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!

A Simple Gift: Resolve to Evolve

Passing forward this Simple Gift to inspire and encourage everyone on their

naturally curious and creative P.L.A.Y. journey. 🙂

So often we feel the need to instantly resolve or find a solution to every problem that seems to pass our way, especially as parents.

While engaging with our P.L.A.Y.  filled journey, at any age, it is helpful to remember that problems are merely situations that provide us with the opportunity to learn, grow, and simply be present.

In fact there are times where simply being present, waiting and watching a situation and letting it evolve naturally, may be the most mindful and helpful thing we can do. Through non-action it often becomes apparent that perhaps you were not needed in order for a resolution to be reached.

Take a moment to simply breathe and remind yourself that as the parent you are not required to always have the answers or the solutions. It is ok to simply say “I don’t know” or to take a step back from a situation and watch from a distance while your kiddos (safely) navigate their own challenges.

Resolve to evolve and be present and let your intuition guide you. The answers will unfold right before your very eyes.

Simply focus on your true P.L.A.Y. nature and Passionately Learn All Year!

Now that is a simple gift! 🙂

Time to P.L.A.Y.!

Sending smiles,

Karen ;0)

❤ ❤ ❤

Every Day is Mother’s Day

Sharing a note I wrote this morning in response to receiving a “Happy Mother’s Day” wish from a family friend.

Good Morning Dear Oma,

Your “Happy Mother’s Day” wish has found me in a contemplative moment as I sit here at the computer keyboard checking emails this morning.

For the past 7 years I have found Mother’s Day to be so very bittersweet. 💜
I stand in that space between what has passed and what is present. 

I think of my mom and her passing on May 13, 2014 and the great loss I have felt ever since. I think of all the Mother’s Day celebrations she hosted for her own mother and sisters for so many years and reflect on how everything has changed so much since she has been gone. I miss her so very much.

I think of my own journey from “mothering” all of those young cherubs I babysat in my teens, and then the oodles of hours spent in my 5th grade classroom from year-to-year nurturing all those kiddos, and then moving on to birthing my own two children and raising them amongst the many homeschooling families we met all along the way (including my much loved sister-friend in motherhood your dear Lisa & E & A & T).

“Mother’s Day is an odd notion to me, for truly every day is mother’s day – tending to our loved ones and letting them know how very much they are seen, heard, valued, and understood. This is the way of mothering daily. This is what I do and what I know best. It is how I am in the world – every hour, minute, year – always.

What actually makes me happy in this present moment, Oma, is to say how much I love being connected to you, your family, and to let you know how very glad I am you became a mother so very long ago. It has made all the difference in my life.

Sending love and a smile to help light the way,

Karen ;0)💜☺🐦☀🌷
PS –The sun is now up and the flowers are stretching towards the light. I think that is how I will spend my day and I hope you do too. Outside soaking up nature’s beauty. Time to P.L.A.Y.

YOUR Questions for P.L.A.Y.

Hello Parents! Hello Kiddos!

Hello P.L.A.Y.-ers!

What’s on your mind?

Better yet what’s on your heart?

Parents and caretakers, kiddos and P.L.A.Y.-ers all, this is your opportunity to ask Karen, the creator of P.L.A.Y., any questions concerning your family’s learning journey.

How can I be of service?

Send your questions for FREE!


Whether you are homeschooling, unschooling, or a family that simply loves to spend time immersed in nature you’ve come to the right place!

The sky’s the limit – ASK “anything”!

This is your chance to ask the questions that keep bubbling up for you as you embark or continue to travel on this life learning journey.

ALL questions are valued.

ALL questions matter.

You matter. Period.

Just take this brief moment and send me what’s been a recent or reoccurring challenge or topic for you or your kiddos. Let’s see if we can noodle things through – together – and lighten the load!*


Love to hear from you!

Be well, be safe, and simply bee!

Busy Bee!

*Note: Your email address will never be shared. Your contact with me via email (or snail mail) is a 1:1 correspondence. I’m here as an experienced mama bear and 20+year veteran homeschool visionista ready to pass forward what I’ve learned on the P.L.A.Y. journey to you and your cubs. I’m transparent and true to my word, it is as simple as that.

A Simple Gift: Challenges + P.L.A.Y. As a Path Forward

Passing forward this Simple Gift to inspire and encourage everyone on their

naturally curious and creative P.L.A.Y. journey. 🙂

There are times in our lives when our learning may not be directly chosen by us, rather it arrives at our doorstep in the form of a challenge. A challenge we’d rather skip altogether and detour around it as we can see that it may involve pain and sadness.

However, it is up to us to see it as an opportunity. To accept the challenge as difficult as it may be and approach it with curiosity, compassion, and yes even at times to approach with the essence of play to keep up our spirits and provide momentum through the darker moments.

Hidden Hearts: Love infused spring Landscape

When we are able to proceed from this place of curiosity, compassion, and play we are embracing the essence of wholeheartedness. From this place the work of this journey unfolds into a path forward and typically we are all the wiser for it.

I have had the good fortune to engage and put into practice P.L.A.Y. -Passionate Learning All Year with the intentional farming community my family lives in for the past 8+ years. We have had our share of challenges navigating tricky waters determining our path forward and coming to an understanding of what that truly means for each individual as well as for the community as a whole. And while we may not have all the answers and solutions we continue to make connections and strive to work together throughout the journey.

Hidden Hearts: Love revealed on the spring Landscape

To approach challenges with equally as much passion and effort as we can muster to see us through is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and our loved ones.

During these challenging times, when the world seems upside down, what I know to be true is that if we lean into connecting with nature, getting outdoors for fresh air and a boost of vitamin D, and include moments of P.L.A.Y. on our “to do” lists (or better yet our “to be” list) we will get through whatever comes our way and we will discover insights into our own true nature in the process and be all the wiser as we discover “What is this here to teach me?”

Sending a smile and wishing you and yours much peace and wellness,

Karen ;0) 🙂

*For more support and inspiration visit Simple Gifts & Smiles articles HERE

BOOK LOOK Spring Guide for Nature Alliteration Adventures by Karen L. Willard

Join the SPRING P.L.A.Y. adventures by purchasing HERE!

Nature Alliteration Adventures: The Spring Guide

Over 90+ outdoor adventures designed for March + April + May

*Some access to snow + ice recommended for this P.L.A.Y. guide book.

by Karen L. Willard

Spring is just around the bend with the final bands of snow coming through and the white stuff melting off the southern slopes up here in the north west corner of Massachusetts.

There are still a few ice adventures in store down at the brook and river with the melting run off beginning to raise the water levels too.

Buds and blooms are slowly appearing with a few insects taking the lead as they make their way on the muddy surfaces and taking flight.

So many new and exciting wonder and wander moments ahead as nature unfolds into the next season of renewal.

Time to SPRING into action and join the P.L.A.Y. nature adventures with family and friends!

Draw, write, color, and creatively capture your discoveries

on the pages of your Nature Adventure book!

Purchase your P.L.A.Y. guides HERE.

BOOK LOOK – Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

 ~ ~ ~ BOOK LOOK ~ ~ ~

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

by Judi Barrett

Karen’s P.L.A.Y. previews (short) and companion activity adventure list suggestions (long).


The short and long of it is we are experiencing a rare ICE storm in my neck of the woods in WMass so I have a very brief window of opportunity to send today’s blog post to you.

Our local trusted weather forecaster has labeled this as rare so I’m thinking perhaps it is almost, although not quite, as rare as meatballs dropping from the sky!

So today’s BOOK LOOK moment is in a different format and is quite simply for you to discover the wonders of Judi Barrett’s story.

Then fire up your imagination to see what kinds of things just may fall out of the sky the next time you watch the clouds roll by!

How many P.L.A.Y. adventures can you and your family come up with to match those “meatball moments”?

Sending Smiles,

Karen 🙂

Fall #18 – Nature Alliteration Adventure

Purchase HereP.L.A.Y. Nature Alliteration Adventure Guide Books

❤ ❤ ❤

A November treasure quest for you & your curious Capkin

is to search in nature for. . .

“Sun Ray Rock Art”

Bonus silver + bronzegraybluebrown

❤ ❤ ❤

My curious Capkin & I found this treasure to match the description.

❤ ❤ ❤

What other natural treasures did you find in your P.L.A.Y. today? 🙂

Draw, write, color, and creatively capture your discoveries

on the pages of your Nature Adventure book!

Simple Gift: Moments of Inner Stillness

~~~ BOOK LOOK ~~~

Mindful Movements: Ten Exercises for Well-Being

by Thich Nhat Hanh

A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles 

 by Thich Nhat Hanh

~ Review & Reflection ~

Are you seeking simple steps to have moments of daily inner stillness?

Is this challenging to envision when life seems to keep you in motion day and night?

Well look no further than these two calming and family friendly books by Thich Nhat Hahn that will help you and your loved ones begin a set of simple mindful practices that can be done anywhere in your day – indoors or outdoors, all together, partnered up, or solo!

I like to begin my day with Mindful Movements: Ten Exercises For Well-Being just as the morning sun begins to peek over the top of the ridge near our home. I am also very much a morning person so be sure to select the best time for you and your loved ones to engage with these simple mindful exercises to get your circulation going and to feel more centered and focused.

<breathe in><breathe out>

The movements Thich Nhat Hahn recommends are gentle and suit most folks. I like to use this as a beginning to my warm-up and typically add either a few more repetitions or a few extra yoga style stretches to feel fully awake. Focusing on the breath throughout this practice truly makes all the difference as you connect to your “aliveness”.

Then later in the afternoon, whether I’m indoors or typically outdoors on my walk, I take a moment to practice the principles of A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles. I have a true fondness for finding what I call stripey stones down by the river that suit this practice nicely.

I’ve also adapted this practice, in addition to using pebbles, to sometimes using sticks, acorns, leaves, or gathering anything along my walk to then focus on my breath as I hold and release the items back into nature. I take care not to disturb things that are growing and typically select items that have fallen to the ground.

With each nature item I hold in my hand and I practice the in-out breath and connect to what I want to see and be in this world: peace, prosperity, and most of all love. This really creates clarity and gets to the true heart of this practice for me.

And so over time practicing these movements and meditations routinely has become an important part of my P.L.A.Y. path filling my tank with loving kindness towards myself (inward) and setting the intention to share this with everyone I meet (outward). And little by little these simple practices have created an inner stillness that I can connect to again and again, especially when the world seems to be constantly in motion around me.

Wishing you and yours the simple gift of accessing and connecting to your inner stillness throughout the seasons so that you too may find your days filled with peace, prosperity, and most of all love.

~ Recommended P.L.A.Y. ~

  For more inner stillness opportunities visit the Skyscape Simplicity posts HERE.

❤ ❤ ❤

P.L.A.Y. daily and Pass it on!

A Simple Gift: Nature Nurtures

Passing forward this Simple Gift to inspire and encourage everyone on their

naturally curious and creative P.L.A.Y. journey. 🙂

Our family has the good fortune of living in an intentional community situated on over roughly 80 acres and the moment we step outside our door we have access to fields and meadows, both a babbling brook and a river, mountain and ridge, forest and old orchards and gardens. And there are animals too. ❤ ❤ 🙂 ❤ ❤

Goats, chickens, ducks, cats and a dog all share our homes and community spaces as well as the wide assortment of woodland creatures that visit us outdoors both day and night like wild turkeys, coyotes, deer, skunk, woodchucks, porcupines, foxes, birds, owls, and so much more.

Living up here in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts provides daily opportunities to explore, make connections, be in awe of nature, and follow the P.L.A.Y. path.

Each time I take my daily walk I chance upon a new delight and inspiration for my work. Wandering about in wonder and being present always provides the simple gifts of creating new thoughts or connections. Nature always seems to have a wonderful nurturing effect on the mind, body, and spirit.

Looking forward to snowscape season . . . just around the corner! Hooray!


Nature can also bring about the playful, childlike essence in all of us like creating a dam down at the brook, stacking rock cairns at the river’s edge, or building gnome homes in the woods. Racing to see who can sled down a snow covered hillside first, frolicking about with the playful baby goats, or simply getting curious with your Capkin to see what new ice sculpture appeared overnight, are all ways that  nature nurtures that desire in us to be curious and playful and to *be a kid again* or quite simply to be a kid.


Exploring, getting curious, and being present out in nature daily are all wonderful and necessary parts of the P.L.A.Y. journey.

Are you in?

Time to gather up your family or a few P.L.A.Y.-mates, all ages are welcome, step out your door, and begin the adventure today!

And no worries as it is guaranteed that mother nature will have plenty of magic and mysteries, in any season and any outdoor location, just waiting for you and yours to P.L.A.Y.-fully discover if you are simply present to receive the simple gifts.

Sending smiles,

Karen ;0) 🙂

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