Play is Child’s Work

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By Rosanna Ward

Elizabeth’s post about toys got me thinking about the things we use in our home to help teach our children. I realized that our children probably learn more through play than they do from filling in blanks in a workbook. I look back at our homeschool experience and see this played out time and time again.

There were many times when getting my girls to actually retain instruction was frustrating to them, as well as myself. I found that by turning those lessons into actions, they understood, memorized and retained information more readily.

Trampoline Fun

The trampoline was probably our very best investment. Yes, the trampoline! The trampoline is my children’s favorite “toy.” They not only jump on it, but they hang out with their friends and even sleep there. A few years ago we discovered the joy of jumping while memorizing the countries of Africa. I figured out that I could use jumping on the trampoline (or jumping rope) as a good activity to do while reciting things we were trying to memorize. It really works!

I also take the kids outside and use chalk to write their lessons. The large movement seems to help my kids — Joel especially — focus and remember.

With our older girls, we used money a lot as manipulatives. Money also worked great when explaining negative and positive problems. As small business owner’s kids, they understood how money worked at an early age.

With Joel, starting at the beginning, I also use matchbox cars, M&Ms, rubber sort toys and more to teach basic math skills. Joel is now at the age where we utilize a box I created of “science” stuff: Experiment supplies and things he can take apart, like old radios.

With all my kids, I have also found that K’NEX, Legos, Erector Sets, and other building sets are great educational toys. Last year when studying the Industrial Revolution, we had a contest to see who could invent the coolest invention using K’NEX. I’ve discovered that a great place to find educational toys online is

Sugar cube pyramid

I am a huge fan of unit studies. And since I am a history nut, our units are always centered around historical eras. It is fun to be able to do playful activities that go along with the things we are reading about. When we studied Egypt, we made sugar cube (and Lego) pyramids. When we studied the Vikings, we made Potato Pancakes. We recently made Jamestown replicas. The list goes on and on. The kids seem to not only enjoy learning this way, but they also remember what they’ve learned longer.

Another resource I use quite regularly are movies. We check out a lot of movies from the library and also watch movies on Netflix. When we studied World War II, we watched “The Hiding Place.” During the Industrial Revolution study, we watched a movie about George Muller. I take my children’s ages into account when choosing movies: My teen daughters watch movies my little boys do not. We also like the Drive Thru History and Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution DVD sets.

When it comes to educating your child, I think it is important to think outside the box. One of my goals as a teacher is for my children to learn to love learning and to be lifelong learners, and this can be helped along by adding “play” to their school “work.” There is a German proverb that says, “You can do anything with children if only you play with them.” I agree!

— Rosanna Ward is a devoted wife of almost 19 years and mother of four children, two of which are currently homeschooled. Her oldest daughter has graduated, and her youngest son is a toddler. She is a homeschool graduate and has been homeschooling for six years. Rosanna loves to study History and Genealogy, and currently resides in Sand Springs, Oklahoma.

2 thoughts on “Play is Child’s Work

  1. Thank you — and Elizabeth! — the extra tips on toys & how play can be a big part of your teaching strategy! Although we have plenty of “educational” toys around, I have rarely used them in our lessons. It totally makes sense though and I can see now that the girls could really benefit from stepping away from the school table (and leaving the books behind!) to experience learning in a totally different way.

    I am definitely a “bookworm” myself, so it’s hard not to expect the same from my girls. But it’s pretty clear that they need more breaks in the schedule and more hands-on learning experiences that are also fun to keep us all happy. Like you said, developing life-long learners is key!

    I also had not heard of those two DVD series — they look great! Did you find those at the library, on Netflix, or did you have to purchase them?

    1. I puchased them from but the Creatures that Defy Evolution is on Netflix. The Drive Thru History Series is great. I have the American History set but will someday get the Middle East set he started with. They show these sometimes on the History Channel and the Christian Channels. He is really corny which the kids like.

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