May 08, 2011 Kerala Taylor

Moms share their most precious play memories

On a day set aside to recognize mothers, we would like to honor those mothers who understand and value one of the most important facets of childhood: outdoor play. As every mother knows, to watch children play is to watch them grow, learn, discover, take on challenges, and experience pure joy.

Nearly a thousand mothers across the country responded to our request to share the  most precious play moments they have shared with our children. It was tough to choose, but here are a few of our favorites:

“We live in an apartment complex, and when it’s warm outside there are always between 10 and 20 kids at the playground all playing with each other. It’s so cool watching my daughter meeting new people, hanging outside on the monkey bars, and riding her bike. For the last several Christmases and birthdays, we've bought her mostly outdoor items (bike, scooter, roller blades, and skate board). She always has a skinned knee, which is something that totally reminds me of my childhood. I just enjoy seeing that outside play isn't dead and some parents still kick their kids out of the house to absorb some Vitamin D and get good, fun exercise.”
- Amanda Bare, Kansas

“My three-year-old, Lola, loves make-believe and dress-up. Her little seven-month-old brother, Lincoln, is ever so lucky to have her as a sister because he gets to participate in her dress-up sessions, too! Playing inside or outside with the kids brings big smiles all around. It opens up their minds to imagination, gets them in shape, helps them learn, have fun, laugh, and be the amazing kids they are.
- Suesan Coleman, South Dakota

“It’s not a manmade playground but, we play regularly in the ravine near our home where fallen trees become balance beams and grapevines are Mother Nature’s swings. I love to observe my son's imagination and sense of wonder in the natural environment. While he would love to have an entire menagerie of bugs and pets, we adopted a tradition called Pet for a Day. He is allowed to keep a found small creature for the day and observe it in an old glass mason jar with a vented top.”
- Tracie Conner, Ohio

“One of my favorite moments was playing outside with the sprinkler for the first time. My two-year-old was scared, so we brought out his favorite bubble machine and made the bubbles go into the sprinkler. He was so conflicted about wanting to grab the bubbles, and not wanting to go into the sprinkler. At first he was upset, but then he loved it and we had to drag him inside. I’m not sure why that story sticks in my head, I guess it was a moment we were able to help him grow and face a fear by bringing in something he loved.”
- Katherine Maphis, Virginia

“I love getting outside and back to nature with my son. This week the weather has warmed up and we've been busy digging in the garden. My son discovered the worms and has been mesmerized by them. We've built a worm house and created a worm family, complete with names. He comes in covered in mud from head to toe, which tells me we have had a great day! There's no better way I can think of to spend a day with my son than digging in the mud.”
- Jennifer Hansen, Missouri

“My daughter will be three this week and has been going to physical therapy since before she could crawl. This weekend we went to a festival at our local park. Some of her friends were in the playground area and she joined them. I watched her from a bench and to my amazement, Aleah was climbing the steps and going down the big slide all by herself. It was the first time she could do this!! She continued to go up and down for over two hours! It was truly a special day!”
- Rochelle Gale, Florida

“There is a giant bush in the center of our back yard. It completely obstructs the view of half of our space. We were going to finally cut it down this year. Yesterday the kids spent three solid hours cleaning out the leaves and pinestraw underneath. They put in paths twisting throughout the branches and formed rooms and skylights. Seating comes from a few unsplit logs. There is even a designated bathroom (three boys, ha). They are so proud of their ‘treehouse’ and have shown everyone. The bush stays!”
- Sherrylynn Starling, Georgia

“Last April, I hosted a spur of the moment Bike Party for my kids and all their friends. It was sooo fun to see all of them on the circle in front of our house just riding along together! My son did fall off his bike that day and break his collarbone, but it did not put a single damper on his love for bike riding. What an easy and wonderful thing for children to do almost anywhere!”
- Amanda Carlson, Tennessee

“Our son is only 16 months old, but he's an avid runner and climber. Whenever we go to his grandparents’ house, he loves to run around the backyard chasing the dog and climbing the concrete steps up to the raised patio. One day it was raining, but he wanted to go outside. We let him and when he stepped out from underneath the awning into the rain, he stood there for a few seconds trying to figure out what was going on. Then he shouted joyfully as he raised his hands to catch the raindrops.”
- Jessica Campbell, California

“My children and I play every chance we get. I think my favorite family playtime moment was one winter when it snowed so much, the snow was at their knees. SNOWBALL FIGHT!! We had such a great time. Then we went inside and played cards while sipping tea and hot chocolate. Great memories!”
- Rashidah Johnson, Philadelphia

“About once a week I announce that it's upside down day, and we build a fort out back with blankets and chairs, or in the in the living room if it's bad weather. We use flashlights and lanterns and turn off all of the lights, have a picnic in the fort, and then tell stories. If there's enough light and weather permitting, we play tag and hide and seek. It's ALWAYS a fun night and the kids can't wait to hear, ‘IT'S UPSIDE DOWN DAY!’”
- Vicki Nittinger, Florida

“I love taking my kids to this old mining town in the mountains. We take a picnic and spend the entire day running and playing in the open fields. In the spring, the hills are covered in different colored flowers. There is sure a pure feeling about watching your kids run and play, and most importantly, be children. I cannot imagine a time when children do not play outside, but it looks like I will see that in my lifetime.”
- Bria Hall, Idaho

“I was a single mom for most of my kids’ childhood. We didn't have much money, so I would take the kids to places where we could have fun for free. Many times we would go to the park with a picnic lunch. Sometimes we would have a cook out. Many people have no idea what you can do for free. And it was not only free but it was quality time, spent loving each other.”
- Rebecca Winburn, North Carolina

“I have three kids who are currently 14, 12, and five. When my youngest was around two, I took all three of them to a nearby playground. Watching my big boys being so careful with their little sister, catching her when she came down the slide and holding her hand as she walked across the bridges—it filled my heart with so much love and happiness! That's my favorite memory of my kids at a playground!”
- Elizabeth Edwards, Michigan

“My five-year-old daughter’s favorite thing to do outside is to make dirt balls. Not just any old dirt balls, but ‘perfect’ dirt balls. The process is exact and she never wavers, no matter how many she makes. I am only allowed to assist in making sure she has all her tools and ingredients. I am not allowed to participate in the actual making of the dirt balls.”
- Lisa Weyde, Pennsylvania

“Every day at the playground is a good one. It's our favorite thing to do! Unfortunately, this winter has been long and cold and snowy, and the playgrounds in our city have been closed. We finally had one day of nice weather in early March and were able to go play. As soon as we got to the playground, my daughter ran up to the play structure, hugged it and said, ‘I missed you!’”
- Stacey Lynch, New Jersey

“My favorite story goes back to the beach of Santa Monica this past summer. My one-year-old rode the swing for the first time, and there was a joy in her face that gave me great peace. I have three other children who helped swing her back and forth. The togetherness we felt was priceless.”
- Daisy Teh, Nevada

“One of my favorite moments playing with the kids was last spring while trying to fly a kite. I have never been able to master this skill. I could get a kite up for a very short time before, but on this day with the help of the kids, we had our kite flying sky high for quite a while. It felt like such an accomplishment for all of us. A very good day!”
- Kathy Earls, Cincinnati

“I love to watch children create when I give them sidewalk chalk. I sit on the front porch and let them pick from the many pastels. Their imaginations are endless. They draw hopscotch and play it together. By the time they are finished, our driveway beholds a beautiful scene of their artwork. It doesn’t wash away until the next rain.”
- Janee Roach, South Carolina

“My kids (12, six, and five) love playing in the snow. We got to build snowmen this year because of all the snow we had. We had lots of snowball fights and we made lots of snow angels. But I think what my kids loved the best was the snowball softball we played. They loved cracking the snowballs with their bat and running in the snow.”
- Melissa Freeman, West Virginia

“I love how the simplest things can catch kids’ attention. For instance a butterfly flitting in front of my daughter can stop her in her tracks. She will leave what she is doing to chase and watch that butterfly. The chasing involves movement and afterwards we can look up the type of butterfly (or moth) she was chasing and learn about it.”
- Kris McNaughton, Ontario

“My three-year-old is going through an imagination explosion. He has imaginary friends and builds extravagant contraptions with his clickable blocks. When he comes to me as a pirate, or needing to be rescued from a pirate ship, I drop what I'm doing and get in character with him. I need the break from reality sometimes too!”
- Jacquelyn Johnson, Ohio

We compiled all one thousand responses into a word cloud to look at recurring themes. Check it out here.


parents, outdoor play, play outdoors, mother, parenting, mother's day