Apple Pie

  14. Started following both Simple Homeschool and Imagine Childhood on Pinterest. You both have some really great pins on there- I’m glad I started following you!
    Lorinda Davis’s latest post: Blackberry Apple Pie

  15. I’ve learned that play can be real work, and real work can be play.
    Jennifer’s latest post: Holy Ground

  16. A hill is an invitation for a wild, tumbling ride.
    I’m so blessed to have my girls help me live childhood again, this time with eyes wide open and two friends along.
    Heather Caliri’s latest post: Countdown to Buenos Aires: October

  17. Play is a simple way to bring joy to a child’s world.
    Joyce M’s latest post: Review and Giveaway: The Sparkle Box

  18. I’ve learned to re-see the wonder of the world and the outdoors.

  19. I like both of you on Facebook!

  20. I like both of you on Pinterest (just the homeschooling board for Jamie’s site).

  21. domestic diva says:

    I’ve learned that magic happens more frequently than we expect. :-)

  22. I’ve learned that there is wonder and joy in so many things that I just pass by…

  23. I’ve learned the importance of letting go and the joy and intense learning that can result from a little (okay alot) of dirt and water.

  24. I’m following Imagine Childhood and Simple Homeschool on Pinterest!

  25. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve learned to let go.

  26. That every used object can be recycled into a racetrack!
    Melissa Jones’s latest post: MommyBee Designs

  27. Jennifer J says:

    There’s always time to slow down and enjoy the moment.

  28. Jennifer J says:

    I follow both pinterest boards.

  29. Jennifer J says:

    I like both pages on facebook.

  30. We often learn the most form our mistakes, rather than from the things that we do right!
    Debbye’s latest post: How Your Menstrual Cycle Can Affect Your Baby’s Sleep

  31. I now have 4 children ages 6 and under. With my first, I was so worried about the mess that I never let him feed himself/dig in the mud/paint free-spiritedly. As more came along and the mess multiplied I learned to relax and enjoy the joyful exploration and learning that comes with those untidy things. Luckily for my first, the next ones came along pretty quickly so he didn’t have to spend too much time mess-less!

  32. I liked you both on FB. Thanks for this!

  33. I am following both on Pinterest. Thanks!!

  34. Almost anything can become a toy.

  35. When you really stop and look at most of the world, there is something interesting to be seen.

  36. I like Imagine Childhood on FB

  37. I like Simple Homeschool on FB

  38. lesson learned: it doesn’t take much to be happy

  39. liked (facebook)

  40. followed (pinterest)

  41. I’ve learned the lesson of simplicity, when a child plays, they teach themselves that a simple object can become the most important thing, for it can become almost anything. As we grow older, we look at the more elaborate, the more “glitzy”, the more intricate, as being the best of the best. A child learns that a simple object IS the best of the best. We need to strip away the glitz, the hype, the coverings to find that we already have the best of the best, right in front of us. I remember Cinderella when the mice are transformed into the beautiful horses for her carriage – its in how you look at the simple that defines how you look at the glitz.

  42. I’ve LIKED Simple Homeschool and have already liked Imagine Childhood.

  43. I’ve pinned both.

  44. I’ve learned that it’s important to sit on the floor every day. Thanks for the giveaway!

  45. The lesson I have learned from watching my children play is really just to slow down and enjoy everything more. It seems so simple, yet so hard.

  46. I don’t have children of my own yet (one month to go!), but I am around children a lot and have learned how much easier life is when you forgive and forget. People are always going to hurt your feelings whether they mean to or not, and children are such a good example of how to move on and keep enjoying life.

  47. Just liked the Imagine Childhood and Simple Homeschool Facebook pages!

  48. I am also following Simple Homeschool and Imagine Childhood on Pinterest. So excited to check out your boards!

  49. I’ve learned the beauty of a quiet mind and a peaceful heart. Keeping life slow so that my children can have this has taught me the immense importance of these states of being.

  50. I’ve learned how HARD simple things can be. Did you know that if you push a train from the caboose, rather than pulling on the engine, it buckles, jumps the track, and falls over? I don’t remember not knowing that, but it’s what my son is wrestling with right now. He’s two.
    Alisha’s latest post: Dress-up