Archive of ‘Play-based Learning’ category

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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