10 Examples of Play Based Learning for Older Children

Watching my boys play, plan and learn is so rewarding!  We often rely on play based learning and I love to sit back, see what they're up to and watch them hard at work playing.

Play based learning is simple to understand in it's claims that children learn through playing.

However, it is much harder to understand all the ways in which play influences learning.  It's impossible to see the inner workings of the brain and know just what concepts are being picked up merely by watching children play.

I have found that through observing the boys play I can find little clues to what they are learning.  I hear the language that they use and apply and often recognize themes from whatever books we've been reading cropping up in their play.

I can see them problem solve and use their imaginations.  They build, create, measure, apply math skills, read, and plan.

Often I am amazed by the look of concentration on their faces and the sheer determination to keep trying after repeated failures.

Some examples of how my boys learned through play this weekend:

1. Building with Lego sets and using their imaginations to free build. It often takes a bit of working and re- working before the object they imagined comes to life.

2. Playing with rubber stamps and ink pads to create masterpieces!

3. Watching educational shows like Liberty's Kids; for fun!

4. Alec cleaned out a small bottle he had gotten as part of his Easter basket and did another sand art project.

5. Evan asked if we could make his rock candy so we worked on that together.  Evan measured, cut, and even got a lesson on using the stove.  I was really hoping that this would work because I knew he'd be so upset. Plus it would have been really nice to have something else on his display table; yet once again rock candy was a complete and utter failure here.  I used a different set of instructions and measurements this time too!  We'll try one last time and then I give up on rock candy for good!

6. Ian pulled out a boat toy, his Lego trailer and truck and all the Lincoln logs and made a shipping yard for hauling logs. 

6. The older two boys and I went roller skating with a few of their aunts and cousins.  We had a wonderful time!  

Alec fell a few times and though there were quite a few tears he was quite proud of himself by the end of the night because he managed to skate without any help.  Ian fell just a few times and even managed to "dance" a bit on his skates as he was travelling around the rink so he was quite pleased with himself and how much he had improved.

7. Putting math skills to work in real life Ian figured out how many poppers they could each use by dividing them equally into three groups.  When a package came in the mail and the boys were all excited about popping the packing material.  Alec and Ian counted up 15 "poppers" as they call then and Alec said "on no that's an odd number!"  When Ian replied (without even seeming to think about it at all!) "that's OK we'll each get 5."  So they divided up the poppers evenly and set about jumping on them!  

Math is one of those subjects I swore we'd always use a curriculum for even when we planned on unschooling for everything else, yet here I sit trying to remember the last time I taught them anything in math.  But it just goes to show; when it's something important they're able to figure out what to do.  And trust me, poppers are VERY important. 

8. Ian was the first one up on Saturday and woke his father asking "what time are we headed to work?"  Ian loves going to work and even though he never went to bed until after 9 last night he was up by 6, afraid his father left for work without him.  For Ian, working is an extension of his play. 

9.  When he came home around lunch time and immediately headed outside.  He's been using his rain boots to dig a huge pool in our sand and fill it with lake water.  They also rode on four wheelers, bikes and scooters.  

10. Today the two younger boys had a birthday party to go to and once there  Alec was thrilled to find a Mario chess set so, of course, he had to play.  He ended up playing three games in a row and I think if I hadn't made him clean it up and go play he could have sat there all afternoon. 

 He loves chess and he really gets it.  

He taught me how to play today.  

He knows the name of all the pieces, how, when and where they can move.  He even told me "you're in checkmate, mom."  I have no idea where he picked this all up from but I was really impressed with his playing skill.  Here I was thinking that he really wanted to learn how to play but I guess he already knows and just needs someone to play more often! 


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