Brene Brown – Wholehearted Living – Storyteller Researcher – A special BOOK LOOK!

Brene Brown’s work has made all the difference in my P.L.A.Y. days and my entire life. Period.

See CAPKINs + See U Soon!

I encourage you to watch, read, and listen to her free offerings listed below to continue your journey towards wholehearted living. This is a perfect opportunity to explore, embrace, be vulnerable, AND to be 100% authentically you. Discover your true P.L.A.Y. nature today!

Sending Hugs and Smiles to help light the way ~ Karen

WATCH! -Brene’s TED Talks

These two talks can make all the difference in how you connect or disconnect to your every day life and loved ones. They are stepping stones on your way to many P.L.A.Y. adventures filled with curiosity, communication, and a loving wholehearted experience with your children and family. Embrace the possibilities and be the change you’d like to see! Plant the seed, nurture and tend to it, and watch it grow into something amazing called your wholehearted journey!

Brene Brown’s TED talks are known around the world and her first talk is one of the most viewed ever.

The Power of Vulnerability (20 minutes)

Listening to Shame (20 minutes)

Brene Brown on Empathy (3 minutes – an RSA short – Royal Society for Arts)

READ! -Brene’s Books

Wholehearted Living – The research and storytelling by Brene Brown on shame and vulnerability and her sharing of it in her multiple books has made all the difference in how I am as a parent, partner, daughter, friend, and in all of my relationships and has rippled out to my family, community, and beyond. If you only have the chance to read one of her books I’d say her latest, 

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts 

has all the best basics for how to create trusting and vulnerable relationships while holding healthy boundaries and communicating your needs which results in wholehearted living.

I intend to create a more in depth series of BOOK LOOK posts in the future to cover more of her amazing and necessary work in her other titles. For now here are links to her website for overviews of each of her books and I highly recommend them all!

The Gifts of Imperfection: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

LISTEN! -Brene’s Podcasts

Listening to the audio version of Brene’s books has been a tremendous gift over the years. Now you can hear her more often on her two engaging podcasts where she covers real time topics with a practical wholehearted lens.

Unlocking Us with Brene Brown “are conversations that unlock the deeply human part of who we are, so that we can live, love, parent, and lead with More courage and heart.”

Dare to Lead with Brene Brown “are conversations with change-catalysts, culture-shifters, and more than a few troublemakers who are innovating, creating, and daring to lead.”

VISIT! -Brene’s Website + Free Resources

Explore to discover more about this journey of Wholehearted Living for you and your family.

Explore these free resources for you, your loved ones, and to pass them forward!

Enjoy the wholehearted living journey and be sure to take time for you and yours to P.L.A.Y. every day!

Animal BOOK LOOK – Summary of Chapter Links

Here is a summary of chapter links for:

The Burgess Animal Book for Children (Annotated) written by Thornton Burgess and revised by P.L.A.Y. for the 21st Century Family.

The Burgess Animal Story for Children, The Burgess Bird Story for Children, and The Adventures of __________ series (Paddy the Beaver, Lightfoot the Deer, Old Mr. Toad, etc.), are all originally authored by Thornton Burgess and are now available to you through P.L.A.Y.

P.L.A.Y. has provided new online versions of these updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classics to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about the fields and forests through these animal story adventures
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. – Pass it on!


Book Look: I Am . . . series by Susan Verde

I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

Susan Verde has written an inspiring series of children’s books and paired with the engaging art of Peter Reynolds to provide families with the opportunity to read wholehearted stories that bring light and empowerment even in the most challenging times.

The book that hooked me first was I Am Love: A Book of Compassion. This short picture book uses powerful wording to help us all understand how to be the light and love in the room wherever we go and in whatever we do. It is also a wonderful reminder of all the ways love is present everyday if we are mindful and engage with self-compassion too.

I Am One: A Book of Action by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

The second book that caught my eye was I Am One: A Book of Action. This is an invitation to ask ourselves “How do I make a difference?” even when we feel like we only have one small voice. The messaging emphasizes that so many things start with just one – a seed in a garden, a musical note for a song, a brushstroke for a masterpiece, and the first step on a long journey. This gift of a book is empowering and a wonderful reminder for the whole family that each individual can make a difference.

I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

This book, I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness, is a balm and guide for those folks who worry what might happen next in our ever changing world. It provides a wonderful introduction to being present with what is and the basic gentle steps on how to be at peace with yourself, others, and the world around you. Bonus material includes encouraging folks to wonder and connect to nature!

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

This keepsake, I Am Human: A Book of Empathy, is a wonderful expression of all that we each are and can be. This book is filled with simple possibilities and opportunities to guide each of us to be a better human and to simply be human. I appreciate the messaging throughout this story and the offering of a loving-kindness meditation at the end to pass forward.

I Am Yoga by Susan Verde + Art by Peter Reynolds

Through a focus of quieting the mind, body, and breath I Am Yoga brings calm and peace into any moment and with it a touch of magic as you witness the power to just be still and centered. This is an excellent introduction guide on how to embrace the basics of yoga and to see how the effects of the poses can bring strength and clarity to your day. A must read for the whole family!

P.L.A.Y. is here to support you and your family on your life learning path.

Share this Simple Gift with friends and loved ones.

P.L.A.Y. – Pass it on!

P.L.A.Y. + Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. and Thornton Burgess:

Nature Storytellers Past + Present

Thornton W. Burgess (1874-1965), author and longtime resident of Massachusetts, is best known for his 50 years of writing about nature conservation through children’s literature. He wrote over 150 books and thousands of daily newspaper columns bringing the forest and fauna to life for families across the United States and around the world over 100 years ago.

In so many of his books about the Green Forest, often featuring Peter Rabbit as the reader’s guide, Burgess was able to share with great detail all the wonderful magical moments Mother Nature provided in his local New England landscape. Through his nature story telling he was able to weave in factual information and his own personal observations from time spent outdoors. This was beneficial by informing his audience, both parents and children, as to what they could find just by stepping out their own door and encouraging them to immerse in their own spot of nature. This has allowed his books to be timeless and of great value even to this day.

However over the past ten years I’ve been revisiting his story books, especially looking at how the characters interact and treat one another, and knowing in my heart as a mother and as a human walking this earth a change was needed.

So for the past few years P.L.A.Y. has taken on the task to reinvent Thornton Burgess’ works for the 21st century family. Many of his stories are readily available in the public domain to be used by creatives and artists and for general public use. P.L.A.Y. has maintained the intention to keep all of the wonder and value of his nature stories intact AND to replace some of his language with new phrasing to reflect the way we’d like to see people being and connecting in this world with a primary focus on loving-kindness and compassionate communication.

For the most part Thornton Burgess’ descriptions of plants, landscape features, and basic animal behaviors has not changed in the past 100+ years since he first wrote these works. What has, and continues to change, is what is considered acceptable language and behaviors for human interactions. And since Burgess used anthropomorphizing, attributing human characteristics or behaviors to animals, as a mechanism to get messages across to the reader it is important to take a closer look at how this was written in the past and see how it could be adjusted to still be relevant now and for future generations.

In the past Thornton Burgess often had his animal characters shame and blame one another as they went about their day in the Green Forest and Green Meadow. There were put downs, name calling, bullying, and derogatory remarks cast at one another. And sometimes a characters name or description would negatively label them, for example as a thief or robber, when they were simply acting on natural instinct. For me, this does not model the change we’d like to see in this world and certainly doesn’t represent the behaviors we’d like to experience with each other. And since the intended audience of these stories is primarily children and families I felt strongly that there needed to be a change.

One example of how P.L.A.Y. has adapted these stories for present day audiences is by applying compassionate communication principles in the dialog between characters so that you will no longer hear Peter Rabbit making fun of Old Man Toad or tossing put downs at Jumper the Hare and instead Peter Rabbit gets curious and asks questions whenever he becomes troubled or frustrated or afraid.

Another example of how P.L.A.Y. has modified these stories is by apply loving-kindness concepts such as “treat others how you’d like to be treated”. These values are all woven into the story in such a way to encourage the audience to put these into practice in their own lives with family, friends, and neighbors and to experience the positive ripple effects daily.

The P.L.A.Y. annotated versions of these Burgess stories also have added bonus content for curious minds including prompts and questions to explore ideas further, lists of topic resources, and photos from locations in New England reflecting the story landscape and animal habitats.

P.L.A.Y.‘s annotated series of Burgess’ stories include free versions found here online:

Paddy the Beaver,

Old Man Toad,

Lightfoot the Deer,

Burgess Bird Book,

Burgess Animal Book

and they are linked all in one place FREE!

P.L.A.Y. intends to add future nature titles to this collection annually so be sure to check back often for more magical moments!

I have much gratitude for these century old writings created by Thornton Burgess and the focus on connecting families to nature through story telling. I also have much gratitude for the opportunity to bring this work forward with adaptations suitable for the next generation of families engaging both their curiosity for nature and connection to wholehearted living through encouraging compassionate communication and loving-kindness.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.

Nature Poop Post -or- the Scoop on Scat!

In addition to checking out P.L.A.Y. Nature Poop and Scat-Be-Doo-Doo posts, this book by Dawn Cusick, Get the Scoop on Animal Poop!, is a fun rainy day read for the whole family and can provide hours of engaging conversations with plenty of learning activities and experiments too.

How can you resist with book section titles like this:

The Power of Poo!

Underwater Poo

Watch Your Language! Feces, Frass, and Scat!

And so much more!!!

OK parents it is time to P.L.A.Y. !

Let your inner child bring forth a field full of cow patty poop talk and let loose!

Oh Deer- a patch of poop pellets! Simply another wonder in the woods!

White-tailed Wonder of the Woods: A Deer’s Adventures

This will be my fifth winter walking in these woods and following the many deer tracks in the snow. It is such a joyful and P.L.A.Y.-ful activity to do on a cold winter’s day and it helps me to add variety to my daily walks by simply stepping alongside the hoofprints and seeing wherever the trail may take me.

On some outings I even discover coyote and turkey tracks right beside the deer tracks and I wonder at how this encounter looked or who came through first or last or if someone was being followed.

I’ve only actually seen the deer a few times up close as I approach the babbling brook and my sounds are muffled. More often I see them at a distance in the corn fields as I drive along the roadway out of town. Either way I am always thankful for knowing they are there in our fields and forest and also call this place home.

To give gratitude for the many years of awe and wonder this P.L.A.Y.-ful practice of tracking the white-tailed deer has provided I have created a new story series based on Thornton Burgess’ 1921 book The Adventures of Lightfoot the Deer.

Time to get curious and introduce your family to another four-legged friend found in the fields and forests near your home.

Look for new story chapters from

The Adventures of Lightfoot the Deer

to appear every

Tuesday + Thursday

for the remainder of 2020.

Time to P.L.A.Y.!!!


Visit P.L.A.Y. on PINTEREST!


Join the P.L.A.Y. community on PINTEREST!

You will find nature videos, story read-alouds, seasonal snapshots, and oodles of  inspirational P.L.A.Y. pins for you and your family.

Try these P.L.A.Y. boards -Pass it on!

 P.L.A.Y. + Pass it on!

BOOK LOOK – Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown MD


PLAY: How It Shapes the Brain,

Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul

by Stuart Brown


Dr. Stuart Brown’s book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul backs up with data and research everything I’ve come to know and have experienced in my 50+ years of being an elementary educator, homeschooling mom, and all around joyfully playful creative human being at every age and stage of my life.

Play is . . .

  • Play is required, on par with eating + sleeping + breathing, for the health and well being of our families, communities, and the world at large.
  • Play is the gateway for all of us to access our creativity and provides the catalyst for gathering all that we need on our life learning journey.
  • Play is where innovation comes from and has been the platform from which so many unique and very much needed ideas are launched into the world. (example: see story of Velcro)
  • Play is always an opportunity to express your most authentic self whether playing alone or together with other folks.
  • Play is engaging with books, movies, the arts, sports, games, hobbies, work you love or getting a job done more joyfully, day-dreaming, music, etc. What would your life look like without these? Yikes!
  • Play is like oxygen. So be sure to <Breathe in> and <Breathe out> mindfully and regularly!
  • P.L.A.Y. + Pass it on!!!

In our Western culture where play is often written off as extra or frivolous it is helpful to be reminded of just how necessary it is for our human survival and thriving. If you’d like to see more of the data to support these ideas please take a moment to read Dr. Brown’s book. It is a game changer!


Play and Learning Go Hand-in-Hand at ALL Ages + Stages

A truer statement could not be spoken. This is at the heart of it ALL.

This is also the very premise on which  P.L.A.Y. Passionate Learning All Year is based.

As the adult you are now, or even better when you were a child,  can you think of any situation in which there isn’t an opportunity for growth and learning? Not a chance.

Every day we have the opportunity to learn and expand what we know, how we know it, getting it into our bones, digging deeper, and playing with ideas to fully engage with the human experience.

Laura Grace Weldon says on page 1 in Chapter 1 of her excellent resource guide titled Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything

“And, of course, children play. Play is generative, transforming the ordinary into something unique. It also imparts advanced social skills and a creative approach to life.”

And if you combine that with the work of Dr. Stuart Brown you will realize that kiddos AND adults have been playing, learning, and working side-by-side with each other in their families and communities since the beginning of time. Folks of all ages engaging together, indoors and out, naturally modeling for each other the skills they need to survive and thrive.

Work and play go hand-in-hand, at every age and stage of our lives, and now more than ever with the mindful and beneficial use of technology we can create lives that match our natural rhythms and earn a livelihood that allows us to be inspired and engaged daily. We can pursue our passions, play along the way, and share our hard work with the world naturally learning throughout the journey.

In other words, for kiddos and adults, both Stuart Brown’s and Laura Weldon’s books give you permission to embrace your authentic selves, play daily which gives you the space and grace to let your natural talents shine through, and bring these gifts forward to be of service throughout your lifetime.

AND if you can weave connecting to and engaging with nature into all of this work and play it will benefit you, your loved ones, and the planet ten fold.  Your authentic Work + P.L.A.Y. + Nature is a recipe for a full-filling life sharing your true gifts.

Sounds like pure genius right? That is what Laura call’s using one’s gifts – true genius.

So, what are you waiting for?

Time to experience P.L.A.Y. in action by picking up your copy of Stuart Brown’s PLAY: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul and putting it into practice today.

And while you are at it take a peek at Free Range Learning by Laura Grace Weldon (spoiler alert – it isn’t just for homeschoolers – all Life Learners are welcome!).

You and your family will be ever so glad you did.

Sending Smiles ~ Karen 🙂

Recommended Books for P.L.A.Y. in Nature

Now FREE Online all in one P.L.A.Y. place!

Nature BOOK LOOK – The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel


 ~ ~ ~ BOOK LOOK ~ ~ ~

The Mushroom Fan Club

by Elise Gravel

Karen’s P.L.A.Y. previews and companion activity adventures.

 P.L.A.Y.ful story preview:

Simple Mushroom Mastery and Mycologists in the Making

*Must have an enthusiastic favorite adult to advise kiddos on this adventure.

P.L.A.Y.-filled companion activity adventures:

  • Challenge: Are there mushrooms you’ve seen in a nearby forest that are also in this book? What are they? Can you draw or photograph them?
  • Super Challenge: How do you think they came up with such a variety of fun mushroom names and who do you think got to name them?
  • Super-Duper Challenge: Before looking up your next mushroom find be sure to create your own crazy name first and record it in your nature discovery notebook – eyes and all!
  • Super-Duper-Stellar Challenge: Solve this mystery . . .  are mushrooms fungi or are fungi mushrooms?
  • Curiosity REMINDER: As beginners it is best to look with your eyes not your hands so as not to disturb the mushrooms. And ALWAYS check with a person who has experience foraging for mushrooms before even considering eating them. 

Fungi Finding is FUN!

More of my latest forest fungi finds:

Purchase HERE P.L.A.Y. Nature Alliteration Adventure Guide Books

Bird BOOK LOOK – Curiosity Projects -The Burgess Bird Book for Children (Annotated)

P.L.A.Y. in Place Curiosity

Missed Chapter 1? Begin Online for FREE HERE

So now that you have read the 45 chapters in The Burgess Bird Book for Children (Annotated) series provided by P.L.A.Y. online, what’s next?

Time to make use of your family’s interests generated from this adventure story with Peter Rabbit and his feathered friends to create new leaping off points into projects and activities that can easily be done at home.

Below are some sample curious questions to help get you started.

Be sure to have each family member generate their own list of what they enjoyed most  and what they’d like to explore further as this keeps everyone engaged and motivated.

Curiosity propels us forward into new ideas as well as digging deeper into topics that were only covered at the surface level. All super life learning moments!

P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects + Activities

  1. Parts of a Bird: Our feathered friends have eyes, throat, shoulders, and a belly just like us. What other parts make up the bird anatomy that is different from humans?
  2. Beak Shape: What are the uses of a bird beak? Can you list them? What different types of shaped beaks are there and what are their clever uses? Dig deep!
  3. Bird Size Silhouettes: How does the outline or shape of a bird (their silhouette) help in identifying from a distance? What characteristics can you tell from a silhouette?
  4. Bird Songs + Calls: Can you track the songs of the birds that live just outside your windows? Who do you hear singing on a spring morning? Who do you hear on a summer’s eve? Do you hear more high notes or low notes? Slow notes or fast? Loud notes or soft notes? Can you duplicate the song you hear on a flute or by whistling? What are bird song mnemonics? Example: Chick-a-dee-dee-dee
  5. Feathers: What purpose do they serve beyond flying? Why is there a variety in colors? How do they vary in size? Do they vary in shape?
  6. Ornithologists: Who are they? Look into what the study of birds was like in the late 1800’s vs. how current day scientists engage with this work.
  7. Birds Can Be: Make a list of what birds can be. Example – seed spreaders, morning wake-up alarms, winged dancers, egg layers, singers, etc.
  8. Bird Watchers: Over 40+ million people in the United States consider themselves birders. How do folks engage with the study of our feathered friends even when they are not scientists by profession?  What is a hobbyist vs. a citizen scientist? Can all birders see activity in their local habitat year round in the United States?
  9. A great winter bird project in New England for the whole family is to engage with Project Feeder Watch by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It is helpful to prepare before the first frost if you need to put poles in the ground and certainly before the first winter storm blankets the ground with snow.
  10. Bonus! How many books can you name with a bird in the title? How many songs can you name that have a bird mentioned in it? What artwork have you seen with birds as a theme?

P.L.A.Y. in Place:

Read, Get Curious, and Enjoy the Journey!

If you haven’t already purchased one or two basic Bird ID books to have on hand in your home you might like to give these two a try.

National Audubon Society

The Sibley Guide to Birds

Written and Illustrated by David Allen Sibley

This guide edition copyright 2000 has been used extensively by my son for identifying birds in his photography as well as by other family members simply looking out our windows. This volume is very thorough in covering birds across the United States and specifically here in New England providing standard deviations to help distinguish between any differences.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Backyard Birdsong Guide to Eastern and Central North America: A Guide to Listening

by Donald Kroodsma

This book has a matching audio recording of 75 bird songs and calls to help you ID what you are hearing outdoors with a family friendly format.

P.L.A.Y. in Place Online Resources

Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided this new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!