Use Play for Learning (Related to Family Matters Column)

In my July Family Matters with Amber Column in Lake County Kids Magazine, I briefly explained how parents can utilize summertime for learning.

When I home schooled my children they never had summers off. They had two vacations and those were: the week of their birthday and two weeks around Christmas.

I never believed several weeks of vacation (with 0 learning) was good for them and I have spoken to many teachers over the past few years and it seems the consensus is that children will be sharper and more ready for learning in the fall, if they continue to learn during the summer. And, of course, I completely agree with them.

But, how on earth do we get our kids to go along with schooling during summer vacation?

Well, you don’t particularly have to tell them…

That’s right. There is something so simple and so easy, that they will go along with, mostly because it’s fun and they don’t even realize they’re learning…

It’s FREE PLAY!

You’re probably asking, “HOW WILL THEY LEARN ANYTHING BY PLAYING?”.
There’s not enough space in this blog to go into detail, but there articlesstudies and books to prove, that Free Play does wonders for a child’s mind.

Author and home school mother, Laura Grace Weldon, recently pointed out in thisSimple Home School blog post by Jamie Martin:
‘There are all sorts of ways to motivate kids, but there’s no need for artificial inducements when we can foster curiosity. In fact, the extra time homeschooling children have to play as well as pursue their interests is associated with greater mastery in adulthood, a far more important road to success than good grades or high test scores.”’


How do you teach your child through Free Play?:


#1. No matter the age, allow them to lead.
This is the most important, but probably the most difficult; because a) you must make yourself available and b) you have to let go of the reigns. How do you accomplish this? Just put aside time (depending on the age of your child) 20 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, up to as much as you can afford, of uninterrupted one-on-one child/teen guided play time. Ask them what they’d like to do, and do it.
(Yes, it’s that simple.) With you there as the educated adult they can ‘learn’ as you play…be careful not to let them know you are teaching; you’ll have to do it ‘their’ way most of the time.


#2. Don’t say “No” to safe activities. Kids need to hear yes to their ideas because it will allow them to explore, experiment and express themselves. Use the summer months (when there is more time in the day). Say“Yes” to the mess!

#3. Think like a teacher.
This might be intimidating because teachers have years of education and training to help our children become smarter, but, relax, with Free Play you don’t need a degree! Just take every activity you do with your child and find at least one thing you can teach them. One thing! That’s so simple! If you are at the zoo, you can teach them about habitats or reproduction. If you are in the garden, you can teach about agriculture and/or the significance of worms. If you are on a drive or at a movie, there are numerous things to talk about…and learn about.

ALL KIDS (even teens) want attention
When you teach them and play with them, you are giving them what they need and want… 
The best of both worlds: Education and Love.

At the end of the day, our child’s education and emotional wellbeing will always be our responsibility, regardless of where they attend school. So, get involved and teach your kids this summer with Free Play! 
You won’t be disappointed in the results.


Visit these other sites for simple, fun ideas to help teach kids through play:

Playing and Learning in the Mini-van (It can be done if we turn off the mobile T.V.’s)
So Easy: Rainy Day project for younger ones (or just go walking/jumping in puddles like my neighbor did last week).


A few more simple, fun ideas:
Play board games on a rainy day
 Go on field trips to museums





When it comes to teens, fun should be at the top of the list, but it seems what would help them is learning most is learning the basics for becoming a good citizen and living on their own.

Here are some ideas to help you:

1. Get them excited to prepare 1 meal a week for the family (their choice):
 Have them make the list, budget the cost, run through the register  and pay for it (with mom or dad’s money of course)
2. Volunteer at a shelter together (if they enjoy animals) or someplace they see themselves working when they are older.
3. Include them in teaching (playing) with the little kids in the family (always hard at first, but watch them engage while they teach the little ones the things they loved doing when they were younger.
4. Show them a hobby of yours and allow them to try it: painting, car mechanics, carpentry, scrapbooking, a musical instrument, exercise, etc. Pick up extra materials at the store so they can get involved without worrying about ruining one of your current projects.
5. Bring them out into the community to get involved with fairs, food drives, benefits, athletic competitions, etc.
6. Take them to the amusement park or water park, give them only ‘x’ amount of money to work with and see what they do with it (telling them that they must get food, admission and rides with it). Regrading money management, check this out: The Hunger Games: To Teach About Money and Skills?
7. Help them create a company (a summer business) using their skills/talents (whether to make money or to gain experience and help the community.
8. Have them help out the local church during the week of Vacation Bible School (letting them have fun while also allowing them to learn more about God and helping children).
9. Teach them how to do laundry (play basketball while tossing the towels into the washer (see who can make the most baskets and the loser takes the winner out for ice-cream afterwards).
10. Let them help you re-paint a room or re-paint some furniture at home.
Relax Mom, it’s just paint.
(Let them do their own!)
11. Take them to work with you. Allow them to try things you do there (as long as it’s safe and/or your boss allows it).
12. Teach them to drive. (I know, the scariest one of all, but surely the most fun for them!)
The key here? 
Get them involved, get involved with them, and have fun.
Still think it’s too hard? I think not…
Since Google, we have no excuse…
Our resources are endless and easy to access.
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