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 Spaces. That’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.
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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.
8/15 Let’s Explore
8/16 Two Straight Lines
8/17 Sew Liberated
8/18 The Artful Parent
8/23 Simple Kids
8/24 Spell Outloud
8/26 Make and Takes
8/29 ABC 123
9/6 Tinker Lab
And check out Mariah’s own website and blog, also named Playful Learning.
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