Balls and balls of fun at the Outdoors Loose Parts Emporium

“Play outside” is a regular refrain at home from us adult types. It’s not that the three kids are unfamiliar with the concept. Sometimes they just need a little impetus, an encouraging word. On most days, they are outside playing for hours on end. Our son is in the habit of calculating how long he’s been outdoors on a given day and then enumerates his activities – pick up basketball, road hockey, man tracker, catch the flag, fishing, biking, or just playing around in the backyard with our assortment of loose parts. The girls do likewise just not as sports fixated….


Frequently, I imagine being an embedded photographer traveling with a gaggle of kids, documenting their adventures over the course of a few days. As much as I’d like to join our local neighbourhood play crew, I’m not as limber as I used to be and my stamina is far from top notch when compared with the pre-teen set’s seemingly limitless reserves of energy. But maybe I could tag along if I could create something inventive like the multi-colour catapult, or a manual massage rocker, hand crafted pretty much from scratch.

In any event, even if this dream job could be realized, I’m not sure they’d have me for more than short bursts of time. Let’s face it, one of the attractions of independent play is getting away from the inquisitive gaze of grown ups and their sometimes penchant for ‘interfering’, or putting a stick in the spokes. Though I’m not sure I’d have much gumption to get out of that rocker and poke a stick in any spokes!

So, I’ve done the next best thing. I’ve become a member of play crews organizing pop-up, loose parts events for kids in public spaces. For the last few months, I’ve been hanging out with the Play Outside NS play crew. The first event of the  Summer of PLEY series (Physical Literacy in the Early Years), was a loose parts shindig on the Halifax South Common, that wrapped earlier this afternoon. I’ll echo a comment a lot the kids were using – “this is awesome!”

Check out this DIY swing created by the Dupuis family who were at a CanadaPlays crew organized event in the same location two years ago. I was happy to be part of the instigators on that crew who created some loose parts fun and buzz with American and Brit friends from Pop-Up Adventure Play. There were other returnees from the initial Halifax South Common loose parts pop up too. It was great to see their undiminished enthusiasm.

Global TV and The Chronicle Herald took the time to steep themselves a little in a series of eureka moments seasoned with chaos light. The videographer and writer had plenty of material to work with. Many thanks to the parents who agreed to have either themselves or their children interviewed. Thanks to the journalists as the media coverage will help spread the word about how much creative fun kids have with loose parts.

One family on vacation from Newfoundland explained to Global TV viewers that they spontaneously joined in the festivities. When they saw cardboard forts being constructed as they whizzed by the event, they started searching for the first available parking space and made their way over. The father thought that loose parts are how play should be…

Before I bow out and go play in nature at Kejimkujik, I’ll give shout outs to another couple of crews I’ve had the pleasure to play with. Drum roll please – let’s hear it for the Youth Running Series loose parts crew, the originals from five years ago. The Adventure Play YHZ crew did an October loose parts pop-up where pre-schoolers in costumes ruled the roost. Last but not least is the Cubs loose parts crew – we will be reconvening in September.

Thanks also to all the businesses that have helped put on these events and other bodies who have helped to make them happen.

may the Loose Parts be with you

Until next time, goodbye forts, pirate ships, DIY teeter-totters and swings, restaurants, club houses, teepees and of course let’s not forget whichamajoogers….

PS – I met the most wonderful gentleman who was visiting his grandchildren in Halifax. Being of a certain age, we were both reveling in the shade and got to talking. Turns out both of us were in Dakar, Sénégal at the same time more than 40 years ago. We swapped a few stories from back in the day and then got back onto the play track. Pleasure to meet you Ralph Kendall…

For Nova Scotia readers, find out more information on the great events still to come in the Summer of PLEY series at Play Outside NS.


5 responses to “Balls and balls of fun at the Outdoors Loose Parts Emporium

  1. Another nice piece, Alex. No youngsters at home now and most of the family on the other side of the world in NZ, so we get our kicks playing with sticks at the New Ark Adventure Playground which is about to start the long summer holidays. My favourite activity is cooking dampers on the outdoor fire using dead sticks from our trees to hold them and for firewood, Never any shortage of takers if we offer “jam or chocolate spread”!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Donne, poor form of me not to reply for such a long time. My only excuse is that we went on holidays for about a month following this post and then started to get in gear for school. Just now getting to catch my breath. I had to look up ‘dampers’ – never had those before. They look good. Do you use tin foil to wrap around the stick? Can you refrigerate the dough and take it on a camping expedition? We’re off camping with our Cub pack in a couple of weeks. Hope all is well with you and yours and thanks as always for reading. Cheers from Nova Scotia, Alex


  2. A forlorn cry from an old playworker: can we have Lou Spartz not on a manicured lawn sometime? Maybe on a scabby old bit of ground somewhere, old fridge nearby, mud, brick rubble? Asking for a friend.

    An homage for Lou Spartz, unsung hero of ‘stuff’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Arthur – Thanks for dropping in here on PlayGroundology. Now where is that Lou Spartz from? For us folks over here in Halifax, Canada we’re happy to get the ‘stuff’ out into the public and have people – kids for the most part – take notice and have fun when they use/play with said stuff, bric à brac, paraphernalia, odds and sods and so on. We don’t have the same depth of tradition with the old Lou Spartz that you folks have in England. If you ever get over this side it would be awesome to get together with you and Lou Spartz to see how we could improve on our game. In truth though, our public events have been held in municipal parks. They’re easy to get to spaces and well known. What kind of venues have you used in the past? Lou Spartz visited our Cub pack earlier this week in my backyard – maybe not scabby old ground but certainly not manicured, Cheers from Halifax, Canada and thanks for reading.


  3. Hi Alex, There is nothing special about damper dough, it is just self-raising or strong white flour and water, so it would be easier to take the flour and use whatever clean water you can get at the campsite. If you are using green dampersticks from the forest you will have not worries about their burning while the damper cooks. Whatever comes off the stick onto the damper will be well sterilised by the fire, and the blackened outside of the damper is as harmless as burnt toast, which is what it is. The damper is cooked when it can be removed from the stick cleanly. Use gloves for this as it otherwise will burn your fingers. The centre can be filled with any suitable stuff such as jam, chocolate or nut spread. Most kids can eat several dampers so make plenty of dough. I hope the Cubs like them! Donne


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