Monday, November 18, 2013

Learning through PLAY!

Yesterday I wrote a post about how important it is that children learn through...  play.
This was something I wrote for my Play Every Day Prezi. 

Children need a strong foundation of oral language (speaking and listening) to help them learn to read and write.  During play, they will have many opportunities to practice this by interacting  with the teachers and the other students. They become engineers creating buildings and towns, working together to make it the best it can be.  They become veterinarians caring for animals, discussing symptoms and finding solutions to a problem.  They become waiters and waitresses, reading menus to customers, taking orders on their pads, and serving friends with their best manners.  They are moms and dads playing house, learning to talk kindly to each other, respect each other, and think of each other.  They write books, make cards, and draw pictures for each other and for family members.  They actually PLAY school, reinforcing concepts as play, not even realizing it is "learning."   Similarly, children learn about numbers by finding them in the world around them.  They are clerks checking out friends in the grocery store, using the cash register to add items and give change.  They measure the height of a block for a house they are building.  They play board games counting numbers on dice for each move, and practicing manners and sportsmanship.   Play makes math and language  interesting and meaningful.

Today I wanted to share some of the things my kids love to "play" with!  I wrote sight words on ... everything. I have sight words on blocks and Legos.  The children write books, make cards, play post office, and play teacher.  The children take restaurant orders or write veterinarian prescriptions.  But they learn so much more that that. They actually have real life opportunities to practice the character education lessons and object lessons that they have learned.

I made placemats so the children can learn to set the table.
and because  they are waiters and waitresses!  I made lots of menus and  have lots of trays, pens, and pads.
REAL LIVE Guest Checks are the best thing ever.  Sam's Club had a HUGE pack of them- I am guessing for REAL restaurants and kindergarten classrooms.  

 I remember loving these when I was little, so of course I needed them for my waiters and waitresses. 

Our grocery store opens a little later in the year, when the children are more ready for it.  I have real coins and a chart to remind the children what coins should be in the register at the end of playtime.  I have prices on some play food, and bags to use, of course. 
I like to change the free choice centers often.  I found some adorable, real vet scrubs at a second hand store (and washed them really well),  for our Veterinarian Office.
I set up the beanbag chairs and called it our "living room," and all of a sudden, the girls were reading to the horses in the living room!
When I put out magnets and whiteboards, children were writing all their color words on the white boards- and looking for words to write around the room- at PLAYTIME.   After that, they went around to the tables and wrote down every friends' name on the white boards.  FOR FUN! 

I still remember setting up my stuffed animals in chairs ready for Sunday school. I remember setting up my Viewmaster movie projector, pulling my shade (like a teacher), turning off my bedroom lights, shutting the door to show a movie to my class of dolls.

I even remember having a huge blackboard in our basement, and going downstairs to "teach" geometry when I was taking it in high school- because it helped me learn it better. I got a hundred on the Regents by the way...  pretty sure it was because I played school. 

My point in all this is that nobody will ever tell me that play is an "extra."

The social skills, conversational skills, negotiating, compromising, and life lessons in general are worth their weight in gold during our free choice time.  The learning is just a wonderful bonus that happens because they are experiencing real life and real interactions.
I love being able to relax a little with the kids, oooh and aaah over the fabulous creations they make, and just listen. On other days if needed, it gives me a perfect chance for one on one reading or much needed RTI time. 
Lots of times, I take pictures during free choice that the children write about later .  They love it when I take pictures of what they make, so that when they have to take it apart at clean up time, it isn't really "gone." 

 I love my free choice time.  Can you tell? 

(That is my favorite - because the picture is my own two little princesses when they were little! :) 

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