community · creativity · culture · design · learning · technology

Electric Sky Art Camp hosts artists, hackers, and nature lovers alike

I promise these guys are not paying me to promote this event. It just sounded cool and I thought I would share with other art, nature, and science lovers.

tubular lamp hanging from tree

Electric Sky is an art and tech weekend campathon June 8-11th 2017, bringing together artists, technologists, designers, hackers, makers, and friends to collaboratively engage with the environment in new and exciting ways. Electric Sky is a cross between an artists’ retreat and a hackathon, where you’ll spend several days in the woods, on the river, in our outdoor creativity lab, making stuff with people like you. You may arrive with well-developed ideas and half-finished projects, or you may arrive with no idea what you want to do but are game to jump in on a collaborative project.

This is a community-oriented event, and there’s plenty of space for camping, with lots to do in the area. In addition, we will have workshops appropriate for kids, so they too may experience the joys of creating with technology in the woods.

If you are excited by the idea of creating an individual or collaborative project around our theme the Wondering Woods, we invite you to apply to be a supported participating artist or creative technologist, to receive free tickets and funds to support your project.

They are taking applications for projects until May 1. Hosted in Skykomish in Western Washington. Check out the event page to learn more.

health · learning · mental health · Social

How the cost of daycare and ineffective regulations are bad for businesses

Preface to anyone who has children in a corporate-owned daycare that could be encompassed in the below description: I in no way mean to critique you or your child-rearing decisions, I am criticizing the system that has built up around these behemoth corporations that are more interested in making money rather than caring for kids.

Kids play outside with a throwable computer
In Washington State, small in-home day-cares are getting pushed out of business.

The push for large corporate, academics-based daycare and preschools in the U.S. to monopolize the industry and childhood development practices has gone too far!

My daycare provider this month had to bump up her prices 150% due to new regulations passed by legislators that were pushed through by big daycare corporations; supported with the sole intention of driving smaller in-home daycares like my provider’s out of business.

This kind of “pay to play” legislation is not only unethical, this particular one is supporting a system of large, low-personalization, academics-driven style of daycare that is not only inappropriate for children but downright HARMFUL to their development. Eight-month-olds do not need to be studying the alphabet! They need to be playing blocks with their friends and learning colors and counting through unstructured play time, not forced circle time and flash cards!

It is better for children to have smaller groups of kids to play together, with regular, consistent caretakers that can provide personal touch and unstructured play time.

This kind of system is also a HUGE burden on working parents. This kind of price increase – $100’s of dollars in my daycare’s case – is unmanageable for so many working families, and the high prices of childcare means that it pushes hundreds of thousands of well-educated, highly motivated parents out of the workforce during their prime working years. In-home daycares are also more flexible on hours and more understanding if a parent is 5 minutes late with pick-up.

This is also incredibly anti-small business; my daycare provider is strongly considering retirement after this last batch of legislation and required price increases, not to mention potential loss of revenue due to parents pulling their kids out of her daycare because they can’t afford it. I can only imagine other daycare providers are struggling with the same dilemma.

I support paying higher prices for higher quality child care, but this price increase is purely due to new legislations, fees, and bureaucracy that can be absorbed by larger corporations but not smaller businesses. I support safety and regulations of childcare, but not to the point where businesses are required to feed children  only cow or soy milk (yes, that is a rule in Washington State).

If the government is really interested in creating a strong, resilient, competitive workforce, AND/OR is really interested in supporting small businesses, this is NOT the way to do it!

As soon as I figure out which congress person to write to I will do it and share it here! If there is specific regulations you are aware of that are impacting costs or food options, or even play time, please comment and post them below, so when we write our emails, postcards, or angry YouTube video rants we’ll know exactly which regulations to call out as unjust.

In the meantime, please give your daycare provider a hug, no matter who they are, and let them know we care.

behavior · children · education · emotion · health · learning · mental health · play

How to Play-Fight with your Kids


After posting a blog about why I choose to play fight with my kids, I got a great response from parents and non-parents alike. What surprised me however was how many people – moms, uncles/aunts, non-kid affiliated adults – reached out to me and asked, “How do I even get started?”

It turns out a lot of people never play-fought as a kids…
They were told to never hit, never push, never poke.
Or they just never had a good example from their parents or older siblings or relatives.

Or as parents now, they have played with older kids but when they try to do the same thing with their little one she just cries and runs away.

That makes me so sad. There are so many benefits to play-fighting as a kid, and as a grown-up. Both my husband and I are huge advocates of physical play, including roughhousing. Play-fighting doesn’t have to be rough and tumble all the time either; there are some great games that involve the same elements as physical play but are more gentler on the body than traditional wrestling or punching games (pretending to be movable mannequins is one of my favorites).

Based on my research of studying physical play behaviors, and my own experience with my kids, not to mention observing my husband coach and facilitate grown-ups on how to play for the past 10+ years, here is what I’ve found to be good tips to get started:

Let the kids lead: Young animals of all species, including kids, are naturally the best players in the entire animal kingdom. It is how they learn about their world. So let them lead. You can come up with the game, but often times the kids already have a game in mind. Or, give them a gentle poke or push and see how they respond. Sometimes they might not be in the mood, but sometimes they will take your cue and run with it.
Anecdotally, I’ve noticed often girls will be done rough-playing sooner than boys or need more breaks, whereas little boys will often go and go until they start to cry, so don’t be surprised if either happens.

Match their strength…: When we see big dogs and little dogs play together, often the big dog will handicap themselves; they won’t push as hard, or they’ll get down on the ground so the little dog can actually reach them. Similarly, match your play partner’s strength. Push only has hard as they push, or hit only as hard as they hit.

…But show off yours too: Of course you can and should try doing lifts, carries, spins, gentle knock downs, and other things that require you to have more strength. That’s part of the fun of playing with someone bigger than you!

Let them win (sometimes): Similar to the dog play example above, if you want the game to keep going then make sure they’re having fun, which means letting them get a few punches in on you or knocking you down. (If you aren’t comfortable yet with falling down, think of this as a great way to practice slowly falling down in a safe way.) But that also means you get to win sometimes too; don’t be a punching bag, but it’s all about taking turns so you are both having fun.

Communicate: Check-in, see how they are doing. Ask if they want to switch up the game, or if you’re ready to switch it up or take a break, tell them. Which leads to…


Teach them no
: The whole joy of play-fighting is the give and the take (have I said this enough times yet?). When it’s not fun anymore, both you AND your child get to say no, stop, time out, or I’m done. At any time. And, as the grown-up, you also need to be able to read your play-partner’s cues and tell when they’re not having a good time, even if they’re not specifically saying no.

Tickling is a great example. A lot of people see ticking as “harmless fun” and it’s tricky when a little kid is laughing and saying no at the same time, but it can be quite scary for a kid (or a grown-up) if they mean no and it isn’t respected. But, it’s also a great way to build trust with your play partner, whether they are a kid or a grown-up. Now, I HATE being tickled! HATE it! No tickles ever, thank you! Ever since I was little. My mom has stories of her trying to tickle me as a tiny baby, and even so much as putting her fingers out to say “coochie coochie coo” and I would just freak out! And she listened. So no tickles. As a grown-up I have not always had partners that understood that tickling is not fun for me, or when to stop tickling (as in immediately). But thanks to my mom I knew that I could choose to say no and that needed to be respected.

The same goes for tickling your kid; if they say stop, even if they’re laughing, stop. If they want more, they will ask for it (kids are good at that sort of thing).
And this can be expanded to all kinds of physical play; we need to learn how to listen to our bodies and our limits. If we get scared or frustrated, we need to learn to take a step back and regroup, and that we’re safe to do so. Physical play with a safe person like your parents is a great place to practice that.

Have fun!: In the end, that’s what this is all about. Sometimes you’re not in the mood to wrestle, and sometimes you are, or maybe you’ve got knee pain and can’t get on the ground, so just go with what feels right in the moment. Make up stories (“we’re bears, rawr!”), give yourself challenges (you can’t move from one spot; you can only use one arm), and just see what happens.

There are lots of different fun games you can try out with your kids and prompt you both to play more. Here is a great example of kid-led play fighting:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqFJEQopKdY

I’d love to hear some of the games you have come up with with your little play partners, so share them in the comments below.

Save

behavior · brain · children · cognition · emotion · environment · family · happiness · health · learning · mental health · play · psychology

Why I Play-Fight with my Kids

In some ways this seems like an overly obvious, unnecessary post. Of course parents play fight with their kids! Right? Yet I am surprised by how few MOMS play fight with their kids.

I do. And I love it! I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I do, but I do. Here are my top reasons why.

1. It teaches them body awareness – How hard do I have to push to make something happen? How strong am I before I get pushed over? How do I get myself back upright? How hard is too hard to hit? Also being aware of how strong they are now versus a month from now is important too as they grow and get bigger and stronger; I’ve known too many bigger little kids that don’t know their own strength.

2. It teaches them spatial awareness – How far away is that body I am playing with? Where are my legs and arms while I’m wrestling? Oops, now I’m upside down, how does that make me feel?

3. It makes them feel loved and given attention.

4. It’s fun! I’ll bet almost everyone at one time or another has played slug bug, tickle time, or wrestled with your sibling, or started a real fight with your sibling that by the end you two were both on the floor laughing.

5. They feel safe acting out being big and strong and knocking me down or punching me and knowing that I can take it.

6. Kids who play fight with their dads are being shown that men are big and strong. For somewhat feminist but mostly totally selfish reasons, I want them to know that women (i.e. ME!) can be big, strong, and tough too.

7. Along those same lines, grown-ups who play fight with kids are demonstrating that when people play or play fight, they are being respectful of each other’s boundaries, and if you don’t feel safe you can and should ask the other person to stop. If the other person doesn’t respect your boundaries then kids learn that’s not okay and they get time out or kids or grown-ups stop playing with them. This is a super-critical skill that is missing in so much rhetoric, both physical and verbal, in our society today.

8. As their mom, it is so fun to watch my kids get stronger, faster, more coordinated, and more creative in their physical play. They mix strategies, including saying silly things to catch me off guard, which is all part of the art of play.

9. Finally, I want to promote physical play of all kinds with kids and grown-ups alike. Whether that’s boxing, hiking, jump rope, tricycles, making forts, tree-climbing, or just going for an exploratory walk around the neighborhood, I support it.

I’m sure there are other reasons I’m forgetting, but those are my main ones.

My husband teaches natural movement classes, and before that parkour and martial arts. Slowly more women are joining the adult classes in all of those fields. But especially in the kids’ classes, the moms are just as likely to join their kids, but almost none participate given the opportunity. Why?! Some women (and men) don’t like physical contact activities. And that’s totally fine. But more often than not women are intimidated. I say no more fear! Get in there and push someone.

Why do you play fight with your kids? Or why don’t you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

UPDATE: I wrote a follow-up post about safe ways to roughhouse with your children that you can find here.

community · creativity · culture · health · learning · play

M.O.B.I. Camp at Nine Mountain: A.K.A. My Reintroduction to Physical Play

A week ago I got to participate in a 7-day movement experience. Not a fitness camp or sports camp, or dance seminar or MMA workshop. Instead it was a collective gathering of 30 individuals with multiple movement backgrounds coming together to train, learn, and collaborate on understanding movement and how to push our bodies in a healthy way.

20160711_175615.jpg

This event was designed for professional movers – dancers, fighters, clowns, capoeiristas, tree climbers, traceurs, and more. But what I took away from this experience as essentially a non-mover with a 9-5 desk job was just how accessible movement really is for all of us. How it does not have to be a scary, grueling, sweaty, or complicated thing. It does not have to break your body, but instead can heal it. Movement is innately fun and enjoyable for humans, yet somehow we have forgotten that.

This week-long workshop brought together coaches from all movement backgrounds who had all come across the same question: why wasn’t their practice fun anymore? Why did they feel constrained, injured, or simply broken? All of them had gone on different journeys but had all come to the same conclusions of using movement as joy, as exploration, as celebration, as a way to communicate with others and the world.

Out in the hills of western Massachusetts, near the Deer Hill State Reservation, Kelly Bitov, Aaron Cantor, and Jared Williams organized the M.O.B.I. Camp – Movement Orientation and Body Intelligence.

In addition to Aaron Cantor, the coaches there included my husband Rafe Kelley, founder of Evolve Move Play; Shira Yaziv, owner of Athletic Playground; Nuria Bowart, and Tom Weksler. That said, almost everyone there were expert movers, dancers, musicians, and players, with some movement background and area of expertise.

This was truly a bit of an expedition into the unknown for me, not just in the location but what a non-mover like me would and could do.

Single-handing it with two toddlers, car seats in tow, we flew from Seattle, through Boston Logan Airport, and thanks to a generous M.O.B.I. Camp participant carpooling us 2.5 hours west, we arrived in the peaceful quiet of Nine Mountain Retreats.

For seven days we and about 30 other people made food as a community, explored movement as a community, and slept under one roof or nearby in tents.

20160713_154152

We would meet every morning at 8am on the deck and start moving, mostly outside, and basically not stop until bed. There were breaks in between workshops, but there was always some movement challenge or game to try in between class, helping with meals and clean-up, re-filling the water cooler, or in my case chasing the kids around, and chasing or carrying them up and down two flights of stairs.

20160711_151529

The one core element that I noticed about the entire week was how every single teacher, regardless of their background or emphasis, had one underlying criteria to their movement: PLAY!

20160714_133908
Tom Weksler and Mayumu Minakawa having fun in trees.

Each one of them had the same overarching instructions: Explore! Try this! Be open to new experiences! Don’t worry about looking wrong or silly, as long as your intention is real. We are all here doing this single practice together and trying new things together. Exploration is scary but necessary.

All of these teachers shared a similar story of evolution – they had trained deeply in one or two or more systems, and found each lacking, either missing something they craved or disallowing things for seemingly arbitrary reasons or worse breaking down their bodies and feeling worse after doing a movement practice that was supposed to make them feel better.

So often physical training and movement has been focused on goals – lift this much weight, run this fast, point your toes just so. By stripping all of that away – helped in large part by stripping away the gym or classroom and just being outside – people were invited to try new things, explore new paths, and mostly just remember that movement is supposed to be fun and enjoyable and a celebration of what our bodies can do.

For me, someone who is very goal oriented or achievement oriented, it can be hard to let go of that and just be a novice, especially when I am the “only” novice, surrounded by professional movers. There was even a time mid-week where I cried myself to sleep because I caught a glimpse of myself in a video looking totally awkward. BUT, I came back to class the next day, and for the first time I noticed other professional movers looking or feeling awkward in new types of movement they had never tried before. But they did it anyway! So I did it anyway. And we all felt better after the class for moving, for learning, and for getting outside and feeling the fresh air.

I honestly was nervous about having the kids there, as I didn’t want to interrupt the classes with my kids’ screaming and yelling and chasing balls and asking questions about trees. But in some ways their movement practice was just as genuine and valuable as what the coaches were teaching. I also heard feedback from some that having the kids there was also helpful to get out of their usual headspace and remind them to play and not take the whole process so seriously.

20160711_183915

My 3.5-year-old daughter became an honorary member of the group, with lots of adults chatting with her and wanting to dance and play with her. She and her 1.5-year-old brother also benefited from this experience immensely; my daughter only watched a few classes, and participated even less, but just by being around all of these movers and watching the adults play both kids absorbed all of this training and movement and acceptance of physical play like sponges.

20160711_133308

I caught them moving, jumping, dancing, and playing more than even at home; they also tried new tools like using the foam rollers and other apparatus people had brought with them, either copying what the grown-ups did or discovering other uses for them.

For me, the biggest take-away was just being accepting of where I am, not following a “system” or specific “method” but using these and thinking of these as tools. Taking what works and playing with them. Being inspired by the art of the possible, by the coaches and the students. That was the most amazing aspect of the week for me.

I sincerely hope they have another event next year. And I hope that other “non-movers” like me will give themselves a chance to go explore their own movement practices, and frankly to just go out and play and rediscover the joy of moving our bodies, no matter what silly, goofy, or wrong shape it makes.

20160716_105000

autism · behavior · brain · children · education · environment · learning · play · robotics · school

Beyond BB-8: How the Sphero is helping students with autism learn

So often we hear about technology disrupting play and stunting or being less effective than “traditional” types of education. Rarely do we see technology blending in with education and children’s play and really supporting child development and learning.

This is one exception.

A school in Australia that works with autistic kids has adopted several Sphero robots (like BB8 from Star Wars), and has incorporated Sphero into both indoor and outdoor play.

Not only is it robust enough to be taken outside and played with alongside building blocks, it can also be used to teach coding away from a basic screen. “For kids with autism … around 90% of the information processed is what they can see. They’re very visual learners,” he said.

It can also help kids feel more comfortable in the school environment. Smith explained how some young students, around six and seven years old, often find it stressful to leave their classroom and travel to other parts of the school.”Early on, we found that if we let them guide Sphero: ‘Let’s take Sphero for a little adventure around the school,’ they would actually, with no trouble, go into the assembly or sport hall if they had Sphero with them,” he said. “It’s almost like they were brave and overcame their anxieties for the sake of showing Sphero.”

Sphero is robust enough that it can be used for paint projects, or just exploring in the dirt.

Just like Christopher Robin and his Winnie the Pooh, being able to use a proxy like Sphero to help explore the world can be very powerful and enabling for kids of all abilities, but especially kids on the autism spectrum.

More at: Beyond BB-8: How the Sphero is helping students with autism learn

creativity · learning · play

Playing into old age: Meet the Graffiti Mamas

 

Play often involves some aspect of rebellion – doing things just slightly different than before, mixing things up.

That is very apparent in this interview with Luisa Cortesao from Portugal, who became a graffiti artist later in life and ran workshops for her peers.

architecture · learning

Radio Telescope Sculpture Turns Movement into Light and Sound | The Creators Project

Lumiere London 2016 is in full swing, bringing with it various light installations to enhance the city’s most famous locations. 30 artworks will be aglow this weekend at places like Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Carnaby Street, Oxford Circus, King’s Cross, and many others. At the latter, digital studio FIELD—founded by Marcus Wendt and Vera-Maria Glahn—present their stunning sculpture, Spectra-3. The piece is the latest instalment of their ongoing Spectra series, a merging of physical and virtual sculptures that take inspiration from space, technology, and our relationships to them, to provide elegant and sensory experiences using sound, light, and reflection.Spectra-3’s design and movement is inspired by the radio telescopes of the Very Large Array (VLA) located on the Plains of San Agustin in New Mexico. The piece combines computer-aided design with real-time input from the public’s movements, to inform its physical actions as it rotates on motors, augmenting the space with the enchanting hues and patterns of reflected light and spatialized sound.It’s the biggest self-commissioned artwork the studio have ever done. Built from bespoke steel and surrounded by sensors, at nearly 10′ tall, it’s controlled by custom software which commands the motors, lights, haze, and multi-channel sound.

Source: Radio Telescope Sculpture Turns Movement into Light and Sound | The Creators Project

behavior · children · learning · Nature · work

There Are Kids Fighting Fires In Washington State | KUOW News and Information

Crews of juvenile inmates have been sent to fight wildfires in Washington state since the 1960s.

Their mission: Make sandwiches, dig trenches and build fire lines to keep flames at bay. They can pull 16-hour shifts and earn between 70 cents and $1.60 an hour. The youngest are 15; the eldest, 20.

“The kids go to fires all over the state,” said David Griffith of the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration in Olympia. “It’s something they want to do.”

Source: There Are Kids Fighting Fires In Washington State | KUOW News and Information

When I first read this article I was shocked that they would send teenagers out to do this job. And then I realized what a great opportunity and program this was actually an amazing opportunity.

The teenagers get outside into nature, which has been shown to have a ridiculous amount of benefits around concentration, calming and serenity. It gets them exercising, which also has amazing physical and psychological benefits. They learn skills they can use as grown-ups, they learn to work as a team, they learn to take orders, and they are giving back to other people in need, like someone who’s house is in danger of being burned down.

This is not exactly play, but it is an applied real-world education, and while some commenters have been upset by the small amount of money they make, frankly I don’t think that matters, especially if we think of this program as an addition to the regular traditional education that they’d be receiving in public school or in correctional facilities. In fact I suspect if you offered this program to public high schools it would fill up in a matter of days.

There are also programs like this in California. With the scary fires and kid escaping this past month Washington is reevaluating whether to keep it going. I hope they continue this program and encourage similar programs for kids “in the system.”

behavior · design · learning · Nature · play

The Fantastical World of Fairy Houses | The Etsy Blog

It is in our nature to pick up interesting rocks, sticks, and leaves as part of our exploration of our surroundings. Some people bring their treasures home and display them on a fireplace mantle or little shadow box.

For a husband and wife team, they have been turning their little finds into fairy houses, which is another playful way of exploring their surroundings and getting to engage in make believe play as a grown up. They are also one of the lucky few people who get to sell their play creations. They were interviewed on the Etsy blog about their creations:

Etsy: When did you make your first fairy house? And had you ever heard of one before you made one?

Debbie: I grew up writing poetry and playing musical instruments and I had always loved doing different kinds of crafts like making dolls, handmade books and cards. But no, we’d never really heard of fairy houses before we started doing this 25 years ago. At the time, our sons had just started going to grade school, and when I found I had more time to myself, I was excited to use my creative talents again. The first project I tried was making a full-size Adirondack chair; when that didn’t work out, Mike suggested that I try making a miniature chair instead. I used some materials I had gathered from a couple of acres near my mom and dad’s place in Washington, and it was so much fun I kept doing it.

Mike: We have always loved nature. When we would go for hikes, Debbie was always picking up things she found, so we already had quite a collection of wild grasses and flowers. And Debbie’s mom was our biggest mentor. She always said, “You have so much talent. I wish you would use your talent.” She really encouraged us.

more via The Fantastical World of Fairy Houses | The Etsy Blog.

How wonderful that Debbie’s mom continued to encourage to play and explore with creating these miniatures.

Have you ever built little fairy houses when you go for a walk? Or seen someone else’s creation? Do you build with LEGOs or other miniatures? Or K’nex (Connector) Sets or Lincoln Logs or other building set? Do you wish you still did? Share in the comments below.