Curriculums now push children to do more, and earlier, than ever before. Recess has become a diminishing commodity with children receiving fewer and fewer minutes of recess per day each year. Scheduled activities, such as after homeschooling lessons and activities eat away at our family time and at children’s free time.
Homeschool Parents find themselves struggling with these new pressures on their very youngest learners. Finding new ways to keep kids engaged and learning in our current model of society can be a challenge! Of course we want our children to learn as much as possible, and push themselves to their highest levels of achievement, but there are some real challenges to beginning the push so early. Many children simply are not ready for these pressures for a variety of reasons.
Research shows that one of the best ways for young children to learn is through play.
This does not mean passive play on an electronic device, but good old-fashioned open-ended, imaginative play.
When children engage in play, they are gaining skills not only in their cognitive and academic realms, but also in their problem solving abilities and their oral language richness. The social and emotional gains achieved through engaging in this type of play gives children a huge advantage over their peers who do not partake. Through this type of play, children learn social skills like getting along with others, taking turns, and solving problems. They learn perseverance, and benefit from increased focus. They learn communication, cooperation and creativity. Their imaginations soar and they benefit from increase fine and gross motor skills. The list of benefits goes on and on.
Herein lies the dilemma
We know that play is important for children. We also know that societal demands provide fewer opportunities for children to engage in free play than ever before. What are we as caring parents to do? Create opportunities- that is what!
While it is true that we face more pressures for our children and more detraction to their free time than ever before, it is important that we carve out places in our children’s days where they can still be kids! What a great way to teach them balance, which is a thing that we as adults still strive to find.
Play in the homeschool room
In the homeschool room, days are packed with reading, writing, arithmetic, science, social studies, vocabulary instruction, phonics, art, music and computer-based learning, just to start. Yes- the days are jam packed, but by creating times for children to engage in free-play and unstructured activities, their success in these other areas will actually increase.
Research indicates that children are much more prepared to focus following a play session.
Since homeschooling parents have more flexibility and freedom to provide their children with more outdoor recess than typical school children, there are more opportunities for play during the day, which will benefit children in immeasurable ways.
Using the Spielgaben in the Homeschool Setting
Using the Spielgaben in a homeschool setting provides children with the chance to build, problem solve, think creatively, learn math and construction principles, increase vocabulary and oral language! Because of its storage cabinet, it also provides the added benefit of encouraging clean up and teaching children organization.
There are several different ways that the Spielgaben can be included in a typical homeschool day.
In this type of setting, a parent has a certain number of subjects that children learn every day.
During literacy, children may be doing like independent reading, partner reading, independent writing, spelling work, retelling, high frequency word work, oral language stations, poetry, handwriting practice, etc. You can add Spielgaben to these rotations as it contributes to both increased oral language and fine motor skills, which can impede writing if not well developed.
As children play with the Spielgaben, it is normal to observe them thinking aloud, discussing what will go next and why. They are discussing the attributes of the pieces they are using, and also speaking in sequential steps about their creations. It is easy for children to use independently, giving them the chance to work without adult assistance, freeing up the parent while children read or write.
Math session works in the same manner. While the parent is working with one child at a time, other children work independently in rotations on different activities. These activities may include fact practice, measurement activities, pattern exploration, math games, exploration of geometric materials, workbook pages to practice previously learned skills, counting and sorting activities, or problem solving activities just to name a few! Spielgaben fits perfect into this part. Spielgaben exposes children to opportunities for sorting, counting, patterning, fraction, geometric, spatial reasoning and measuring activities. It can help turn abstract concepts into more concrete ones by allowing for hands-on exploration and opportunities for problem solving. Children experiment with how pieces fit together to create what their imagination sees.
Parents have many options on how to use the Spielgaben as well. Included with the toy are plenty of learning resources and activity guides that can provide children and parents with ideas for activities. On some days, parents may opt to allow free exploration with the toy, giving children the chance to create their own activities. On other days, they may wish to use the Spielgaben to reinforce an idea or teaching point by assigning a certain type of activity or exploration. Spielgaben is the perfect complement to a math or language arts curriculum, yet it provides children with the precious opportunity for play.
Free Choice Activities
Another way in which homeschooling parents may incorporate the Spielgaben in to their day is during free choice activities. Much like rotation activities, many parents often have a pool of activities for children to work on independently, which designed to reinforce math and literacy concepts.
Unlike the idea of rotations, children are allowed to flow freely between these choices. In this way, they may explore a certain activity until they feel mastery of it and are ready to move on to something else. Since the Spielgaben is so open ended, students may find an endless array of ways to explore mathematical, fine motor and language principles with the toy. In other words, they will never tire of it, like they do so many other homeschool activities.
Instead of the parents assigning their children to certain activities to complete or rotate through each day, children decide how they would best like to spend their time, giving them more control over their own learning.
Parents may choose whether to allow for open-ended exploration, or to guide the exploration through the use of learning targets, or the activity guides.
More Ways to Use the Spielgaben in the homeschool setting
- Children work hard all week long, and many parents offer extra play time as a reward or incentive. Rewarding children with 15-30 extra minutes of free choice or play-time once a week is a good way to celebrate a job well done.
- For children that are having trouble focusing on a task at hand, it can be very beneficial to set up a quiet corner of the room where kids can participate in a short hands-on activity for 5-10 minutes, and then rejoin the homeschool class. Their focus will often skyrocket after this short break.
- The Spielgaben is a great indoor recess activity for those days when the weather does not cooperate with plans for children to get outside and run around. It engages both the hands and the mind, providing a perfect opportunity for children.
- Set up a “When I am Done” board for child who have finished his or her work early. Spielgaben offers a great and quiet activity that child can work on while other siblings are finishing their homework or assignment. This encourages children to get right to work and stay on task so that they have a few minutes to play when they are done.
- The pieces of the Spielgaben set make great math manipulatives. Children can use the smaller pieces to help master concepts like addition and subtraction. The bright colors and smooth wood are so inviting!
- Put some of the pieces out for morning work. Mornings are busy for everyone. Put some of the pieces out at children’ tables for them to manipulate while the parent is taking care of paperwork or daily activities.
Three Extra Tips
1. Plan and prepare, but do not forget to be flexible as well.
Write down what you want your child to play in advance and make sure you have the materials. Then engage your child with learning resources that comes with Spielgaben set or other tools. If your child shows strong interest in creating something different, be flexible and change your plan.
2. Try not to assess your child’s play.
Maintaining neutrality creates an environment where your child can feel comfortable to expressing herself creatively. If your idea is different than your child’s, let him know that your idea is not better, it is just different. Also, provide suggestions instead of advice. Allowing your child to choose whatever idea he likes.
3. Be Patient.
If a parent gets impatient, a child cannot express his ideas and thoughts freely. If your child does not finish his creation or activity in one day, leave it undisturbed and allow him to finish it another day. The benefits of Spielgaben come from the process of creating and making choices, not the final product. Do not dismantle your child’s creation in order to put it back into the storage box. Let him finish his creation and then put it away himself. This builds the habit of completing tasks, which is an essential skill that all children need to develop.
The Spielgaben set offers parents the perfect balance of play and learning. Using the Spielgaben set in a homeschool setting helps to create opportunities for open-ended exploration for children who are sorely missing from today’s society. We know that kids need more time for play and this is one way to give it to them!