Playful Learning: Nurturing Young Authors

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was excited to share a new book,  Playful Learning, by my friend Mariah Bruehl.  I had just returned home from a long trip and found it sitting on the top of my mail pile.  I immediately opened it and began thumbing through.  About half an hour later, I was still leaning against my kitchen counter, reading.  This book is fantastic.  Mariah has taken her ardent passion and rich experience and packaged them together to create one amazing resource.

Playful Learning introduces Mariah’s philosophy about preparing inviting spaces for children and promoting learning through meaningful, playful experiences.  This is followed by seven chapters on varying learning objectives including reading, writing, math, science, and social skills.  She starts each chapter with a helpful and succinct developmental overview of the subject area and then shares several purposeful and engaging experiences for enhancing that development in young children. 

The information is immediately useful, the activities are brilliant, and the photography is inspiring.  Literally. 

Mariah has a gift for creating a space that invites a child to engage thoughtfully with the prepared environment.  She draws on her experience designing classrooms to demonstrate how to most effectively choose, organize, and present the materials children will interact with.

After seeing Mariah’s writing center pictured in the book, I had an epiphany.  I’ve long been a proponent of forward-facing bookshelves to make reading more visually inviting for children.  But when it came to my writing table, I was doing just the opposite.  I was using a series of flat baskets to hold my writing materials, which were not only taking up too much space, but they weren’t visually calling the children to sit down and write. 

I noticed  Mariah’s writing materials were displayed vertically, forward-facing, to make them more easily accessible and visually appealing.   I knew right away that it was time to re-do my writing station. 

Using the wealth of resources Mariah shares in her book, I put together a few ready-to-write books, story pages, and letter forms to encourage various types of writing.  (Templates are included in her book and are also made available online for full-size pages.)  I picked up some vertical organizers and galvanized pots for holding brand new markers and crayons and the writing area began to take shape.

It still needs some finishing touches, but my boys were more than ready to jump in.  My oldest chose a blank sheet and began to draw a picture of Harry Potter, narrating a story as he drew.  As Mariah points out, this type of drawing is actually a vital part of building authors who can craft a story.

My younger son decisively grabbed a story page and sat down to busily put letters down on the paper.  I could hardly contain my excitement as I watched him stretch out the words to his story and scratch out his inventive spelling (an important concept Mariah explains perfectly),  matching his sounds to the letter chart nearby.  To some, it may look like scribbles, but I could see the process and purpose of a young writer: “Once (with a W, of course) upon a time there was a ninja.”   Sounds like a compelling start!

I can’t wait to try out the other activities in Playful Learning….and I can’t wait for you to try them out as well!

Mariah is offering a generous gift for one reader of Not Just Cute.  Not only will she give away a copy of this amazing resource, but she’ll also give that reader a complimentary space in her fall ecourse that goes more deeply into the design and preparation of Playful Learning SpacesThat’s a total retail value of over $140!  All you have to do is comment on this post to be entered to win.  Share this post on Twitter and/or Facebook and come back to tell us about the links for an additional comment entry each. (Limit one entry per method per person.)  The winner will be selected from the existing comments by Sunday August 28th at 10pm MST

***Comments are now closed. ***

If you can’t wait that long, you can pick up your copy of Playful Learning through Amazon by clicking on the link.  In the meantime, read more about Playful Learning by following the Playful Learning blog tour.

Previous Posts:

8/15 Let’s Explore

8/16 Two Straight Lines

8/17 Sew Liberated

8/18 The Artful Parent

8/19 Ohdeedoh

8/22 Let the Children Play

8/23 Simple Kids  

8/24 Spell Outloud

Upcoming Posts:

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   

And check out Mariah’s own website and blog, also named Playful Learning.

***Comments are now closed. ***



Filed under Building Readers, Learning through Play and Experience

128 Responses to Playful Learning: Nurturing Young Authors

  1. Natalie

    Wow! After reading this post and a couple others, i can’t tell you how much i need this book!! I’ve just started doing “art time” with my 3.5 year old, and not being an organized, “creative” person to begin with it makes it even harder to know where to start to be able to come up with spaces to allow his creativity to REALLY flourish. Thanks for this opportunity!

  2. Annette

    Sounds like a great resource!

  3. You are so right – Mariah is truly gifted in this area! I’ve been reading her blog for years (I think I met her when I was at Simple Kids) and I never cease to be amazed by how intuitively she is able to direct parents and teachers to create the most inspiring environments possible to promote authentic learning. She is truly amazing!

    I’m already planning to buy the book, but I sure would love a space in her e-course!

    Thanks for this peek into the book, Amanda. I can’t wait to dig in!

  4. I shared this on the SortaCrunchy Facebook page!

  5. Constance

    I shared this information on my Facebook page (Constance Hildreth Douglas).

    IThis is great information. As a educator, I find it very hard to get older students to write. This information details the steps to get students writing early.

    Thanks for the information!

  6. Ledys

    I can’t wait to get this book, it seems like an awesome resource.

  7. Laura-Leigh Mohr

    This book sounds like one I need for my Pre-K class. Thanks for telling us about it.

  8. Cathy

    I am running out of places in my house to create these wonderful creative spaces, but I would certainly like to try!

  9. Oh, pick me! :) Would love the book and space in the ecourse. I have a toddler and a preschooler, and love the notion of playful learning!

  10. sue fromm

    Have been searching for ideas on making our creative art and writing center at our ” playful learning” preschool more inviting and organized , in addition to sharing these activities with the parents to use at home. Plus I’m sharing with my stay at home mom/dad and home based childcare provider friends these links . Will continue ……… off to Playful Learning!

  11. Monique

    I am a big fan of Mariah’s and know this book would be such a valuable resource for us (and anyone). I would love to win a copy!

  12. Monique

    Shared on Facebook…

  13. Barbara

    This would be so helpful!

  14. Lisa

    I shared on facebook. I’d love to read this book and then pass it on to my many friends who I’m sure would also enjoy it.

  15. I have been following around her book tour in hopes of upping my chances for this awesome prize! Thanks for the post!
    Sarah M

  16. Amy

    This looks like a great resource to spark my creative thinking….and help me spark that thinking in my little guy.

  17. Tracey G.

    My book is coming in the mail today and I can’t wait. I’d love to take her e-class since I’m about to re-do my boys’ room.

  18. I have actually just ordered the book, but would love to give a copy to a friend of mine. Also, a space in Mariah’s e-course would be just the sort of inspiration I need at the moment, procrastinator that I am. So here’s hoping I finally manage to win something!


    I have to get this book! I love the concept.

  20. Ellen

    I would LOVE to have this book! I am desperately trying to make the best of small spaces in my classroom and make it all more appealing to the children – this sounds like a wonderful resource to aid in that effort!

  21. Ellen

    I also shared this giveaway on my facebook page,

  22. I can’t wait to get a copy of this book it sounds delightful and informative. I looked up Mariah’s page as well and I think her ecourse on playful spaces will be a helpful tool for any parent or teacher weather seasoned or new! :) And the book and ecourse will be a good tool/resource for all the trainers out there like me who are always looking for new insights to help guide our early childhood educators! I also shared this on face book! love it!

  23. Amanda C

    Love the writing center! I think that would be awesome for the whole family to inspire writing and creativity – I know I have been saying I should write more hand-written letters/cards for awhile now. Maybe that would give me the jumpstart I need, not to mention encourage my girls! Thanks for a chance to win – I would LOVE to read this book as so far I have really enjoyed all the ideas that have been shared from it.

  24. Junebug

    I would LOVE to win a spot in the e-class. I have the book and I enjoyed all the ideas and Resources!

  25. Judy

    This looks like a great resource!

  26. Heather N

    I would love to win a copy of this book. The chance for a spot in the e-course is amazing! Thank you so much for the giveaway.

  27. Heather

    What a great resource for my preschool classroom. I would love to use this. Thank you for offering this great giveaway!

  28. This book looks amazing!

  29. Jen

    I’m really enjoying this blog tour, I’m a first time reader of your blog but I will be back for sure.

    I really NEED this book. My daughter just started first grade and already started to think that the only real learning happens in school. I could do with some tips on activites to remind her that LIFE is learning.

  30. I own her book and love it! I will happily give away the copy if I win. And I would love to win a spot in her e-course!!

  31. how wonderful, what a great resource and a chance to be on an e course, heres hoping x

  32. Finished reading her book and highly recommend it. Would love to get a spot in her e-course!

  33. susan

    what a great resource! i would love to win this book!

  34. Lara

    Looks like a great book! I’d love to read it!

  35. Joan

    I love the ninja story. There really is something so fun about seeing your young child write! This inspires me! Thanks, Mandy.

  36. Kensey

    I’ve never thought about having my writing center vertical! What an exceptional idea!! Looks like I’ll certainly be buying this book if I don’t win :)

  37. Joan

    I shared on facebook. Hoping for a win, here!

  38. I would be so excited to get this! I’d love the book AND the class!

  39. Elizabeth

    In so not creative, but my children are, and I need all the ideas I can find to encourage their creative spirits. This book would help me so much!

  40. Nina

    what a great giveaway and her book looks awesome. my son really enjoys telling me stories and me telling him stories (the same ones over and over) so I can’t wait till he starts writing them down (he has somewhat already)

  41. This is an amazing giveaway! I am so looking forward to helping my daughter learn in a wholesome, interactive way, this would be a great tool for us.
    Thank you!

  42. Emily B

    This would be wonderful! Both for my home (4.5 yo son) and my classroom (private teaching practice).

  43. LIse

    I’m not buying this book until after the blog tour (you know, just in case I win!). But reading all the reviews is making it very hard to wait! Thanks for the chance!

  44. Emma T

    Looks like a great resource.

  45. Jenna

    This sounds like a great book, can’t wait to read it!

  46. I would really love and really use Mariah’s fabulous book.

  47. I would love love love this book. My daughter just turned one.

  48. Amber

    I would LOVE copy of this book, and a spot in the online course! Thank you for the generous giveaway!

  49. Erin

    I can’t tell you how much I would love to win this book!

  50. would love to win this for our little homeschool!

  51. Mel

    The book looks fabulous! I love the vertical display tip for encouraging young writers.

  52. Katie

    I am working on putting together an art area for my daughter! This would be so helpful!

  53. Would love to have some more inspiration for our learning spaces at home.

  54. Oh I am loving this book and following its tour!!!

  55. I love the pictures of your boys, fully engaged in their writing! It sounds like this book is just what I need – to confirm what I believe as a teacher and to encourage as a grandparent. Thanks for sharing!

  56. So hoping to win a spot in the class and a book!
    ~ joey ~

  57. Jane

    The book is on my amazon wishlist, maybe I will win it :). I would love to use this book as a resourse for my kindergarten class.

  58. Rebecca

    What a great resource this book would be for me… I so want to create inspirational learning nooks in my house for my son to explore writing, science and reading. I would love any inspiraition. And please do tell–Not so cute blog—where is the best place to get forward facing book shelves inexpensively without nailing rail gutters to the wall? I really want some in my home . Thanks. Would love to win !

  59. Heather

    I would love to have this book!!

  60. This book sounds like just the creative resource I need right now!

  61. Pennie

    Well now you have really intrigued me. I’ll have to put this book on my list as the next book to read.

  62. Kosharem

    Would love to win it!

  63. Would love to win this book!

  64. Cindy

    The ecourse sounds wonderful. We would love to have this book in our home. Mariah is so inspiring!

  65. TJ

    This is a fabulous tour, thanks!

  66. Erika @ More Time With Our Kids

    I would SO love to win this book and space in the ecourse. I have much room for growth in this area and am so eager to learn!

  67. I would love to have this book! Thanks for the opportunity to win.

  68. Jill

    I am excited to use these ideas with my boys

  69. Mmama

    I have had this book on my amazon wish list for a couple of weeks now! I have been using her online stuff for awhile, and everything she writes about inspires me to do something new with my little 4, 3 and 1 year old children! Glad to get your take on it, it makes me even more excited to read it.

  70. little-kid writing is the greatest. looks like you’re having fun!

  71. Dawn

    I would love to win this book

  72. Dawn

    I posted this to my facebook account.

  73. Mara Rest

    I loved reading your post and the book report and am already thinking about redesigning the writing places in the home. Thanks, the book looks very interesting!

  74. Nancy

    I am just gaining my basement back after 6 years of renting it out and these are ideas I need for making that space wonderful for my kids! Thanks for the post and the giveaway!!

    nancebagance at yahoo dot ca

  75. Daniela

    I would love the book! And the e-course. They both sound amazing!!

  76. Sarah

    I would love to read this book. Sounds like it has some amazing ideas.

  77. Erin

    This book looks fantastic.

  78. Christie

    Oh, Wonderful! Thank you for the opportunity. I am gathering information and materials for an ‘art area’ at our home for my daughter. This would be perfect.

  79. Wow, Mandy, this post was very timely for me. I just made the decision to pull out the computer center in my preschool to make room for a Writing Center – ta dah! And guess what my crayons and markers are in? Yep, baskets. I would LOVE LOVE some resources on how to make the most of my new center. I am always learning and adapting, any help in molding the preschool teacher in me would be most appreciated. Thanks!!

  80. Vanessa

    I love Playful Learning’s website! Thanks for a chance to win a spot in the e-course as well.

  81. Playful Learning is an excellent book. I am implementing a bunch of ideas from it and am so pleased! It would be wonderful to take part in the course.

  82. ntrask

    I’m so excited to read this book and try it out with my kiddos at school!

  83. Amanda

    I am so excited about the ideas in this book, and would really love the space in the ecourse, too! Thanks.

  84. I love Mariah’s work and just found your blog through her tour. I’ll be back!

  85. Joy

    Saw a post at another site – looks great and I’d love to have access to the online materials too!

  86. I am taking this idea to heart and action. so totally redesigning MANY of our spaces with this concept in mind!
    Would love the chance to participate in the e-course!

  87. Nicole

    Thanks for the giveaway! I am so impressed by the blog tour and look forward to following Not Just Cute going forward!

  88. Nicole

    Shared on facebook!

  89. I love this idea! I am going to see it I can find a good way to put our material out too! Thanks for offering this giveaway!

  90. christine

    I can’t wait to read this book! We’ve recently moved, hooray, much more space to play with, but I would love to have more resources/the eCourse to help me maximize it all for my kids, age 2 (her wheels are already turning as she has crayons/markers in her hands daily), and my son who just started 1st grade. He is actually the one I’m most concerned about. Unfortunately, his kindergarten classroom environment was NOT maximized to make working with a variety of materials fun and inviting, and I fear he now has “performance anxiety” when putting ideas on paper, its like he’s nervous if he doesn’t make it “just right.” Breaks my heart to know he feels pressured to fit into some sort of mold! Thanks! CW

  91. How wonderful! I’m going to try putting some paper upright tomorrow morning. Right in the middle of the dining room table! I am always looking for ways to engage my very large-muscle five-year-old in some small motor practice.

  92. katie

    This book looks amazing!

  93. katie

    Tweeted :) (kaos2me)

  94. stephanie

    that book looks amazing!

  95. stephanie

    i shared it on facebook, too!

  96. Marisa

    I love the ideas for a writing station. The class sounds awesome!!

  97. Lisa B

    We’ve have plenty of materials which I occassionally but haphazardly display enticingly. I would love to be more mindful and consistent. This book sounds brilliant.

  98. Marisa

    Shared on facebook!

  99. Oh goodness, why have I never thought about forward facing bookshelves or writing supplies? It makes so much sense. I always have a big supply of paper, markers, crayons, notebooks etc on our kitchen table, which get liberally used, particularly when I’m preparing dinner, but I love the idea of making things look visually inviting.

  100. Julie L

    I’ve been drooling over her web-page since I discovered it a month or so ago. I would LOVE to win her book and a spot in her online class! Thank you so much for the chance.

  101. Pingback: Weekend Reads 8.27.11 | Not Just Cute

  102. This is a fabulous giveaway. I hope I win. Thanks

  103. K.O.

    Looks like a lot of good info. I, too, haven’t thought of going vertical with the art supplies…good idea!

  104. Lindy

    Looks like a great resource and I will denfinitely intorduce to the PreK classes at school! And the Playful Learning blogspot is fabulous!!!

  105. Dawn Del Rossi

    I just tweeted about this.

  106. Creating inspiring play invitations is a goal that I have made for the past two years. I love exploring what other people have created and read as many resources as I can find on the topic. I just reserved this book at my local library.

  107. This book looks like it would really stretch me and teach me a thing or two :) …would LOVE to win this!


  108. tasha.mae

    i would love to win this book and the e-course!

  109. Ursula Stockley

    WOW! It would be amazing to win this fabulous treasure of a book and the e-course too!

  110. I’d LOVE to win this book!!!

  111. Just tagged your site on Facebook!! Woo Hoo! Fingers crossed!

  112. Bethany Park

    This book looks great. If I don’t win it, I’ll still be checking it out.

  113. Erin

    This book looks amazing — I’d love to win a copy!

  114. Sounds like a wonderful resource!

  115. Oh how I would LOVE to have this book to use with my college early childhood students!

  116. I posted a link to this giveaway on facebook :)

  117. I tweeted about this giveaway on Twitter @mdcteacher

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