Anarchy on the Katie Show


So there I was, hanging out with my 2 year old son JJ on his favorite railroad tracks down by the river. We’d been throwing rocks in the water, crossing the railroad bridge hand in hand, and gleefully running down the tracks hollering for the train. I felt a buzz from my iphone, eventually checked… Read more »


The Smoldering Fire of Progress….


So there I was, heading to the Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone at the Ithaca Children’s Garden. It was winter play camp week during the winter break and I was coming to hang with the kids and see what sort of fun things were happening. I arrived mid-morning and was excited to check out the scene. Much… Read more »


Ice Laboratory


Hello fellow earthplayers! Are you having a fun winter? (or summer, for those of you soaking in the sun “down under”)  Here in Ithaca NY it’s been cold! Really cold. Almost pushing the limits of our favorite saying, “no bad weather, just bad clothing”. But not quite….there have still been plenty of days to go… Read more »


Building a Mini Playscape “River”


Last month I had the fun pleasure of building a mini “River” with volunteers during a great natural playscape community build at The Butterfly House on the campus of the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA. I thought y’all might be interested in the process. Take a peek! Here we are starting out on a… Read more »


my little JJ, away!


I just dropped my little 18-month old son JJ off  at “childcare” for the first time. My heart is overflowing with emotions. We had been keeping his care “in the family” so to speak, so far splitting childcare time between myself, my wife, and my parents who live nearby (plus close friends and neighbors –… Read more »




Too much fun!  Another Tuesday and another Adventure School gathering. But this time it was a dark and rainy day. So what do we do? Well, first we all tromp through the woods in the downpour to visit a neighbor’s farm with sheep, horses, and a donkey of course! (there’s “no bad weather, just bad… Read more »


MUD! it’s ok, mamas and papas….


So we all know kids love mud and puddles and jumping in mud and puddles. And yes, we parents know it too – but do we like it? Not always! And now schools and childcare centers are intentionally allowing and encouraging children to explore the mud and mess? Oh my goodness! How do teachers handle… Read more »


Portland Playscape Park Project


Wow!  Check out this great new video about a great new project we are working on in the city of Portland, OR. My playscape partner Leon Smith is leading it and working with loads of kids on the design doing field trips, brainstorming, drawings, model building and more. Exciting stuff!!


Springy Adventure School


check it out, loads of fun at this week’s Adventure School Group!


Playscape Build…in Action!


It’s playground building season again and this time I’m down in Atlanta, GA working with the amazing Rukia Rogers to create a wild space for city kids at her soon-to-open childcare center, The Highlander School. We’ve got carpenters, concrete water feature-makers, tree specialists, children’s garden workers, and a load of volunteers all coming together to… Read more »


It’s Willow Hut Building Time!

willow tunnel

That’s right folks: early spring is the perfect time to plant the willow hut you’ve been dreaming about. If you live in the northern hemisphere this means now! Hooray! Ready to build? Here is the How to Build a Willow Hut piece from my book Natural Playscapes.  : ) The best way to get the… Read more »


Another kid loving a creek…


Another kid loving a little creek… but this time it’s my own 15-month old JJ!  Out on a family hike we passed a tiny drainage creek flowing under the trail. JJ heard the trickle  and immediately wanted to get down and investigate. Amazing. We know kids love water, and feel connected to the elements. A… Read more »


East Atlanta Playscape DESIGN!


hey y’all – check out our fun new design for The Highlander School in Atlanta, started by the amazing Rukia Rogers! We’ll be doing a volunteer construction day in 2 weeks – if you’re in the neighborhood stop by. The more the merrier! (and yes: those are SHEEP you see grazing!!!!)  


Adventure School meets The Anarchy Zone!


So if you remember, I’ve been working with local friends to create a day-a-week traveling “forest school” for our preschool-age kids — “Adventure School” . Each week we pick a different family’s land to visit where the children can explore, play, create, construct, balance, and build fires. We’ve visited forests in fall, creeks in summer,… Read more »


Adventure School Group – in session!

here's looking atcha

Friends and I have been dreaming of starting an adventure school and this week we began the first Tuesday of the Adventure School Group’s 2012-13 school year. Yay!  Inspired by forest schools and nature kindergartens we are starting with a one-day-a-week morning adventure session rotating between various locations. (some families live by a creek. others… Read more »


Earthplay Water Tower


Here it is!  One of our new Earthplay Water Features: the WATER TOWER! For the past year I’ve been working to create simple, durable water play items that people can add to their natural playscapes. I have a friend with a large stand of Black Locust trees which are perfect for children’s play areas: beefy,… Read more »


Anarchy Zone: one, TV: zero.


Here’s a glimpse at some of the funky fort building happening at the Anarchy Zone at the Ithaca Children’s Garden. Notice the negotiation between the girl in white and her mom to stay (inside the den) a half hour longer. At around 1:40 of the video the mom says “this half hour is instead of… Read more »


Vintage Adventure Playground Film


OK, my absolute new love is ADVENTURE PLAYGROUNDS. You know about these, right? Started after WWII – children playing with loose parts, rubble, scrap building materials to build their own play and playgrounds. The phenomenon caught on first in Europe and is still going strong in many cities. (Berlin has over 100 adventure playgrounds today)…. Read more »


Brooklyn Swarm Build TIMELAPSE!

Hee hee – fun times in the big city. Here a group of spirited volunteers got together to plant themselves a hillslide. Nice!  Shoveling, pickaxing, gathering free woodchips from a local cemetery,  light carpentry and heavy comradery added up to a fun day of work and a great new 4′ hillslide planted in the community’s… Read more »



Here’s the current project I’m working on at a wonderful Montessori school in Newport News, VA. Located in a business park, the current play area is on top of an asphalt parking lot. Well, let the transformations begin! When I visited earlier this year the kids and staff shared amazing ideas and visions for their… Read more »


East Tennessee SWARM BUILD

Here we are: another volunteer community “Swarm Build” — this one at the East Tennessee State University Child Study Center in Johnson City, TN.  Fun! We timed it to fit in with the ETSU Early Childhood conference and offered conference-goers a chance to step away from the air-conditioned conference center, put on work clothes, roll… Read more »


Creativity in the Anarchy Zone mud pit

You could simply call this “play”, or like Morgan Leichter-Saxby, you could also call this “building, engineering, balancing, experimenting, splashing, and focusing”– all in the Mud at the Ithaca Children’s Garden’s ANARCHY ZONE. Mud Constructions at the hands-on-nature ANARCHY ZONE from rusty keeler on Vimeo.  


Playscape Log Gathering, Community Built Style!

  Here’s one way to do it. During a natural playscape build at Faith Childcare and Nursery School in Rochester, NY we had a big space designated as “log climbing area”. Great. But then we needed to get some logs to fill it. We put the word out to parents and sure enough: one dad … Read more »


International MUD DAY

Woo hoo!  International Mud Day at the new Hands-on-Nature ANARCHY ZONE at the Ithaca Children’s Garden. YEAH!!!!  Mud pools, mud slides, mud pies, mud cloth, mud mountains. We got 60 cubic yards of screened topsoil delivered and the Ithaca fire department was amazingly generous and came to soak it all up and make some yummy… Read more »


Creekside Adventure School

Creek School FAVS - 02

  Gotta love it: learning about the world by being in the world. Up close and personal style. After all the years of dreaming and designing children’s spaces I finally have a child of my own: Julian James Keeler, born Jan 8, 2012. yay! So what’s a new parent to do but dream up an Art… Read more »



Here we go friends….. The Hands-on-Nature ANARCHY ZONE at the Ithaca Children’s Garden!  Woohoo!! I am super excited to be teaming up with US Fish and Wildlife Service, Cornell University, the Ithaca Children’s Garden, Pop-up Adventure Playworkers Morgan Leichter-Saxby and Sharon Unis, and the kids and families of Ithaca, NY to create the funky wild… Read more »


Water. You Know What to Do.


Summer is over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dip in the water a little bit longer. Here is a fun sequence of my awesome niece ZORA enjoying the shallow water at Buttermilk Falls State park in Ithaca, NY. She lives in the big city of Washington, DC, but give her a creek and some… Read more »


Ice, Salt, Color; FUN


Another fun visit to the Seed Center in Ithaca, NY. Inspired by Bev Bos, Jacquelyn put out frozen ICE BLOCKS in bins and gave the kids salt and food coloring. The salt melts the ice in fascinating patterns and the color, well, colors it! Fun stuff on a warm summer’s day…


Dillon Nature Center NATURAL PLAYSCAPE

Take a look at this fabulous natural playscape, freshly built at the Dillon Nature Center in Hutchinson, Kansas. I worked on the Master Plan with director extraordinaire Jim Smith and his creative staff (and ate some good homemade pies in the process), then they were off and running! This spring and summer they teamed up… Read more »