I'm really thrilled to be the second stop on the blog tour of Mariah Bruehl's new book, Playful Learning. As a longtime reader of Mariah's blog, which shares the same name, I knew that the activities would be ones that my kids and I would enjoy doing together. Mariah has a background in education including teaching and writing curricula for a small private school on Long Island. Her activities are simple, yet sophisticated and she treats kids like the little explorers they are. The projects are never dumbed down; they represent the real "work" that kids love so much.
Mariah and I share a passion for creating environments that support learning, creativity, and independence for children, and I was very inspired by the chapter of the book entitled Playful Learning Spaces. I really try and incorporate the fact that I have children in every design decision I make, in fact I appreciate that because of my children I have a chance to lighten up and make some fun choices that may raise a few eyebrows in a home with no children. There are a few areas of my home that I'm rethinking after reading this book, and a few other types of spaces that I may try to add when I finish a few of my current projects.
In addition to the introductory chapters, which I truly loved (I'd love to see an entire book in the future just covering these subjects!), there are projects covering 7 subject areas, including writing, reading, math, science, art, global awareness, and social-emotional skills, aimed at children 4-8. I appreciate the breadth of the projects, because as someone who is most likely to gravitate to projects involving art, literature or cooking, it's nice to have a selection of carefully curated projects in other subject areas available. I decided to start off with a project that both of my kids could easily participate in, and something that was relevant to us right now. Because I have a 4 year old, and a nearly 8 year old, we were the perfect test group for the book's age range.
I chose the letter writing activity, for which 3 printables are included in the back of the book. The 3 variations are for the different stages of young writers (the 4 stages are explained thoroughly in the book) and I chose 1 and 2, because I knew if my youngest was having fun drawing pictures, my oldest would want to be in on the action as well (option 3 was a word only letter template).
Now, this may be the time to explain a portion of the book that I particularly liked, in which Mariah gives specific advice regarding how to attempt to engage your children in these activities. She recommends trying to fit activities organically into your life, rather than presenting your children with a slate of pre-planned activities. I have to second this advice, and add that each of you can probably figure out what method of presentation works for your particular child. My daughter loves drawing pictures for people, and actually spends a great deal of her day doing just that, so presenting her with the idea of writing her Aunt Jenny a "letter" after a visit with her yesterday, well, there wasn't a moment of hesitation. "OK, where are my markers?" she said. My son-- well, he isn't so easily swayed, so I decided not to present the idea to him at all. "What's Lucie doing?" he asked. "She's writing a letter. Oh, you want to write one? Sure, I have a piece of paper right here for you. Oh, you want to write one to Uncle Matt to thank him for taking you turtle hunting yesterday? That sounds like a great idea. Yes, that really is a marvelous turtle, so detailed. Great idea, you writing a letter too." You get the idea, you know your child and what motivates them, and it's very likely different for each child.
As in the letter writing activity, many printables for other activities are included in the back of the book, which makes the planning process much easier. There are also library books listed that complement the activities and a One Step Ahead section which includes preparation a parent can do to enrich an activity. While this book would be very useful for homeschoolers, I love that it also provides ways to supplement the education of kids who, like mine, are schooled outside of the home.
Mariah and her publisher Shambhala Publications have generously offerred a copy of Playful Learning and a spot in her upcoming e-course entitled Playful Learning Spaces. Just leave a comment for a chance to win. I'll close the comments on Thursday 8/18 at 9pm and announce the winner on Friday.
upcoming stops on the Playful Learning blog tour
8/17 Sew Liberated
8/18 The Artful Parent
8/22 Let the Children Play
8/23 Simple Kids
8/24 Spell Outloud
8/25 Not Just Cute
8/26 Make and Takes
8/29 ABC 123
8/30 Modern Parents Messy Kids
8/31 A Bit of This and a Bit of That
9/1 Adventures in Mommydom
9/2 Inspiration Surrounds, Creativity Abounds
9/5 Happy Healthy Hip Parenting
9/6 Tinker Lab
9/7 Helping Little Hands