Our Approach

Our Philosopy

We believe deeply that all children have a need and a right to play!  They deserve access to all of the same rich play experiences that so many of us took for granted growing up.  This includes opportunities for appropriately risky play and connections with the natural environment.

Where did you love to play as a child? 

We believe that all kids have unique capabilities and gifts to share with the world and that play is the best way to develop and discover those!

Our Story

Who is Puddletown Playworks?

Leon Smith was born and raised in the interior of Alaska, playing under spruce boughs and digging in snow banks.  He began his career as a childcare provider and preschool teacher in several different settings, most notably the Giddens School in Seattle WA. Through his work with children, Leon observed the power of play to stimulate creativity and support healthy development. Leon received a Bachelor of Arts from the Evergreen State College, focusing on Ecological Design.  During his college years, he worked as the coordinator of the non-profit Energy Outreach Center, a community information center for green building and renewable energy.   His major student project was the design and construction of a Natural Playground at the Evergreen College Children’s Center.  Through this work, Leon developed his passion for connecting kids with nature through play!

Since 2004, Leon has worked with Rusty Keeler at Earthplay, designing and building custom natural play environments for preschools, childcare centers, and communities around the country.  He has lead training, hands-on workshops, and keynote presentations focusing on how to improve outdoor play spaces by inviting nature in.

Through the years, Leon has also served as a volunteer board member and president of the Community Built Association, a national non-profit supporting community involvement in public projects, and a member of the Leadership Committee of the International School Grounds Alliance.  He is also involved in the American Adventure Play Association as well as the Oregon Natural Play Initiative.

In 2017 Leon founded Puddletown PlayWorks to continue his work creating play environments for kids.  He also founded Portland Free Play, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing adventurous play opportunities to under-served children.  Portland Free Play is currently pioneering to enrich elementary school recess through the addition of loose parts.

When not working to support children’s play, Leon spends most of his free time practicing and playing Capoeira Angola, the Afro-Brazilian Martial Art-Dance.