More play?

There has been a lot of interesting research done on children and learning. And the bulk of it comes down to this: Kids need more play. Kids learn through play, so they need more play.

I totally believe in play. People might not think so, since I’m always posting lessons and experiments. But we do a lot of play at the house. Some of it is organized play (board games, Lego building contests, block building contests, science experiments…….) and some of it is unstructured play (as in I tell them to go play).

We also have unstructured play in nature. We head to the beach and I let my kids play all they want there. We go hiking, and we always stop for “snack” in a convenient location that lets them play around. We also head to museums that have play areas and I let them play. Or playgrounds…..or the front yard……..

I think you catch the drift.

Kids can get over-scheduled. When that happens they lose their time for play. It’s important to have enrichment activities, and equally important to have play activities. So how do you balance them?

It’s a very personal decision. Sometimes it means we do bare minimum work and have a play day. Sometimes it means we do equal play and work in a day – it just depends. I can tell when the kids aren’t getting enough play because I start to feel it too. But when they are getting enough play, it’s more fun! First of all, they don’t like coming in from play. But if they are getting enough play, I can use it as a bribe in order to get other things done. “Finish your writing work and we can go play,” is very commonly heard around my house. It’s fun to play, the kids want to do it, so they do their work before hand and then we go play. If we aren’t getting enough play, then we don’t have an easy time doing work.

Here’s the links to two articles I really like on the need for play.

Article 1

Article 2




What? No tests?

Wouldn’t you rather see the smiles and energy that come from learning and exploring the world than the stress of exams? Why would I test when instead I can take the kids out and show them how things work in the real world and see them smile?

Recently I’ve been getting a few questions from people about how I am going to verify that my kids are learning something. What they are asking is – are you going to test them?

Let’s think about what a test is. A test is a way to check if you have memorized certain facts or a process. When children take standardized tests the test is looking for a certain thing: Can you read a paragraph and answer a question this way. Or can you do a math problem. Tests do not measure a creative process or critical thinking. A test is only a good verification tool of a fact or a set process – because if there could be more than one answer, then the test isn’t going to be a standardized tests – that’s what essay exams are for.

Essay exams are a little different then regular tests because you have a blank paper in front of you and get to explain yourself. In an essay exam you can express your answer and the way you got there. While an essay exam has more leeway with allowing you a creative process and critical thinking, it is still an exam and is still looking for a right answer. I have taken many of these in my college and graduate education and know that the exam is still looking for the “right” answer – they just want to see your reasoning to get there.

So what is the goal of a test? To measure something specific. It is a little like Jeopardy in that way – except the exams are more limited than possible Jeopardy questions.

I don’t test my children – nor am I planning to. I don’t think they need exams to show that they have learned something. I don’t need to give them a math test to verify they can add – they will simply be able to add and subtract and since I’m the one doing the work with them, I will know if they can do it. I don’t particularly care if they memorize the historical facts and figures we are learning about. I’d rather they get a general overview of history. The things they like will stick with them.

Am I sure about this? I am sure. I get random questions all the time about how I’m going to be sure they are learning something. They will learn. We interact in lessons. We go to exhibits and watch shows and do experiments and practice work that shows me they are learning. You don’t have to test whether kids are learning – they really are.

Some people seem very frightened by this approach – as if by not testing my children they are going to miss out on various facts. So here’s my question to you guys out there who believe testing is an integral part of a child’s educational experience: Why? What fact did you learn for a test that you truly remember? I know, from experience, that I learned things for tests that I have no idea what they are right now. None. I can tell you that I passed high school and college level courses in chemistry and biology – yet I can’t remember what the parts of a flower are. For the kids in my neighborhood that’s a big test coming up right now. There are lots of kids trying to memorize the parts of a flower. Why? If they are interested, these facts will stick with them and drive them to various classes in continuing education. But for now…why?

Sure, my kids are going to be tested by others. They will learn that tests are something they need to do for other people. But at my house, I’m happier seeing the smiles that come with learning and exploring than the stress of preparing for exams.

A wonderful article on why sharing isn’t always the best option for kids.

Here’s the link to a wonderful article on about why sharing isn’t always the best option for children. There are also a lot of wonderful resources linked within the article.

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