Kas Winters

Turn Play into Teaching

  Turn Play into Teaching, but don’t let the kids know
By Kas Winters


Kas Winters

Kas Winters

Introduce the idea of running a pretend restaurant with imaginary (or real) food. We used to collect menu throwaways and dine out advertisements. Our kids used them for playing restaurant or for their fast-food drive-through spot located at the end of the kitchen counter. They made their own menus, table tents, sale signs, and order pads. (Writing, reading, art and creativity were all involved.) For learning math, we had some containers and calculators that doubled as cash registers to make play more realistic. Play money encouraged them to figure costs of meals, make change and, as they got older, calculate the amount of a tip. (A little individual attention teaches life skills, especially when they can see how the information is useful.) Beginning with simple snacks like peanut butter on celery, they developed confidence in their ability to cook. By involving them in preparing actual meals, they learned to read recipes, measure ingredients and picked up a little science and a few kitchen safety practices along the way. As they grew, presentation of food became an issue. They produced fancy garnishes and set tables to make everything look appealing. Children learn to read, write, be creative, do math in their heads, follow directions, and develop their imaginations. All the while, they can be having a grand time—playing.

Science is a hands-on educational field. Take walks together. Look for living things. Take a yard of string and use it to make a circle on the ground. Count the living things in the circle. Repeat the action in different locations and compare the results. Look at birds. Identify them. Learn to recognize their sounds. Check out nests, spider webs, seed pods, rocks, clouds and other gifts of nature. If children are curious, search for more information online or at the library. The time spent together is every bit as valuable as the information they are receiving. Kids like to see what happens when you put things in the freezer. Let them experiment. Asking “What happens if…?” develops a child’s ability to solve problems later in life. If they actually have the opportunity to find out the answers through trial and error (with supervision), they receive an educational bonus in science, safety and creativity. This time of year is also planting season in parts of Arizona. Let little ones plant some seeds, care for them and watch the plants grow. Did I mention that all the while they are having fun?

Develop storytelling abilities by making up stories with children when you are driving in the car or waiting in a restaurant or other location. You can play, “pass the story.” One person begins by introducing a character and setting. The next person describes something that is happening. As each person stops talking, the next person continues and adds more to the story. Appoint one person to end the tale. Storytelling develops writing ability, resourcefulness, and helps children to organize their thoughts. Use descriptive words and phrases and kids will imitate you. Is something merely big, or is it so colossal it dwarfs a Tyrannosaurus Rex? Make using “dollar” words (at least three syllables) a game and children will develop a better vocabulary. Encourage them to write their stories. Provide paper, pencils and even journals. Type family fiction into a computer and create mini-books or help older children to create their own. These make perfect holiday gifts for grandparents. Yes! They are still playing. They have also expanded their knowledge and have developed a parent/child relationship that is strong. Have a good time raising your family. They grow up quickly.

Play today. For more ideas for September family activities, go to http://www.winmarkcom.com/septemberholidays.htm

by Kas Winters, Mother of Family Ideas™

After being around kids in all sorts of environments for years, I’ve decided that children learn the most when they think they are playing. Some walk into a classroom and immediately switch their brain to the “off” position. When having fun, they aren’t aware school is in session, and hands-on education takes place. I’ve watched them gain skills in reading, math, science, art, music and social studies without noticing anything but the good times. For parents, adding learning to play is so easy, it’s…well, it actually is…child’s play.