Free Play – Trusting Kids to Choose Their Own Fun

For some of us adults, the kind of play we remember as kids doesn’t exist anymore in many communities across America. It’s a specific kind of play called “free play.” When I was a kid, I remember running out into the neighborhood after school. I organically discovered and teamed up with the kids that lived nearby even if they were older or younger than me, girls or boys. We came together to play, to find things and make stuff. We had fights and made up. We made up games, put on performances, played pretend and dress-up.

So what’s so important about this kind of play? And what does it mean for kids who don’t get to experience it? What about us adults? Is something really missing from our lives? That’s what we’re going to dig into today with my new friend and our guest, Pat Rumbaugh, a.k.a. “The Play Lady.”

Pat Rumbaugh is co-founder of Let’s Play America and is affectionately known by many as The Play Lady. She founded the organization TakomaPlays! in Takoma Park, Maryland, in March 2009. TakomaPlays! is now part of Let’s Play America.

“When I play, I am happy, energized and enthusiastic, and I feel like I can take on the world,” says Pat, who is a passionate play advocate and encourages people of all ages to experience the benefits of playing.

Pat was a physical education teacher and coach at the Washington International School for more than 25 years. In 2009, she was named “All-Met Girls Tennis Coach of the Year” by the Washington Post.

In today’s show, Pat will explain how free play allows kids to figure things out for themselves – to engage their peers without the obvious presence of an authority figure. She’ll talk about how kids learn resilience through free play and are given the opportunity to make their own decisions and explore their creativity without pre-specified outcomes or boundaries.

You’ll also learn about initiatives she’s involved with that intentionally give children access to free play, even in today’s world of increased concerns around child safety.

If you’re thinking this show isn’t for you because it’s about kids, not adults, just remember: whatever is true about play for children is true for adults. Most of us don’t experience free play in our grownup lives either. What is the lack of this magical, free time doing to us? Something to reflect on as you listen, and we’ll keep looking for answers here on PlayGrouding.

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  1. Pat Rumbaugh

    Fantastically playful, entertaining and enriching, educational and inspiring and hopefully you will now want to play daily. Kara, the super insightful questionnaire did her research on me, Pat Rumbaugh, The Play Lady. Through her thoughtful questions I shared information about free play for children and more. Give yourself a break, sit back and get comfortable and listen to this ebullient podcast, share it with friends and then go outside and play. Thank you Kara.

    • Kara

      Thank YOU Pat! I had so much fun with our interview!

  2. Stephanie Garst

    LOVE your podcast!

    • Kara

      Thanks Stephanie!

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