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. That laughter really is the best medicine.

  2. Liked on facebook

  3. Following on pinterest

  4. I have learned how two people can really build off of one another to create something entirely unique- a favorite game being “hotel” in which my daughter can put the babies to bed and my son can organize the restaurant, make menus…

  5. My children have taught me that its not the best toys that create fun, its the presence of each other who create the most memorable play times… Being present is all they really need!

  6. That their toys often uses phrases they heard me say first. Yikes.