Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Review and Author Interview: Playful Learning

When I was asked about reviewing Playful Learning, I thought "cool, I'm all about that," and then I was given the chance to be on the blog tour and interview her, I was even more excited!  I've always wanted the chance to interview an author and get to know more about their thoughts about their books and ideas.  Now here was the chance!
First, a quick recap of the book and why I like it.  Playful Learning is about integrating learning and play (DUH!), but the author does a really good job of going through each content area and give you ideas and suggestions of how to set up the area for it, books and activities that work really well.  I love the fact that this book isn't geared for any one set.  She firmly believes that everyone should learn this way regardless of where they go to school (home, public, private, charter) and that every parent is a teacher.  I highly recommend this book for every parent who wants to invest in their child's education.  Read on after the interview for your chanced to WIN THE BOOK!

1.  I always struggle with keeping my learning areas clean.  Any suggestions for my readers and me?  Your pictures in the book are so inviting, and I want to have an area like that, but how do I maintain that?
I have found that the areas I organize and have created clearly marked places for everything, are the places in our home that stay well maintained. If children are exposed to these types of environments and are taught how to access the materials and how to put them away, they more often than not rise to the occasion. Children love to feel that they can have a positive impact on their environment, yet often do not know where to put things when cleaning up. Although it takes effort up front to create the space and teach your children where everything goes, the result can be happy independent children and clean organized spaces.
Please don’t get me wrong—we have plenty of cluttered, unorganized spots in our home! But, the spaces we have created that are clearly labeled and organized are the ones that stay the neatest, because my daughters are actually better at maintaining their spaces (with a sense of pride), then I am at keeping up mine.
2.  What is your favorite area to integrate playful learning into?  What area do you find most difficult to integrate playful learning into?
I find myself gravitating towards science-based learning experiences with my daughters, because the natural world holds so much to wonder about, observe, and learn from. I also feel that writing and effective self-expression are very important skills, so a lot of our projects are focused on developing those abilities.
On the other hand, math is not one my stronger points, so I usually keep those activities focused on specific skills that I see need to be practiced by one or both of my daughters.
I think it is important for parents to choose areas that they feel passionate about and find ways to share them with their children. I feel that if we can share and nurture passion within the kids in our life, we are modeling what we hope they develop for themselves. Enthusiasm is contagious!
3.  For families with multiple ages how do you suggest doing this across the different ages groups?
A lot of the activities in Playful Learning can be enjoyed by children of all ages. It is for this reason that I give a developmental overview for each subject I discuss in the book. The developmental overviews helps parents to identify which stage of development their child is at, and offers tips on how they can best support their growth. For example, with the heart map, younger children can color pictures of their favorite things and parents can take dictation to record their ideas, while older children can draw and write more detailed and poetic images and descriptions.
It is also helpful to allow for different lengths of attention spans. During many of the projects in the book, one of my daughters would want to take a break from an activity while the other was still completely engaged. Always remember to keep your experiences with your children light and fun—allowing them to move freely in and out of experiences or projects. You will be surprised at how often they will want to come back and pick-up right where they left off.
4.  How do you integrate playful learning with older kids?  It seems like that would become more difficult as they get older.
As my daughters get older and their social lives become such an important part of their worlds, I have started inviting their friends to participate in our playful learning experiences. That is one way to quench their desire to connect with friends while keeping them engaged in interesting projects and endeavors.
I have also found that if I really tune into their current interests and passions, I can come up with projects that still interest them. My seven-year-old daughter really loves to draw, so recently I surprised both of my girls with drawing journals (a grown-up version). All three of us had our own notebooks and we went into our back yard to try them out. At any age they love to feel like they are doing the same work as adults. It turned out to be a lovely afternoon!
Older children still have a huge desire to connect with their parents. As parents we just need to respect their desire to be treated as the older, more independent people that they are. It takes a bit more thought, but I have found that engaging in playful learning with my older daughters is more important than ever. It is this connection, mutual respect, and lines of communication that will serve us well as they venture into their teenage years.
5.  What is your favorite book for Playful Learning?  I love "Me on the Map," and have used it so many times.
Picture books are such a wonderful way to get children excited about a project! It is so hard to choose just one book as a favorite. My Map Book by Sara Fanelli is one that we come back to time and again. It is the one that we use to inspire our heart maps and is also a great introduction to geography and mapping in general. Although, as I said before, I have so many favorites and as a family we have thoroughly enjoyed every book that I recommend in Playful Learning.
6.  Do you have a website we can visit?
Yes, I have a blog (also called Playful Learning) that is full of learning experiences, videos, and resources for families. I hope you all come by and visit! I would love to continue to conversation…

As a side note from me.  I’d accidentally stumbled onto her site once about a year or so ago (give or take a few months) long before I knew about her book and drooled over her pictures of her learning areas.  I finally made the connection when I was looking through her site thanks to the promotional materials I was given.
Now for my favorite part, the giveaway!  You can win the book!  To enter leave me a comment telling me how you like to MAKE LEARNING FUN!

Bonus entry if you follow or subscribe in some way.


LEGAL MUMBO JUMBO:  I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  I did not receive any other compensation, and genuinely believe in the concepts espoused in this book.  Blah, blah, other legal terms ipso facto, poste haste, e pluribis unum (and yes I know it’s misspelled).
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