Observer of Play

I’m an observer of play.

Yes, I do run a one day a week playschool, am a former teacher, and lead a playgroup. But those super prestigious(ha!) titles don’t compare to what I feel is my role in my community.

I watch little hands interact with dirt and sticks. I watch feet stomp and jump off rocks. I watch bodies twist coming down slides. I watch shoulders tense and ease as the children engages in a new game.

I listen to spontaneous songs belted out in the middle of a field. I listen to giggles as a centipede crawls on messy hands. I listen to the sweetest conversations as baby dolls interact. I listen to invitations to play, followed by engagement or toddler politics.

And I observe the parents while these incredible learning experiences are happening. I observe their words, or lack of. I observe their guidance, or simply their presence. And I observe their eyes, so clearly falling in love with their child over and over again, while they watch play.

It is such an incredible honor to take the time to observe this.

Play-based Minimalism Interview: Jenn Salsich

Our mission for our Interview Series is to hear from parents that believe in play-based learning but also attracted to a minimalist lifestyle. To us, “play-based minimalism” is about believing that children should be given the opportunity to play in an environment that is designed for learning and imaginative play but free of physical and “commitment” clutter.

This week, we are highlighting Jenn from SimplyOnEden, a wife and mom of three sweet kiddos.

How has “play-based minimalism” helped you as a mom?
“Reducing the amount of stuff and increasing the amount of space we have have been beneficial twofold. Personally, I am less stressed and spend less time talking to them about and actively cleaning the play spaces. Additionally, my children’s level of curiosity and creativity have really blossomed. Ultimately, we benefit from the calm and engaging atmosphere of a simmer play space and home
What is your philosophy of play?
“My philosophy on play is that learning and play are synonymous for children. When they play, they learn. I find that when they are struggling with a new skill, I can step back and approach supporting them by providing an engaging outlet to practice.  Each child learns differently so proving various forms of play allows each child to develop their own way into their true selves. “
What is your best piece of advice for parents designing their child’s play space or bedroom?
“Follow your child’s lead. If they are destroying their toy area and you find yourself constantly saying, stop climbing all over my furniture, sit back and observe.  They may, in this example, be focused on gross motor development. You may need to temporarily put toys away and climb a pile of pillows for a few days or use other gross motor toys. They tend to focus on one area of development at a time.  Observe what they seem to be naturally enjoying and gravitating towards and see what you can do within your budget, to support that. ”

What is your favorite toy for young learners?
“We have two… I can’t pick one over the other because they are both life changing for our family. The Grimm 12 piece rainbow is a tool we all use, from ages 1 to adulthood, and love. It allows for creative play and spacial awareness.  It goes from being a doll house to a pinball machine from one day to the next. Grimm toys are an investment but they are heirloom type toys that I hope to use with my grand kids some day far, far away.Secondly, we purchased the Gonge Riverstones and Hilltops. These work wonders for balance, coordination, sorting and so many other important pies of their development. Especially with busy children, having something that causes them to focus on their body seems to drastically improve their mood and helps them work out their extra energy. We use these inside and out and I cannot think of a better investment for your kids.  They are expensive but these will last for years and years and can be used from one stage to the next.”

Thank you for participating, Jenn!
Follow along with our series on Instagram, #playbasedminimalism.

Play-based Minimalism: Natasha

Our mission for our Interview Series is to hear from parents that believe in play-based learning but also attracted to a minimalist lifestyle. To us, “play-based minimalism” is about believing that children should be given the opportunity to play in an environment that is designed for learning and imaginative play but free of physical and “commitment” clutter.

It seems odd to highlight myself on the play-based minimalism series, but I have been asked many times to share my answer to these questions, so here it goes!

How has “play-based minimalism” helped you as a mom?
“Minimalism was a journey that my husband and I began prior to having our daughter. We felt pulled to make some changes, and each step brings us closer to the inner peace that we were craving. Our goal is to allow our children to flourish in an environment of calm, joy and intention. Play-based minimalism has helped me dedicate my time to playing and observing, rather than cleaning and organizing. It has given us the gift of free time as a family and the privilage to live a debt-free (minus mortgage) life. Minimalism and the practice of essentialism, truly makes me a better mom. I am more mindful of choices, mindful of my words and mindful of my actions because my mind is not cluttered like it used to be. This opens up so much time for joy and play!”
What is your philosophy of play?
“It is difficult to find a subject that I am more passionate about than play. I believe that giving children time for free play is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. My style of play is most similar to Rudolf Steiner/Waldorf style, where the emphasis is on imagination and learning through whimsy, with an emphasis on delaying academics. That being said, I also am a huge early literacy promotor and love seeing books come alive through play so I am drawn to Charlotte Mason’s teachings. “
What is your best piece of advice for parents designing their child’s play space or bedroom?
“I believe that play spaces should encourage imaginative play. This is my number one when looking at a play-space. Do the children have room to release their creativity? Do they have access to toys that are open-ended and offer many different play scenarios? I believe that natural materials like wood should be integrated into the play-space because it grounds the children and exposes them to more advanced textures and energy. Even with minimal toys, children have the urge to sort, fill, empty and organize. I make sure that there are baskets and bags for this critical play skill, even if the baskets remain empty when not in use.”

What is your favorite toy for young learners?
“My top three are blocks, baby dolls and fake food. These are three toys that remain out at all times for our daughter. They are used on a daily basis in different forms. The blocks may be parts of a house, phones, chairs or hats. That food may be set up for a birthday party, shared with a doll or thrown in the shopping cart on an urgent shopping trip. I am also loving our new Wave Board! This toy is the ultimate open-ended toy. It is amazing for sensory integration, movement and soothing. But it is also a beautiful piece that becomes a bridge that angry trolls live under, a slide for dinosaurs and a rocker for baby dolls. “
What atmosphere does “play-based minimalism” create in your home? 
“Minimalism in itself creates an atmosphere of intention. We are not stark minimalists, so we feel that our style allows us feel the calm embrace of intention without the harshness of a sterile environment. With less stuff, and less commitments, we are able to use our time the way we want to- hiking, reading, cooking, visiting parks and playgrounds and eating locally. I am a Type A Virgo, but have such a love for play and free time. Minimalism allows me to be content and organized while still enjoying and living my life. It is such a blessing. “
Follow along with our series on Instagram, #playbasedminimalism.

Roots+Wings: D Week

We were all about Dogs, Ducks and Dinosaurs this week at Roots+Wings Playschool!  Please enjoy this photo summary of our day!

Invitation to Play

(The dinosaur station was a hit. The kid’s dug through the sand for the dinosaurs, did a dinosaur puzzle and looked through a big dinosaur book.) 

(Children read some duck books and practiced counting the cut out ducks. The pocket chart was added for a bit of motor practice.) 

(I love when a mom picks up a book to read to their child and two others flock over for a quick read
Read Aloud & Mini Lesson

(After our hello song, we read Go Dog Go. I can hardly handle Ella holding the doggie and my sweet little helpers.)


Main Activity

  (The playschoolers were all given a balloon as their “doggie” to walk. They raced around the field walking their puppies. Then the large stuffed doggie came and we collected leaves to make a cake for him. After making a little pile, we sang Happy Birthday to him and he gobbled up the leaf cake.) 


Thank you for joining!   

Photos by: Ashlie, Mama Bear Upstate Birth Photography

Find us by searching #rootsandwingsplayschool

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