Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kid's Play

Today we're taking a bit of a detour from our normal corsets and discussing the written word.  A great friend-- and my critique partner!-- has put together an awesome site about Kid's Play.  And really, if you've got young ones running underfoot, what could be better than finding a great way to keep them busy and happy, so that you might even be able to get a bit of writing done?

So without further ado, I'd like to introduce Jean Oram, creator of It's All Kid's Play. 

  • You’ve recently started promoting your blog Kid’s Play, a cool site where parents can find ideas to keep bored kids happy, occupied and active—and on a tight budget, no less.  As a writer of fiction, did you find it difficult to blog about something non-writing related or does writing fiction help with the creativity you need for the ideas in your blog? 
I think writing fiction has helped me define my voice. As for creativity, I think all fiction writers are creative by their very nature. We’ve tuned into that child inside that is constantly asking ‘why’ and ‘what happens if…” So fiction writing has definitely helped in that regard.

As for blogging about non-writing related things, anything I am interested in, inspired by, or believe in seems to be fairly easy to write about.

  • Can you tell us a little bit about Kid’s Play? 
My website,, has hundreds of activities, arts and crafts, games, party ideas, boredom busters, challenges and other great things for children and families or for people looking to try “slow parenting” (essentially the opposite of hyper-parenting). 

Basically, the premise behind the site is that screen time is taking over many childhoods because it is an easy way to engage children (that’s how TV shows, computer/video games and movies are designed). However, as experts are learning, too much screen time is not healthy for child development as what children engage in shapes their brain and screen time limits our brain’s plasticity (ability to create connections). Yikes!

On the other hand, free play (unstructured, unscheduled play) has been found to be very healthy for children. It has been found to increase problem-solving skills, self-esteem, grow personal confidence, increase communication skills, decrease depression, reduce the risk of obesity, increase resiliency, and so many other positive things. In fact, play has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as the right of every child. 

So, that’s where It’s All Kid’s Play comes in. It’s a resource that is a TON of fun for families to help them beat back the boredom blues and find engaging ways to bring free play back into their lives. 

  • How do you get your ideas for your projects and activities? 
I started this project several years ago when my daughter was about a year old. I wrote down  one thing that I wanted to remember that seemed cool—she was too young to do it yet. And by the end of three days I had over 200 ideas in that notebook. It seems that one idea comes to me and soon all its friends want to come and hang out too! (I now have close to 1000.)

  • What’s one of your favorite activities? 

My favourites are definitely in the ‘tricky challenges’ section. I love the way kids get totally into things like trying to lick their elbow, touch their nose or chin with their tongue, touch their elbows behind their back, cross their eyes, wiggle their ears and/or nose. I used to turn my 4 & 5-year-old class at the library completely wild with these sorts of challenges before we’d do story time. (Why on earth they continue to agree to put me in a library, I don’t know! I’m so disruptive!) Before long we’d be doing things like trying to put our foot behind our head (ouch!) and suck on our big toe (can still do that one!). I love the energy and creativity that comes out when kids test what they can do.

  • I know you write adult fiction.  Have you thought about writing children’s books also?

I have a partially completed middle grade (for ages 7-10ish) novel that is about a boy ghost. However, life keeps interfering on completing that one. I’d like to get back to it though. It’s a fun premise.

  • It seems like you have such a knack for coming up with ideas to keep kids busy.  Did you have a very creative childhood?  Do you think it did/didn’t have an influence?

My own childhood has totally influenced my philosophy on play as well as my website It’s All Kid’s Play.

I grew up on an acreage/farm on the outskirts of a hamlet (population 100). While I was lucky to be part of a baby boom (there were 6 of us girls and 1 boy within 2 years of each other right in town), there were still periods of boredom where I didn’t know what to do and had to figure out how to entertain myself. (We didn’t have cable/satellite, internet wasn’t around, I didn’t have an Atari, and videos weren’t around particularly affordable.)

As well, us girls (and Ryan) would get bored doing the same stuff over and over again and so they’d turn to me to ‘fix’ it. So, I’d write out a list of things we could play (sounds familiar doesn’t it?) and we’d all choose something and whatever everyone didn’t mind doing, we’d do! We made some pretty awesome forts out of the junk on our farm.

  • What’s next for Kid’s Play?

Hopefully it will appear bigger, greater and even more fun in book form! <crosses fingers and prays to the gods of publishing and all things wonderful>

  • Ice cream sandwiches or cupcakes?  Finger painting or playing in the mud?  Pink polka dot elephants or purple unicorns? 
Awesome question! I can’t believe you are going to make me choose!
Okay, hands down ice cream sandwiches—one of my all time favourites!
While I’m always a sucker for playing in the mud (I make a mean mudpie with pine cone lacing), today I’m in the mood for finger painting. I love the feel of cool, smooth, wet paint between my fingers!
And finally, I’m going to go with those awesome elephants as I’ve never been a unicorn kind of gal--although I do recognize their allure.

  • Where can we find you and all your great ideas?

I’m all over the place. I must be making up for the lack of screen time during my youth. ;)

Personal website and blog:

It’s All Kid’s Play:

Twitter: writing related stuff:
Twitter: Kid’s Play activity of the day and parenting resources:

Facebook (resources, activity of the day, etc.) for It’s All Kid’s Play:

Thank you so much for having me, Calista! I appreciate it. Happy playing!


Jemi Fraser said...

Awesome interview, ladies!!

I loved making forts and mudpies as a kid too. Couldn't pass up a mud puddle - ever! My folks just bought me big rubber boots :)

Cali MacKay said...

Thanks, Jemi! You know what a talented lady Jean is. : )

I love that your parents didn't try to change your fun streak, and instead just found a way around it so everyone was happy.

Jean Oram said...

Hi Jemi! Thanks for stopping in. I remember trying to get stuck in the mud with my rubber boots and then I did (we had clay soil). My mom wasn't impressed and rescued me. (She wasn't impressed because she'd warned me and warned me--what a lovely challenge is what I thought!) She was very patient with my love of mud too. She let me present the hired hand my mudpie creations even when they disrupted his work.

Hamel Moric said...

Forts were the best. I never had rubber boots but we usually just rolled around in it and pretended we were mud people.

Cali MacKay said...

Loved forts!! We used to build them indoors by dragging our blankets over chairs, and propping the interior with brooms.

Jean Oram said...

Mud people? That's awesome!

I loved forts too. I had a bunkbed my dad made that was great! And the junk pile out back made a fantastic fort too. We even found forks out there!

Thanks for stopping by, Hamel.

Cat Woods said...

Awesome interview, Cali and Jean.

*also crosses fingers and prays*

You'll so get there, Jean. Your ideas are great and will be a huge asset for parents, teachers and caregivers.


Cali MacKay said...

Thanks for stopping by, Cat! I agree-- so many great ideas are a huge asset for parents, especially when they can be accomplished for little to no money. : )

Jean Oram said...

Thanks Cat. I'm getting close, but there are a few more things I need to do...