Oogi, Plui, Nello, Mox and Bilibo, too


Alex Hochstrasser, the inventor/designer of all Moluk toys, is completely devoted to producing toys that are as simple as posslble, as close to indestructible as he can make them, easy to understand, inviting, and deep enough in their invitation to play to keep you on the brink of wonder and delight.

PluiBrush - Sunny - CloudyTwo of his most recent products include Sunny and Cloudy – sensory toys designed to complement his  popular Plui Rain Cloud.

They are both what you might call brushes – the rays from Sunny and the rain from Cloudy follow the fantasy, but introduce a new layer of engagement and tactile experience.

Sunny, as you can see, spins. If you spin it gently. Alex writes:

“The spinning is one of the core functions of the Sunny brush, and kind of works best if you gently set it in motion with your breath. If you accelerate it too aggressively it just wobbles and stops. I keep the Sunny brush on my desk as a fidget toy. It helps me think and concentrate.”

Which brings us to yet another remarkable thing about Alex’s toys: they are as enticing to adults as they are to children – especially to young children and older adults (like me).

I spent a couple hours in the company of these toys. I was enthralled. They took me away to the kind of play I experienced as a young child, but haven’t been invited to for maybe 70 years.

Then there’s Plui. Allow me to illustrate:


01 Awardplui_colors_newThen there’s the Plui Rainball, half of which is now not only removable, but also squeezable. Ah, squeezability. A new portal to physio-conceptual watery delights.

OK. So you can see why all of these toys, that’s right, all. Including the surprisingly simple, yet surprisingly surprising Nello and all the Oogis (especially maybe the glow in the dark one) and the world’s most expressive squeezy ball, the Mox, and, of course, the enthusiastically praised Bilibo; have each and all been granted the coveted honor of displaying the Major Fun award prominently wherever they are found.

And you can understand why we, especially, are so appreciative of toys that have such a wide range of appeal and are yet so elegantly simple.

Defender of the PlayfulAlex comments: “We market the toys for children, but one of the main goals is to create play things that transcend the traditional age and gender categories of the toy industry. Ideally they are beautiful and intriguing objects that trigger your curiosity and your urge to play and explore, regardless of how old you are.”

And that, dear fun-seeker, is the reason why Alex Hochstrasser has, himself, been declared Defender of the Playful.

Hanoch Piven – Defender of the Playful

when we play we are free

“When we play,” says Hanoch Piven, “we are free.”

Fortunately, there are other people in this world besides me who have devoted much of their life to practicing the art of playfulness – who teach, demonstrate, manifest, explore, devote art and heart to play – and who understand the political implications of all the aforementioned. Hanoch Piven is one such. And one of the things he has to teach is that of all the arts, few are as perfectly suited to manifesting the spirit and practice of playfulness as the art of collage.

Watch, therefore, this:


Since 2003, Piven has been conducting creative workshops. These workshops apply the principles of Piven’s collage technique, prompting children and adults to experiment with common everyday objects and create their own works of art. Apart from being an easy and fun way to experience creativity, the workshops have been embraced by educators, art therapists and management consultants as an efficient tool for communicating through play.

Piven has also taught and lectured in many Art Schools around the world such as China Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing, Art Center of Design in Pasadena, Sheridan College in Toronto and Instituto Europeo di Design in Rome, SCAD in Savannah, Bezalel and Shenkar in Israel and more.

And last but not least, Piven is active in the field of Education, as Creative Director of Aulas Creativas, an online community of educators in Spain, and as a lecturer and conductor of creativity and communication workshops with students, teachers and parents.

scope 11

Hanoch Piven, Defender of the Playful

Defender of the Playful

Limberjacks and Hooey Sticks

There’s a place in Indiana called the Prairie Wind Toy Company. It’s run by two craftsmen, a father and son, who devote their lives to sharing the folk art and joy of Whirligigs, Limberjacks, Hooey Sticks and dulcimers, too.

So we drove out with two of the grands to meet Charlie Alm (who’s still making folk toys and mandolins at 91) and his son Dave to see history in action. These two dedicated, generous, unassuming souls personify the spirit that keeps these toys alive: playfulness, craftsmanship, and devotion.

prairie wind toys

Charlie and Dave Alm in their workshop, demonstrating their Limberjack and dulcimer for us.

And here they are at play.


The Limberjack is an amazing little toy. It’s as much a musical instrument as it is a puppet.

And then there’s the Hooey Stick, a.k.a. the Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle. And here’s Charlie demonstrating its mysteries.


There’s a trick to it, and it will amaze you. It’s a trick that has amazed people for hundreds of years. And once you learn the trick, you can take your part in a generation-spanning heritage of amazement and delight. All due to the persistently playful dedication of people like Charlie and Dave Alm, passing their heritage of simple joy and wonder to the next generation.

the Ahls with Cole

Charlie and Dave with our grandson, Cole

Defender of the Playful

Havi Brooks, Defender of the Playful

I’ve been wanting to tell you about Havi Brooks ever since I bumbled my way to her blog, Fluent Self. I’m still fathoming her blog, so I really can’t say anything intelligent about her, except that she is unique, deeply playful, and playfully deep. Luckily, she’s written a page about herself.

Filled with good intentions, and thoughtfully making it possible for you to read what she says about herself without having to go to the extremes of clicking on a link, I only partially abashedly copy and paste below:

Trilingual. But silent! On permanent email sabbatical. Obsessed with patterns. Eccentric. Smart-ass.

Things you believe in.

Love. Love is awesome. And it’s inside you which is kind of weird but also really liberating because it’s there whenever you need it.

The generosity of strangers.

The often hard-to-access inner ability to really, truly get to know yourself — with all of your stuck and pain — and like yourself anyway.

Things you don’t believe in.

Mt. Hood.

Things you wish you believed in.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Pastafarianism has a certain appeal.

One thing people might not know about you.

I am extremely passionate about beer.

One thing people probably don’t want to know.

I dislike the word “diphthong” with a passion. In fact, even typing it is creeping me out.

One thing no one should know.

My filing system used to be organized by chakras.

How long have you been doing this?

Oh man. March, 2005. In Berlin. This site went live that August.

I started regularly posting my writing here in June 2008 — see the outrageously packed archives.

In 2010, we opened a secret playground in Portland, and now we’ve expanded into a march larger space called Stompopolis which is the MOST MAGICAL PLACE IN THE WORLD, and that’s where I work/play.

I have no idea what you’re talking about most of the time!

Selma is my business partner. She’s a duck.

The Schmoppet is a schmoppet. He’s purple, charming, and as extroverted as his vocabulary is limited, which is to say: very.See the video of him up at the Frolicsome Bar (Facebook).

Hoppy House is my house. It’s extra-hoppy. Like an IPA. Or a trampoline.

Guns N Rollers is the roller derby team that we’ve sponsored for several years.

Because mindfulness and knocking people down is such a winning combination.

I make up a lot of words. See the glossary for a partial list of Havi-isms.

Life philosophy?

    1. Napping is good.
    2. So are pretty much all forms of quiet, intentional, guilt-free navel-lint-contemplation.
    3. Use your powers for good. Live by what you teach. When you can’t, forgive yourself.

Defender of the Playful

Natalie Marie Kinsey – Defender of the Playful

Meet Natalie Marie Kinsey, Defender of the Playful. The following is from the Google Plus Hangout we shared, wherein I meet her, face to virtual face, for the first time.


Listen her talk about her life, her vision, her belief in play, her work to share her amazing spirit and lead others into fun.

Defender of the PlayfulRead this description of Week 9 (Plays Well with Others) of her Yes/Play/Love workshop, wherein she writes:

Sharing joy amplifies it.

Another’s presence in play brings a heightened awareness, which, if you’re in alignment, is a thousand shades of rad, and if you’re off, can be like trying to do a push up with five kids wrestling on your back.

The more glad you are to be YOU, the better your play with others will be.  The more you love about  you, the more of you you’ll let come out to play. All the playgrounds before this come to bear on this one.  The more stable you are with allowing in abundance and staying in your own business, the broader, more wide ranging, and flexible your play, with everyone, will be.

Need I say more?


In the mean time, watch the video, browse her site, look for her on Facebook (wherein she is known as PinkNinya YammerblastLil), on Google+ (HiHo Silver Away), and here (Natalie Marie Kinsey, Defender of the Playful)

Gary Auerbach – Champion of Play

Defender of the PlayfulAllow me to take this opportunity to introduce you to another Defender of the Playful.

Gary Auerbach is a Playcologist, a world champion Frisbee FreeStyle athlete (1995), and former professional ballet dancer. Since 1995, he’s been performing school assemblies, summer camp workshops, birthday parties, festival walk around, library and museum appearances, half-time shows, and more.

Starting with “Hands-On Frisbee Fun” and then adding  “Juggling for Success” he’s now shifted to “Champion of Play” as his platform.

Here, he plays Around the Circle, first with kids:


and then the big kids:


He introduces families to the wonders of play and playfulness using everyday props: feathers, frisbees, ping pong balls, farbles, scarves, balloons. To get a better feel for his play/work, take a look at this collection of clips (you’ve already seen the first two).

He explains:

Of course I can juggle and frisbee all I want when I present play. And I do! But I have other “tools” too that allow participants to feel safe and confident.  Making folks comfortable with the equipment and letting them have fun is my mission. Then they’ll do it again…and again…

Gary also performs for “big kid” audiences.


(this was at a contra dance weekend in Tennessee)

Richard Garcia – Defender of the Playful

garciaI’ve been following Richard Garcia on Facebook for a while, now. And have even had the opportunity to meet him via Skype. I have a growing respect for his integrity and the depth of his thinking about play.

He is a staunch advocate of play. He writes:

Play is a heart and spirit connection, not a mind and body connection, or even a ‘mindful practice’. It is a state of being in which a state of doing follows. It is in that doing that our ability to express the heart and spirit of play, including through playful natural movement flourishes and flows.


When I was a kid I used to role-play like I was an “American Ninja Warrior” or even a “Kung Fu Master”. But that’s just it. It never went as far as really learning how to hurt anyone. Until, I really did learn how to hurt others. But that’s just it. I wasn’t playing anymore.

But there are some today who role-play in ways that do hurt others, including themselves. The truth, the purity, the innocence of play has been co-opted, subverted, usurped, and then distorted, de-meaned and de-valued, and most importantly re-valued.

Play has been used as an invitation to sell the ideas of the many egoistic selfish, competitive, sensation, thrill, control, attention and approval seekers who promote the pain/pleasure and punishment/reward mechanistic and animalistic societal reductions of our nature.

They aim to teach the selfish and competitive efficiency of combative skills and fighting as if it were play. Well,….it’s not.


Play, like love, is not only humble, it is also courageous. It has integrity. It is in that integrity that we are free to trust ourselves and trust others in how we play. It is in that integrity that we are free to explore and discover the necessary risks that allow for mastery. While it is in the ego that the selfishness, the competitiveness, the efficiency, the combativeness seeks, finds, experiences true and unnecessary danger, pain and punishment.

You can find more of his articles on Deep Fun.

He is currently traveling in South America, exploring what he calls “The Primal Playground,” defending the playful.

Play Nexus – Defenders of the Playful

Play Nexus is an organization devoted to helping people recover and explore their playfulness.

They explain:

There’s something incredibly valuable about a good playground, one that helps people focus in a way that allows them to drop into the great Flow of life and start successfully connecting with and lining up with some of their sweetest dreams.  We teach people how to reopen and clear the playgrounds in their lives that have become cluttered because they’d stopped playing in them.  It’s fun to clear up your romantic playground or your beauty playground or art, money, writing, dancing, etc.  It’s unbelievably delicious to approach a newly cleared playground and frolic again, in your natural eagerness and thrill.   Here at Play Nexus we believe that true play is inherently elevating.  It makes you more who you really are, allows you to expand, to feel better & to shine brighter.  We like to facilitate playgrounds that tune people true.

Play Nexus – Defenders of the Playful

Pop Up Playground – Defenders of the Playful

Everything we know about Lemon Jousting was provided by Sayraphim Lothian and Robert Reid. Sayraphim and Robert are with an organization, in Australia, called Pop Up Playground, the most recent recipients of the coveted Defender of the Playful award.

They explain:

“We’re a group of people who come from very diverse backgrounds including theatre makers, academics, artists, comedians, game designers, students and dancers who have come together in a loose collective to explore and investigate the artistic potential of games and play. Atthe moment we’re just trying to introduce this emerging artform to australia, but ultimatly, we’re interested in the portential of games as a form of cultural expression. We want to use game systems and playful environments to make meaningful experiences for then participants. The creation of meaning is the root we share with art, the communication of meaning, emotion, or to provoke thought. We want to be making games that tell stories, that give the participants the opportunity to think about things in a new way, to look again at the world.”

They will soon be producing an event called This is a Door – “a three night carnival of pervasive and social games presented by Pop Up Playground running on the 27, 28 and 29 of July.”

This is a Door will showcase a varied selection of games and experiences each night. A full program will be released shortly.

Social and Pervasive games are forms of contemporary play that put you in the middle of the action. Your decisions and your reactions drive the experience. Some of our games are cooperative, some are competitive. Some are easy and some are hard. Some are physical, some are strategic, some are conversational and some are secretive.

This is a Door caters for all ages and experience levels.

We’d love you to come play.

To exemplify, they’ve graced our page with an image of Radiation Wars, one of the less dramatic games scheduled for the This is a Door event.

Pop Up Playground’s Radiation Wars game
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