Updating our living room setup to foster a play based learning approach.

My soon to be First Grader is currently on Summer Break. With that comes trying to keep both my daughters (age 2 and 6) learning without it feeling like school. For the summer we’ve turned to a play based method rather than a strict curriculum.

Keeping them busy, and learning through play can be time consuming and difficult when both kids would rather sit around watching screens all day. Therefore my husband and I brought down several of their toys from our upstairs playroom/game room area.

Although our living room is rather small we were able to set up the space comfortably enough for them to play together. It has been a success, I’ve been able to limit their screen time because their focus has been on their toys. Especially with my youngest (age 2) I’ve been able to incorporate basic learning into her pretend play time. My daughters have a play kitchen and in it they have alphabet cookies, a colorful cake, number eggs, shape eggs, etc. Throughout the setup I have had plenty of opportunity to talk about colors, letters, shapes and find things to count with my youngest.

Depending on your young ones interest you can throw in basic learning within many activities. For example if your your young ones are into playing with dolls you can point out the color of their hair, and outfits to create exposure to color learning. Or if your child is into cars you can do the same naming the color of each car as they play. My youngest enjoys playing with her toy cars that we keep in her bedroom. I also ask her to count the number of cars she is playing with. Both my daughters enjoy playing with their little dolls together.

We originally stored our board games in a small closet next to the bathroom, I wanted them to be easier for my daughters to get to. Therefore I placed them within a tote in the hallway. My oldest daughter allowed me to update the area although she often becomes attached to decorations she puts up and we still have a Christmas Tree decoration she hung up during Christmas above the board game storage. At least she approved of the new setup.

On the front door is our learning calendar and near our door is our book area.

By bringing the toys downstairs it has made them more accessible and easier to pull out and play with. The convenience of their location has opened up greater chances for me to throw in learning at their pace and with toys of their choosing.

Introducing my 6 year old to fractions.
Going over math skills to with dolls to keep my oldest exposed to basic math during summer. While my youngest counts the toys.

Since my daughter attends an online school I wanted her summer to feel like a real summer break as we still fit in enough learning to avoid the summer slide. Taking an at home approach to school it can be difficult to turn it off and separate home from a school environment. When the two are the same location and place. That’s why a play based summer approach felt the most fitting that way my daughter still experiences a break from school and at the same time she could learn with an open mind rather than becoming frustrated and overwhelmed feeling as if school never ends.

As someone myself stuck between a soon to be First Grader and an eager to learn toddler I’m always trying to bridge their learning gaps while making sure I use plenty of teaching methods suitable for both their ages. That’s why I choose to incorporate toys that they enjoy playing with into my educational methods. It allows me to develop a more in tune approach towards my children while they grow and learn. In the beginning when I set out to teach my oldest preschool at home my husband and I had planned on sending her to school once she got to Kindergarten, as with everything plans change and we must adapt. Throughout my experience I have learned not to be so hard on myself and allowing my parent guilt to doubt the process. Especially when my oldest is off on a tantrum that she doesn’t want to do school and she shouldn’t have to. Once she’s calmed down and ready to learn my youngest is right there in the action grabbing everything and running off laughing. The experience often times makes me feel as if I have no control over my own house which I’ve learned over time is one of my triggers in which I panic and get upset. Although now that our family has made it through the entire Kindergarten year I’ve learned it’s ok and nothing has to be done perfectly to achieve the right results. Eventually you will get there just keep going.

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Click here for a simple summer learning schedule.
Click here if you are looking for simple play based learning strategies.
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