Archive of ‘Play-based Learning’ category

Play-based Learning// Play Gym

The light shines on her perfectly smooth, chubby cheeks.  I watch as she giggles and shrieks in delight as she reaches for the beautiful bird and feather. The determination and joy I can see in her face from the success  of her newly developed motor skill ability to reach and hit the objects. Pure delight.


I believe that toys should provide multiple purposes and grow with children. I don’t like toys that can only use for a month or two.  This play gym from Finn and Emma can be used for about five or six months. We presented it to Lydia when she was a newborn and she continues to grow with it now.


(And in case you were wondering.. the blanket and onesie are from Monica and Andy)



And truly, how beautiful is it?  It doesn’t light up. It doesn’t talk. It doesn’t teach numbers. It won’t make her fluent in French and it doesn’t sing a silly song each time she taps it. What it does is let her focus her attention on the shapes, feel the soft fabric and smoothness of the wood and teaches her the most basic cause and effect skills while helping her develop her fine and gross motor abilities.


And not to be a complete child development nerd, it allows her to work on crossing her midline. The skill of crossing the center of your body, and corpus callous of the brain, is a very important skill for children to develop. The ability to cross the midline effects crawling and later on in the child’s learning journey, reading and writing.


I love how this one doesn’t have a mat attached. It allows me to throw down any blanket that I choose and more importantly, wash the blankets after a few days. (Because, the dogs seem to like it just as much as Lydia!)


One other perk of this activity gym is that the objects can dispatch, allowing you to place other objects on the beautiful wooden arch. I recommend higher contrast colors or something that would greatly stimulate their senses such as ribbons that they can tug.


Follow along as I highlight more developmentally appropriate toys by searching for #teachingwithtoys or #playfulbydesign.

Play-based Learning// Teaching with Toys


Image a child waking upon Christmas morning to find a stack of wooden blocks, some new art supplies and a beautifully knit doll. Imagine the learning possibilities of these open-ended toys. Imagine the child building a tower and knocking it down, bursting out in a belly laugh each time. Image a beautiful painting of the family dog and a child with more paint on their shirt and hair than on the paper. Image a doll going on adventures in the backyard, being a student in the bedroom classroom and cuddling up with your child during nap time.

IMG_0547_2-2I love toys. I really do. I think I could purchase hundreds of them every week for my little girl, but I don’t. I think toys are a powerful part of a child’s life. Toys can be the best learning tools but they can also be enabling objects that take up space. Children learn through experiencing. I have always thought that toys have this magical opportunity- they can help take children to faraway lands, they can expand their senses, they can teach them about their surroundings.


I truly feel that quality toys are a big parenting decision, just as school options, vaccination decisions, and discipline choices are. Some parents simply grab a toy off the shelf on Target that they think their child will enjoy and they don’t consider the impact this toy could have on their child’s learning experience. I don’t judge this decision- there are some really neat toys that have genius marketing teams behind them broadcasting all of the learning opportunities that they present. I am the type of parent, and educator, that thinks that the choices that we make with choosing what objects to surround our children with impacts their brain wiring.

One of my missions in life is to help parents look at toys as opportunities. In order to use toys in this way, us parents need to be mindful about what toys we choose for our children. After all, what they are exposed to everyday becomes their inner thinking.   (And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my inner thinking blinking, making crazy sounds and always needing batteries to operate)

In the month of November, I am excited to help guide us on a journey to selecting developmentally appropriate toys, hopefully guiding you to some wonderful options for the holiday gift-giving. Please feel follow along and add your input in your comments here or on Facebook or Instagram or join in by searching #teachingwithtoys.


(I am honored and excited to be collaborating with my friend, Rene from Made For You Learning this month to highlight some wonderful toy options.)


Literature// Mix It Up

Have you ever read a book that created such delight and wonder in your mind that you must test out the theories in it? Have you ever been so inspired by words the you felt you must act on it? Well, this book does this for children.

The author of the interactive children’s book Press Here, Herve Tullet, has another amazing book that has been an incredible hit with my students- Mix it Up!


This book allows children to explore colors and practice essential skills such as following directions and cause and effect. My favorite way to teach this book is to first read it and listen to the giggles and excitement of the pages “being magic”.


Then, I love to actually do some painting with the children as I talk about how the colors blend, what causes them to blend and the ending effect. Generally, during academic coaching I add in a follow up for cause and effect by doing a quick print-out page about it or having them write a follow up for the activity.


Warning: This book is super fun so expect to be asked to read more than once!


Literature//Press Here

In a world of apps and high-tech gadgets how could a book with only primary colored dots make kids giggle, clap, scream and bounce with excitement? Herve Tullet figure out how. Press Here is an amazing picture book that allows children to interact with the book in their lap. They follow simple instructions such as, “Clap” and “Tap three times.”

Press Here


Every page holds a new surprise. The dot grows, multiplies, changes directions and turns off the lights. The simple magic of words and illustrations allow children to feel like magicians as they change the dots.

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