Tuesday Tip: Play is Learning

As we get ready to go “back to school” in our home, we face a unique situation where we only have one child who isn’t being “schooled” with a curriculum.  However, every day is a school day when you realize that every interaction, every activity is a learning opportunity for your toddler.

Here are five ideas pulled from THIS article – these are the ones that we are trying to remember to use – we have the supplies…now to pull them out and enjoy them with Otter, and all the other kiddos, for that matter.

5. Provide puzzles, oversize wooden beads for stringing, blocks and other toys. (My note: great for spatial relationships, counting, sorting, hand-eye coordination when you string, cause & effect when you build and topple.)

6. Provide drawing and art materials to help your child develop pre-writing skills. (My note: great for developing gross- and fine-motor skills.  Also sense of touch if you use different textures of paper.)

7. Encourage pretend play such as “Let’s pretend we’re going to the store.” (My note: this is a perfect opportunity to engage older children.  Puma really enjoys playing store, so I can leave the set-up to her, and Otter and I can be her shoppers.  The two most common themes are Farmer’s Market and Pet Store – LOL.  Added bonus: Puma practices her math when she makes change!)

8. Play rhyming games to help your child notice similar sounds.  (My note: being a bi-lingual family, there are ample opportunities to do this.  So far we rhyme English to English and Spanish to Spanish.  Maybe we will expand to cross-lingual rhyming this year!  We definitely can add more rhyme time to every day…also a great opportunity to practice our sign language if we sign the rhyming words.)

9. Ask your child questions that encourage creative thought (“What do you think about …”).  (My note:  This one we have to incorporate…such a great idea can’t believe we have missed this one!!)

Read the complete 10-point list HERE

So as we strive to do more “play” and passive learning for Otter, it’s time to dig out our Discovery Toys and pull the chunky puzzles down from the shelf!  The bright colors engage her, and usually her siblings, too!  I love this line because you can replace lost parts…a gift when you can’t stand playing with incomplete sets (my little OCD challenge!).

I also take the time to cull our books every season and make sure fresh chunky books are on the lower shelves for Otter and Charger, and highlight the ones that are seasonal.  Some of our faves are from Barefoot Books – great Spanish selection and sing-along books.  We also make sure that any books that are on-subject for the older kiddos find their way to the schoolroom for that week’s focus.  I find that rotating our book collection keeps things fresh for all of us!

A staple in our school space is an easel and watercolors with cups and paintbrushes.  Every morning I refresh it with paper and make sure we have clean brushes.  The water filling I leave to the kiddos – good sensory activity and practice moving liquids!  It gets a little messy however I think the lesson is worth it.

We also started an “art station” in the kitchen the last few weeks of school last Spring.  Anyone else love doing art in the kitchen??  The sink is right there 🙂

I rotated the activity every week (stickers, stamps, crayons, markers, gluing, cutting and pasting, etc.).  It gave the kiddos a “play” activity to do while they waited for their meal, and it also allowed me to work in one (or more) art activity into the day.  We will be doing this again this school season.  Please send along any “center” ideas that we can set up in the kitchen – we will need some inspiration in a few weeks when we run through our standbys!

What do you think? Do you think you take enough time to play with your children?  I know I don’t, and that is something I am working on as I strive to add more breath to our days.