Playing is learning!

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play IS serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” –Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers)

Summer is upon us. It’s amusing to me how, in the last week, I have heard students declare “freedom!” while various stay-at-home parents bemoan “the loss of a quiet house” until school starts again. Students are eager to go play. However, as Mr. Rogers said in the above quotation, play is actually serious learning. It is not (and shouldn’t be seen as) a break from learning! Life is an on-going learning experience. For children to go far, play and learning should go hand-in-hand.

1) Be curious. The world is full of amazing things. Explore it. Ask questions to learn how things work. As parents and caregivers, being curious about the world teaches students how to be curious also–and a curious mind leads to imaginative and creative minds.

2) Encourage learning. Everything we encounter is a way to learn something. Whether it’s accidental or deliberate, questions should be encouraged. Advancements in technology and society all happen because someone asks questions. Attitudes towards learning start at home with the parents and caregivers. So encourage your students to play and learn, and they’ll do it all their lives.

3) Provide stimulating toys to students. Tools (toys) make anything easier, and learning is definitely one of those things. Many people are kinesthetic learners; they learn better hands-on. So a toy is the ideal avenue for learning. Even if your student’s learning style is different, a toy is always fun and provides a different way to approach a concept.

Note: when giving your students toys, promote them in a gender-neutral way. Males and females should be encouraged to play with whatever toy they want. Growing up, my siblings and I had to share all our toys so we never realized that some toys were apparently “boys’ toys” and some were “girls’ toys.” Society’s gender bias in toys has led our culture to believe that certain jobs are “only for a man” or “only for a woman” but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Roominate is a great new toy that promotes STEM learning; I highly recommend it.

4) Take a class. As stated in the last post, find a local class or sports team to join. A class can teach a new skill or hone a current skill. Students can pick up new hobbies or get healthy with different physical activities. Learn how to play an instrument, swim, or dance! It’s all up to the student.

5) Participate in a summer camp. This is similar to taking a class but gives students a greater chance to explore. Summer camps provide growth opportunities for all ages. Just as with a class or sports team, students will meet new people and try new things, but summer camp also provides a new location for students to play in. (This is an added bonus for those parents who want a quieter house for a week.) Students learn about nature, self-reliance, and cooperation.

With the First Day of Summer just passed, students should be out there exploring, playing, and learning. Summer’s less-structured learning is as vital as school-year education. Let students find what they’re interested in, and the excitement will grow. Happy learning!

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