All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind.
~Martin H. Fischer
We all hope for the best education for our children. In fact, many of us parents worry deeply about our children’s educational well-being. I know that I did for a long time! Once I began homeschooling all that stress and worry on my part meant that I was giving my kids extra lessons and extra work. Even to my youngest “baby”. If only someone would have shouted at me “STOP IT!”
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was not only forcing my children to develop a dislike for school work, but I was taking away from their play time. I didn’t realize just how important play was until I watched them one day. My eldest painting old milk cartons outside while her younger sister had a whole store going where leaves symbolized different currency. Then my boys, my youngest of the children were building a castle using various items found around the yard.
What was I really witnessing? Abstract art, the use of currency and basic economics, and engineering skills. I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing and in that moment I realized that these brilliant little beings did not need more work, they needed more PLAY! Now I really wish this was something that I had caught onto sooner, but nevertheless, I now utilize play as a way to educate my children and have majorly cut back on the amount of lessons; even though my children are older now.
This is actually something that you see talked about more and more; ways to educate your young children, the importance of play, etc. Except in our school system, we see our children expected to grasp more and learn things at a younger age than in our past generations and although I believe the meaning is well, I feel that the execution may not always be efficient or what works best.
However, what if I told you that there was a way you could induce learning without children knowing you were teaching them! What if I even told you that you could and SHOULD begin educating young children? Now I am not talking about teaching your one-year-old child how to recite their ABC’s. What I do mean is to encourage learning and a love for exploring and knowledge through planned play!
Play isn’t just playing dear mama! For a young child especially, play stimulates growth. Motor skills, Cognitive skills, Imagination, Physical strength, Emotional Strength, and even Individuality & Confidence are all enhanced and strengthened through play. Therefore, the best thing you can do for your young child (or any child really) is to offer planned play.
Balance is always good but if a child does not show interest in an activity simply put it aside and revisit in a few months. Although we are calling this education “play” it is important for young children to have structure and be encouraged to try things that they are not comfortable with. This may mean that you, dear parents, should join right in on the fun!
When young children develop a love for creativity and learning in these ways, they develop a stronger sense of independence and confidence throughout life.
*It is important to understand that these things are not accomplished only if done while the child is young. If that was the case I would be doomed! With older children, some activities may need a little more encouragement and should be planned according to capabilities (I mean what kid doesn’t enjoy finger paint). When met with resistance, again put aside and revisit in a few months. With strict encouragement and time you will see confidence and creativity just as I did.
Planned Play Ideas
Make mud & flower pies
Finger paint fun
Create a kitchen concoction with flour & spices & more
Put glitter in a salt shaker, put washable glue on a paper & let them shake away
Make edible play dough
Painting with squirt bottles
Here are some out-of-the-box planned play ideas for older kids:
Wood, nails, and a hammer (even a manual drill, screws, & screw driver)
Paint and empty bottles, cans, or whatever they can find
Use a phone or recorder to create “mini movies”
Let them make a DIY list (you will need to buy supplies)
Water gun colored-water war
The day I realized what play really meant to my children is one that I will never forget; it opened my eyes. I can’t sit here and tell you that I now have little geniuses who will become the next Albert Einstein or Sir Isaac Newton. What I can tell you is that I have seen my children become more confident, intelligent, imaginative, and independent learners; more than I ever could have imagined.
So my dear mom, go make some finger paint or put some white shirts on and be the canvas during a colored water war and give your children the experience of planned play and be a part of their growth!
~Photo Credit: Maya R. Marquez (IG)