What’s To Love About Pinterest

5 reasons to use Pinterest, why like Pinterest, pinning on Pinterest,

Creativity103's Flickr photostream

Are you on Pinterest?

This virtual pinboard lets us create, organize, and share what we find online. Because it’s a visually-oriented site, it attracts us using something other social media sites haven’t done nearly as well: images. While online we tend to be seekers. We look for information, distraction, connection, and inspiration. Pinterest lets us find (and revel in) all these things through compelling images.

The site was launched in March 2010. One of the founders, Ben Silbermann, said in an interview that the idea stemmed from his penchant for collecting. As a child he was particularly taken with entomology. He realized that collecting bugs said something about him, just as any of our interests say something about us. Co-founder Evan Sharp noted that he too was a collector as a child. As an adult that tendency shifted to amassing images in folders on his desktop. So they, along with the third co-founder, Paul Sciarra, developed Pinterest as a way for users to collect and share related images, linking back to the originating site.

Pinterest didn’t catch on immediately. But within a few months users began applying it in ways the founders hadn’t anticipated. They posted travel hacks, home renovation ideas, Etsy items, wedding plans, and craft tutorials. And it’s really taking off.  From Oct 2010 to March 2012, Pinterest went from 40,000 to 18 million monthly unique visitors.

Articles about Pinterest often focus on how it can drive sales or be used as a PR tool. For example TechCrunch predicts Pinterest could change consumer behavior, causing them to seek out goods favored by other Pinterest users. This may be true.

But what’s noted but little understood is that the primary users of Pinterest, at least so far, tend to be women.  A regular look at the Everything front page indicates that these users aren’t necessarily on Pinterest primarily to share consumer recommendations, although there are plenty of tempting pins for fashion and home décor products. They’re using it to share inspiration for ways to live; with more humor and less angst, with beauty found in an evocative landscape, with clever ideas for raising kids or making gifts or building a garden shed. This in itself makes Pinterest seem like a blessed relief from the endless marketing found online.

I’ve fallen for it for several reasons.

1. It’s hubbub free. Unlike FB, Twitter, or G+ you don’t need to scroll past drama or post repeats, nor do you need to hop in regularly lest it seem you’re ignoring ongoing conversations. Instead of all those voices clamoring for your attention, Pinterest has a peaceful vibe. It’s like moseying through a quiet gallery of images, each one ready to tell you more with a click.

2.  It’s a wonderful method of storing visually inspiring ideas for later use. Going back over your own boards can be like flipping through magazines made entirely of what you love. Previous pins can help you find that entree you want to make today, the shelves you want to build in your kitchen next summer, and the song that teaches your kids about the periodic table as soon as they’re old enough.

3. It’s a way to browse freely and casually within any interest you might have. Yes, you can create circles on G+ and lists on Twitter, but on Pinterest it’s easy to follow any chosen user’s specific boards. Whether you want ideas for DIY projects or images of trees or ways to preserve family peace, you’ll find it on Pinterest.

4.  Marketers assume Pinterest will drive sales and yes, there are plenty of luscious products pinned. But I wonder if it might actually serve as an antidote to materialism.  Sorting and sharing images may satisfy the urges often channeled into shopping or ordering online. If purchasing has something to do with acquiring and keeping, maybe, just maybe, acquiring and keeping images may fill the same need.

5. It’s a way of sharing what simply delights us. By organizing what appeals to us, we make it easier for other people to find interesting ideas and images. It’s heartening, in a way, to find that a woman I know as a writer of math books also has a thing for Spanish architecture, punk t-shirts, frothy cocktails, and Daniel Craig movies.

Connect with me on Pinterest!

Eat Your Dandelions

dandelion recipe, dandelions for health, eat dandelions, don't kill dandelions,

Image courtesy of thaowurr.deviantart.com

“You EAT them?” a little boy new to the neighborhood asks. He leans forward for the answer, his face ready to constrict in doubt.

Children already well acquainted with our family’s springtime ritual stop picking.

“Yeah!” they eagerly assure him, “They’re really good.”

They aren’t referring to a new vegetable in our garden. They’re talking about dandelions.

Herbalists tell us exactly what we need grows nearby. Those plants we call “weeds” may in fact remedy what ails us. They are so common that their properties are easily overlooked in a culture searching for packaged wellness. Plantain, mullein, comfrey,mint, mugwort,St. John’s wort, chicory and purslane spring up wild in my untreated lawn and garden. Weeds, but also powerful healers.

Today we’re picking dandelions in full flower. It isn’t about finding a remedy. For me the harvest is has to do with celebrating spring and affirming the beauty around us. For my children and our neighbors it’s about fun. I wait until the blooms are at their peak. Then I call friends and neighbors to announce, “Today is the day!”

Children spread out across the yard holding little baskets. A girl squats in front of each plant, pausing a long moment before she reaches out to pluck a flower from its stem. The  oldest boy in the group walks by many dandelion plants to pick only those growing in clusters. And the newest little boy falls silent, as the rest of the children do, taking delight in the seriousness of the harvest.

European settlers brought the dandelion plant to this continent for food and medicinal purposes. The perennial spread easily across most states. It’s a testament to the power of herbicide marketers that such a useful plant became so thoroughly despised. Standing under today’s blue sky, I look at exuberant yellow rosettes growing in bright green grass and feel sheer aesthetic pleasure.

After the children tire of picking we sit together on the porch and snip off the dandelion stems right up to the flower. We mothers look over their busy heads—blonde, brown, black—and smile as we watch them stay at this task with the kind of close attention children give to real work. One girl remarks that the flowers look like the sun. Another child says her grandmother told her that in the Old Country they call the plant by the same name as milk because of its white sap. The newest boy chooses to line the stems neatly along the wide porch planking, arranging and rearranging them by length.

Every aspect of a ritual holds significance so I pay attention to the warm breeze, the comfortable pulse of friendship, and flowers so soft against my fingers they remind me of a newborn’s hair.

When we’re done the flowers are rinsed in a colander, then it’s time to cook them. I’m not a fan of frying. There are better ways to preserve the flavor and nutrients in food. Consequently I’m not very skilled. But this is easy. The children, their mothers and I drop the flowers in a thin batter, scoop them out with slotted spoons and fry them a dozen at a time in shallow pans.

After the blossoms cool slightly on paper towels they’re put on two platters. One is tossed with powdered sugar and cinnamon, the other sprinkled with salt and pepper. Handfuls are eaten in the kitchen while we cook. Then we carry the platters outside. Children run off to play in grass polka dotted with bright yellow flowers. We adults sit on the porch laughing and talking.

It’s suggested that we should be eating healthfully prepared dandelion greens and roots rather than indulging in delectable fried blossoms. That sentence fades into a quiet moment as a breeze stirs new leaves on the trees and lifts our children’s hair. I feel enlivened. Everywhere, around me and inside me, it is spring.

eat dandelions, healthy dandelions, dandelion flower recipe, fried dandelions, dandelion blossom recipe, Flower Power Recipe

Gather dandelion flowers from areas free of chemical treatments or fertilizer. Pick in a sunny part of the day so the flowers are fully open, then prepare right away so flowers don’t close.
Cut away stem, as this is bitter, leaving only the green part holding the flower together.
Douse briefly in salt water (to flush out any lurking bugs). Dry flowers on dish towels while you prepare batter.
3 to 4 cups dandelion flowers, prepared as above
1 cup milk (dairy, soy, almond, coconut, any variety)
1 egg (or equivalent egg replacer product)
1 cup flour (slightly smaller amount of any whole grain alternative)
½ teaspoon salt
oil (frying is best with healthful oils which don’t break down at high temperatures, try safflower oil, coconut oil or olive oil)
1. Combine milk, egg, flour and salt in wide bowl. Mix well. Heat an inch or two of oil in skillet (350-375 degrees).
2.  Drop a dozen or so blossoms into the batter, stir gently to coat. Lift out with slotted spoon or fork. It’s best to hold the bowl over the skillet as you drop each blossom into the hot oil.
3. Turn flowers over to brown on both sides. Remove with slotted spatula to drain briefly on paper towels. Continue to fry remaining flowers using same steps. Toss cooked dandelions with sugar and cinnamon. Or salt and your choice of savory flavoring such as garlic, pepper or chili powder.
4. Making flower fritters is a speedier method than frying individual flowers. Simply drop flowers and batter into the oil by the spoonful, then turn like a pancake. Serve with jam, maple syrup or honey. Or try savory toppings like mustard, ketchup or barbeque sauce. These fritters are endlessly adaptable. Try adding sunflower or sesame seeds to the batter and serve with either the sweet or savory toppings.
dandelions for health, cure yourself with dandelions, dandelion benefits,

Image by photobri25.deviantart.com

What You May Not Know About Dandelions

The common dandelion, Taraxacum officinal, has been used in traditional medical systems around the world to boost nutrition as well as treat conditions of the liver, kidney and spleen; slow abnormal growths; improve digestion and more. Recently science has taken a closer look at this often scorned plant. No surprise, traditional wisdom holds up under scrutiny.

~Dandelion root stimulates the growth of 14 strains of bifidobacteria.1 This is good news, because bifidobacteria aid in digestion. Their presence in the gut is correlated with a lower incidence of allergies.2

~Dandelions appear to fight cancer. Researchers testing for biologically active components to combat cancer proliferation and invasion note that dandelion extracts have value as “novel anti-cancer agent[s].” Their studies show dandelion leaf extract decreases growth of certain breast cancer cells and blocks invasion of prostate cancer. The root extract blocks invasion of other specific breast cancer cells3  and also shows promise inhibiting skin cancer. 4

~Dandelions work as an anti-inflammatory and pain relieving agent.5

~Dandelion extract lowers cholesterol. This, plus its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities leads some researchers to believe that the plant may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).6

~The plant’s leaves are an effective diuretic.7

~Dandelion shows promise in diabetic treatment. It slows the glycemic response to carbohydrates, thereby helping to control blood sugar.8

~Dandelion extract increases the action of estrogen and progesterone receptors. It may prove to be a useful treatment for reproductive hormone-related problems including PMS.9

~ Leaves, roots and flowers of the humble dandelion are fully edible. USDA National Nutrient Database analysis proves that a festive array of nutrition awaits any lawn harvester. One cup of chopped fresh dandelion greens are extremely rich in vitamins K, A and C as well as good source of vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6,  calcium, iron, ,magnesium, manganese, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.10

The flavonoids found in dandelions are valuable antioxidants and free radical scavengers.11

1 I. Trojanova, V. Rada, L. Kokoska, E. Vikova, “The Bifidogenic Effect of Taraxacum Officinale Root,”  Fitoterapia vol 75 issue 7/8 (December 2004), 760-763.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15567259  (accessed 8-29-09)
2  Bengt Bjorksten, Epp Sepp, Kaja Julge, Tiia Voor, Marika Mikelsaar, “Allergy Development and the Intestinal Microflora During the First Year of Life,” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology vol 108 issue 4 (October 2001), 516-520. http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(01)96140-8/abstract  (accessed 8-29-09)
3 S.C.Sigstedt, C.J. Hooten, M.C. Callewaert, A.R. Jenkins, A.E. Romera, M.J. Pullin, A. Korneinko, T.K. Lowrey, S.V. Slambrouck, W.F. Steelant, “Evaluation of Aqueous Extracts of Taraxacum Officinale on Growth and Invasion of Breast and Prostate Cancer Cells,” International Journal of Oncologyvol 32, num 5 (May 2008), 1085-1090.  http://www.spandidos-publications.com/ijo/article.jsp?article_id=ijo_32_5_1085  (accessed 8-30-09).
4 M. Takasaki, T. Konoshima, H. Tokuda, K. Masuda, Y. Arai, K. Shiojima, H. Ageta,  “Anti-carcinogenic Activity of Taraxacum Plant,” Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin vol 22, 6 (June 1999), 602-605.  http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.cpl.org/ehost/detail?vid=1&hid=108&sid=b7ce94b0-1484-4aef-a5a8-73e1efddb194%40sessionmgr104&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=cmedm&AN=10408234  (accessed 9-1-09).
5 H.J. Jeon, H.J. Kang, H.J. Jung, Y.S. Kang, C.J. Lim, Y.M Kim, E.H. Park, Anti-inflammatory Activity of Taraxacum Officinale,”  Journal of Ethnopharmacology vol. 115, 1 (January 2008), 82-88.  http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.cpl.org/ehost/detail?vid=1&hid=108&sid=4b56dd3a-f9b3-4444-b85d-80d79eb1f3ce%40replicon103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=cmedm&AN=17949929  (accessed 9-1-09).
6 Jinju Kim, Kyunghee Noh, Mikyung Cho, Jihyun Jang, Youngsun Song, “Anti-oxidative, Anti-inflammatory and Anti-Atherogenic Effects of Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale) Extracts in c57BL/6 Mice Fed Atherogenic Diet,”  FASEB Journal vol 21, issue 6 (April 2007), 1122.  http://wf2dnvr17.webfeat.org/aNuiM141/url=http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=1&hid=5&sid=a168be9f-0a5c-41c6-b86d-2a9c3677c6f4%40sessionmgr4&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aph&AN=25598840   (accessed 9-1-09).
7 Bevin A. Clare, Richard S. Conroy, Kevin Spelman, “The Diuretic Effect in Human Subjects of an Extract of Taraxacum Officinale Rolium Over a Single Day,” Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine vol 15, issue 8 (August 2009), 929-934.  http://wf2dnvr17.webfeat.org/aNuiM14/url=http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=1&hid=9&sid=a26346e7-f010-44fc-88ea-891214f7539a%40sessionmgr10&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aph&AN=43671001     (accessed 9-1-09).
8 Secil Onal, Suna Timur, Burcu Okutucu, Figen Zihnioglu, “Inhibition of a-Glucosidase by Aqueous Extracts of Some Potent Antidiabetic Medicinal Herbs,” Preparative Biochemistry & Biotechnology vol 35, issue 1 (February 2005), 29-36.  http://wf2dnvr17.webfeat.org/aNuiM141/url=http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=8&hid=104&sid=982fd009-501c-4a90-9ce3-7d5475b2ed05%40sessionmgr4&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aph&AN=16133864    (accessed 9-1-09).
9 Zhi Xu, Ken-Ichi Honda, Koji Ozaki, Takuya Misugi, Toshiyuki Sumi, Osamu Ishiko, “Dandelioin T-1 Extract Up-regulates Reproductive Hormone Receptor Expression in Mice,” International Journal of Molecular Medicine volume 20, 3 (2007) 287-292.  http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=19007317   (accessed 8-27-09).
10 USDA Agricultural Research Service, USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 21, (2008) NDB # 11207  http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/cgi-bin/list_nut_edit.pl  (accessed 9-1-09).
 11 Hu C. Kitts, “Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale) Flower Extract Suppresses Both Reactive Oxygen Species and Nitric Oxide and Prevents Lipid Oxidation in Vitro,” Phytomedicine 12, 8 (August 2005), 588-597. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16121519?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DiscoveryPanel.Pubmed_Discovery_RA&linkpos=2&log$=relatedarticles&logdbfrom=pubmed  (accessed 9-1-09).

This post is reprinted from an article that first appeared in Natural Life Magazine

7 Ways To Make Your Day More Magical

try on new identity, pretend to be someone else,

Creative Commons image Flickr photostream of Estadão.com.br

1. Head off to an interesting destination with your family or friends for an Alternative Identity Day. On the way, everyone makes up his or her own identity. Throughout the day make an effort to play along with that identity: call each other by the chosen faux names, enjoy elaborating on your character’s backstory, and interact with strangers through that identity. At the end of the experiment talk about how it felt to try on an alternative self. And if you’ve taken photos, check to see if anyone held their faces or bodies differently. The sense of observing yourself from the lens of another persona can be illuminating.

toast, ritual of the toast, make today significant, make today magical,

Wikimedia Commons

2. Start your meal with a toast. It may be as simple as raising your glass of orange juice in the morning, saying “Here’s to a wonderful day ahead.” Or as heartfelt as an unexpected toast to a friend in thanks for all you’ve shared. A toast is a ritual for adding significance to the moment. Why not make more moments significant?

Creative Commons image from Flickr photostream of Gj IMAGEWORKS

3. Don’t let a day go by without generating some music. You might sing along with the radio or whistle to make a chore go faster. If you play an instrument, even if you haven’t practiced in a long time, get it out (suspending all judgment) and get reacquainted. If you’ve always hankered to play an instrument but never tried, sign up for some introductory lessons.

An easy way to incorporate music into your life is to make up lyrics to familiar tunes. This is particularly satisfying when you’re annoyed. (Whoever passed down the traditional “Rock A Bye Baby” lullaby knew that grumpy lyrics go quite nicely with a sweet tune.) To the tune of “Row, Row, Row, Your Boat” try singing,

Wait, wait, wait on hold
Till I want to scream
Knowing from experience
Service is a dream.

See what other experiences you can transform using music.

encouraging banner,

Image: L. Weldon

4. Make an encouraging banner. This project was inspired by the collaborative art project Learning To Love You More. Assignment number 63 was to make an encouraging banner and hang it.  Participants hung banners in their bedrooms, across overpasses, in junkyards, alongside roadways, in parking lots—all over the place. In all sorts of colors and shapes their banners announced:

Don’t forget you are beautiful
It’s okay to ask for help
Life is art
Let’s hear it for love
Lose track of “I”
This is the land of milk & honey
You are incomparable
Less do, more be
You can trust what you can’t explain
Farm magic

What phrase gives you hope? Make a banner, either one you plan to hang in your home or to share with the public. You might want to photograph it in various places. The phrase you love comes alive in different settings.

treehouse, what you wanted as a child,

Creative Commons image from Flickr photostream of Karen Roe

5. Sketch something you wanted as a child. The perfect treehouse, a fairy godmother, that toy Santa never brought, a first place trophy, a real best friend. Maybe make a few sketches to get the details just the way you want them. Add some labels if that helps. Now close your eyes, imagine yourself as a child, and give this earlier version of yourself that gift. You may scoff but the disappointed child in you just might appreciate the attention.

Creative Commons image from Flickr photostream of Tomorrow Never Knows

6. Look for metaphors in the ordinary. Challenge yourself to discern a “message” in the first news item you hear in the day or the first visual that appears when you flick on the TV. Ask yourself why a certain song is playing in your head—does it remind you of something, perhaps a feeling or memory the music evokes? Ask yourself why you might have a certain ache, is your body is speaking to you the only way it can? Look for coincidences, synchronicity, and little delights—these can be signposts indicating you are exactly where you need to be.

In particular, pay attention to the messages found in your dreams. Before going to sleep tell yourself that you will remember your dreams. You may want to ask a question before drifting off. When you wake, don’t jump right out of bed. Instead lie quietly and let dreams rise to your awareness. Although their images and stories often make no logical sense dreams speak in symbols with meaning specific to you. Let those symbols linger with you through the day. Even last night’s giant parking meters demanding soup may start to make sense, metaphorically speaking.

eyebombing, fun with googly eyes,

Creative Commons image from Flickr photostream of katerha

7. Heard of eyebombing? Very simply, it’s the act of putting sticky googly eyes on inanimate objects. As described on eyebombing.com, “Ultimately the goal is to humanize the streets, and bring sunshine to people passing by.”

This is an inexpensive and intentionally silly exercise.  Buy a package or two of googly eyes and start looking for where they belong. For inspiration, check out the eyebombing flickr group.  Then enjoy your quest.  Anthropomorphizing a mustard bottle never seemed so right.


Fun Theory

CC by 2.0 takazart

CC by 2.0 takazart

I’m not aware of any official Fun Theory in the field of learning. But fun shimmers under the surface of motivation and focus like a very big fish. And the fish named Fun shouldn’t be ignored.

I lifted the term Fun Theory from an old Volkswagen campaign. One of their videos shows busy commuters choosing an escalator instead of a staircase. People are rarely motivated to do otherwise. But when the same stairs were transformed into a giant electronic piano sixty-six percent more people chose to hop, dance and run up those musical steps. Fun works. (It also sends the Volkswagen logo around the world in a great example of viral marketing.)

It’s no surprise that pleasure is motivating, although what one person finds enjoyable may not be remotely engaging for the next person.

That’s the key. Fun is highly individual. It can’t be easily pre-packaged, even though promoters of textbooks, curricula, and enrichment programs assert their products do just that.

You can tell when educational materials and experiences don’t engage the young people in your life. They exhibit, shall we say, obvious symptoms. I won’t list them here. These symptoms tend to cause us all kinds of angst.

A child’s stubborn insistence that learning be meaningful and interesting is actually a sign of positive selfhood. We need to pay close attention to each child to really see what sparks enthusiasm, evokes awe, sharpens focus, builds on interests, and challenges abilities. That’s what advances learning.

The elements that make an activity or interest compelling for any one person can’t be neatly summed up, nor should they. A person is too complex to reduce to a List of Handy Motivators. But you might want to consider such factors if you’d like to understand why your child prefers to do things his or her way, or why some enriching activities “work” and others don’t. Below you’ll find brief notes about some of the factors that make learning intrinsically pleasurable and interesting. Think of your child as you read over the list. Think of yourself too. You’ll recognize many unique ways that lively, engaged learning happens quite naturally.

                Trial and Error 

Learning is fun when errors don’t feel like failures. Watch a group of friends figure out what tools and design elements they’ll use to make bracelets from a cast-off metal objects. Their initial results will likely be both positive and negative. Their mistakes will help to guide and refine their progress. Thomas Edison said of trial and error, “Results! Why man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work.”

When your child is building a fort out of branches she may experiment with several approaches. This open-ended process allows her to repeat successes and learn from errors, getting ever closer to the desired result. Trial and error often pulls the learner forward to greater mastery. It’s also tremendously enjoyable.


Full engagement in any pursuit that is meaningful to the individual may not sound like a prescription for fun. But it is, because it tends to lead to what is called flow:  a sense of focusing so fully that we lose sense of time, discomfort, even self.

Artists and athletes aren’t the only ones who experience flow, children easily merge into this state. A child may experience flow while engaging in make-believe, drawing, swinging on a backyard swing, playing the guitar, fixing a bicycle, even organizing a shelf.

You may not be able to predict what has meaning for your child, but chances are it fuels learning. Your daughter’s fascination with horses may lead her to equine-related mathematics, history and science. Her learning is enlivened with wonder and purpose. That absorption is also fun.


Discovery is highly motivating and feels quite a bit like fun. It lures babies to put everything into their mouths. It propels us to try new music, peer around forbidden corners, travel to distant places.

When a friend brings up an obscure bit of information, your preteen may check it out later only to find an unexpectedly engaging exploration through subjects that never interested her before. Or perhaps your son’s curiosity is piqued by a new venture he wants to try like making homemade cheese. The project opens up to ever wider explorations such as homesteading skills, the claims of raw milk advocates, and recipes using artisan cheeses. For most of us independent discovery has the greatest allure.


What is new and unexpected heightens attention and activates all kinds of interest. That’s why marketers are constantly coming out with newer versions of the same thing. Novelty leads readily to exploration or play. By itself, novelty wears off quickly. (Those commuters will tire of the musical stairs and probably go back to using the escalator.)

You can rely on something new to stimulate interest. Just remember that too much reliance on novelty doesn’t help children build their own deeper resources of attention and interest.


Play isn’t “just” for fun. It’s an essential component of learning. Stuart Brown, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
said in an interview, “…evidence continues to accumulate that the learning of emotional control, social competency, personal resiliency and continuing curiosity plus other life benefits accrue largely through rich developmentally appropriate play experiences.”  Unstructured free play is particularly important. We already know it’s fun.

                Direct Experience

Hands-on efforts make learning come alive with pleasure and satisfaction. Frank R. Wilson notes in  The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture that brain and hand use have always been connected. When a young child is put in charge of preparing vegetables for a stir fry dinner his efforts may not be entirely helpful, but the sensory experience of washing, chopping, and tasting offer him much more than growing competence in meal preparation. The sensory experiences enhance comprehension and lock in learning. When a child expresses interest in puppetry she may want the opportunity to make puppets, stage puppet shows, and go to puppet guild meetings. The more fully involved a child can be the more direct (and lasting) his or her learning will be.


Challenges are fun as well as educational because they keep us right at the edge of our competence, pushing us on to the next level (exactly why video games are so compelling). A ten-year-old may enjoy the logical challenge of debating his older brother, the practical difficulties of planning and filming his own scary movie, the physical and social risks of showing off at the skating rink. These self-selected activities push him to advance a whole range of abilities. Challenges keep us too absorbed to grin but for our own good reasons.


There are plenty of other “fun in learning” factors such as relationship development, competition, sensory pleasure—surely you can think of more. All these elements are intertwined so completely that they only make sense when we see them as connected.

I think that’s why we need to pay attention to what’s fun about learning. Yes it’s different for each person. But what’s universal is that each of us is capable of fascination, excitement, and wonder. Why fish around for methods to motivate and sustain a child’s attention when joy is right there, showing us the way?

Portions of this post excerpted from Free Range Learning.