A Writer's Playground

Monthly Activities for Kids by Linda Martin Andersen

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Archive for June, 2013

What Yard Ornaments Do You Have?

Posted by lindamartinandersen on June 23, 2013

“What Yard Ornaments Do You Have?” by Linda Martin Andersen

Just as playgrounds have equipment, yards have ornaments.

Have you ever seen pink plastic flamingos in yards?   Do you have any in yours?  Have you ever wondered how that got started?  Check this site to see:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic_flamingo

In 2007, Dean Mazzaralla, the mayor of Leominster, MA chose to honor Don Featherstone, the creator of plastic pink flamingos for the yard, by naming June 23 “Pink Flamingo Day.” Have you ever heard of it?

Read more here:  http://savetheflamingos.org/pink-flamingo-day



What captions would you put with these pictures?  Please share your comments below.

Thanks to my friend, Donna, for sharing her flamingo photos and a story about why they are displayed in her yard.  Did these pictures make you smile?  If so, why?

According to Donna, the flamingo hiding in the foliage is named Fannie Flamingo and the one looking in vain for pink shrimp is Flossie Flamingo.  Donna has one more flamingo that lives in the house.  Freddi Flamingo is chain-saw art and was a Christmas gift from a former church, where she was pastor.

What type yard ornaments do you have? 

Whirligigs, pinwheels, windsocks and flags count, as well as bird feeders, bird baths, picnic tables, and swings.  Even old farm equipment.  Take a look around.  Ask if you may survey your neighbors’ yards for ornaments and stories about them.  Hopefully, you’ll be swapping stories on a hot June day.  Perhaps you’d like to share lemonade with those you survey.  May I suggest pink?

Thank you for visiting “A Writer’s Playground.” Please come again soon.  Bring a friend. 

Copyright © 2013 Linda Martin Andersen

Posted in Calendar Events, Careers, Character Traits, Games, Interviews, Math, Monthly Activities, Reading, Science, Social Studies, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 14 Comments »

What Exactly is a Whirligig? And Register to Win a Free Picture Book at a Friend’s Blog

Posted by lindamartinandersen on June 6, 2013

“What Exactly is a Whirligig?  And Register to Win a Free Picture Book at a Friend’s Blog” by Linda Martin Andersen

“A Writer’s Playground”–A place to find wordplay, writing, and monthly calendar activities for kids and those young at heart.

Part 1–Earlier this week, I posted about Vollis Simpson and whirligigs he created.  See below:


This led to the question, “What exactly is a whirligig?”  I’ve been asked to clarify.  Whirligigs may be tiny, such as a pinwheel on a pencil eraser or huge like some of the whirligigs Vollis Simpson created.  (See picture below). These can weigh up to three tons (think elephants) and a tower up to 50 feet tall (think ferris wheel). 

Many words are used to describe whiligigs–synonyms such as whirlybird, spinners, pinwheels, and others.  See Wikipedia’s comments below.

Definition of whirligigs:

  • According to Wikipedia, “a ‘whirligig’ is an object that spins or whirls, or has at least one member that spins or whirls. Whirligigs are also known as pinwheels, buzzers, comic weathervanes, gee-haws, spinners, whirlygigs, whirlijig, whirlyjig, whirlybird, or plain whirly. Whirligigs are most commonly powered by the wind but can be hand or friction powered or even powered by a motor! They can be used as a kinetic garden ornament. They can be designed to transmit sound and vibration into the ground to repel burrowing rodents in yards, gardens, and backyards.”

  • According to Merriam Webster, a whirligig is “a toy that has a whirling motor or something that continuously whirls or changes.”

Looking for pinwheels?

Many stores stock patriotic pinwheels for US holidays at this time.  Garden centers probably carry a variety year round.

Have you ever owned a pinwheel?  Have you made one yourself?  Check out craft books or this site to find directions for making them:


Pinwheels or Whirligigs as Yard Decorations:

Have you ever seen pinwheels decorating a yard?  I decided to add one to my yard after writing this blog post.  The pinwheel I bought is rather short, so I may replace the stake with a longer one.  Maybe you’d like to add a pinwheel stake to your yard.

Pinwheel.  Linda Martin Andersen.  Copyright 2013

Pinwheel. Linda Martin Andersen. Copyright 2013

Part 2–Donna Earnhardt is giving away a copy of her picture book Being Frank.  Register to win by visiting her blog link below and following the rules there:


Thank you for visiting “A Writer’s Playground.” Please come again soon.  Bring a friend. 

Copyright © 2013 Linda Martin Andersen

Posted in Calendar Events, Careers, Character Traits, Games, Interviews, Math, Monthly Activities, Reading, Science, Social Studies, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Whirligigs in the Wind

Posted by lindamartinandersen on June 3, 2013

“Whirligigs in the Wind” by Linda Martin Andersen 

.A Writer's Playground Fotosearch_u17996074Thanks for visiting “A Writer’s Playground”–A place to find wordplay, writing, and monthly calendar activities for kids and those young at heart.

“A Writer’s Playground” would like to spotlight the whirligigs of Vollis Simpson, a celebrated whirligig artist, who recently died at age 94.   Last month, thanks to spectacular creations by this artist, whirligigs were named the official folk art of North Carolina.

Although Vollis Simpson of Lucama, North Carolina never received formal art training, he created whirligigs that caught the attention of museums in Baltimore, New York, the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and people all around the world. Wilson County will open the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park in November 2013 in Wilson, North Carolina.  Restored whirligigs by Simpson will be on display. 

How did Simpson get started building whirligigs?

When  Simpson first began building whirligigs, he built one to power a washing machine and years later he designed one to power a heating system.  Once he retired, he created whirligigs for pleasure–inspired by his interests and memories.  For example, some whirligigs remind viewers of World War II and airplanes.  Fortunately Simpson’s influence will live on thanks to folklorist Jefferson Currie who has spent several years recording stories about Simpson’s life and art. 

Interesting trivia about the whirligigs: 

Vollis Simpson’s whirligigs are made of air conditioning parts, motor fans, cotton spindles.  Some are 50 feet tall and weigh up to 3 tons.  Many have 100s of moving parts.  Tiny pieces of reflector material enhance the whirligigs when lights shine on them.

What do we know about Vollis Simpson’s life? 

Vollis Simpson worked several jobs in his life.  He farmed, moved houses, operated a machine shop, and after retiring, he turned his business location into a whirligig shop.  Some thought Vollis Simpson was crazy to build such big whirligigs.  What do you think?  Please leave a comment below.

Check these sites for more information:







Please leave a comment about a favorite whirligig. 

Name something creative you have made.  Did anyone ever call you crazy for spending time making it?  How did you handle that?  What if Vollis Simpson had quit when he was first told he was crazy? 

Thank you for visiting “A Writer’s Playground.” Please come again soon.  Bring a friend. 

Copyright © 2013 Linda Martin Andersen

Posted in Games, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

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