Tag Archives: Early Learning

It’s More Than Child’s Play

Two weeks ago, my colleague, Jaclyn and I had the opportunity to attend and present at CAAEYC’s Annual Conference and Expo in Pasadena, CA. I was fortunate to have the honor of being a featured presenter and speak to Learning Mathematics through Play.

As the title suggests we talked about the mathematical concepts that can be taught via play: free play, guided play and teacher directed, with the majority of our time together spent on guided play, where children take the lead but adults support their exploration.

I choose this topic because of the push on academics that I’ve seen in many preschool classrooms. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek shared that “time spent on play has diminished, so much so that in the last two decades, children have lost 8 hours of free-play time per week”.  That means that our littles are only receiving just over 1 hour per day purely devoted to free-play time. As a child, I remember spending most of my time outside playing with and creating things from boxes from the furniture store down the way, pretending to be Diana Ross and sing “Stop in The Name of Love” on the strip of sidewalk that divided our homes. With each passing decade since I was a kid, there has been a rapid decline in time spent on playtime.

So why guided play? Weisberg, Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff & McCandlis (2014) state:

  • It respects children’s autonomy and their pride in discovery
  • Cultivates children’s love of learning
  • It shapes not only the desired outcomes in learning but also a more positive attitude towards learning

These three traits were what I sought my presentation to evoke.  My presentation was sprinkled with research, video of our classroom experiences, and opportunities for participants to engage in (adult) play activities. I sought to make my audience feel the joy of working in collaboration, to problem solve, to be innovative, to practice self-regulation skills, to engage in conversation, to communicate their strategies, successes and failures, and to develop perseverance.

I have to say my session was a success, not because of me but because of all the participants in the room.

Below are examples of two tasks that attendees got to partake in and how they can be adapted for children.

Task: Using 50 solo cups, create the tallest free-standing structure that you can.

Children can do this with fewer amounts of cups or blocks.

Task: Using no more than 10 popsicle sticks, two feet of yarn, and two feet of tape, create a cell phone holder that will support the weight of your phone and take a selfie.

Children can build a chair that must bear the weight of a small teddy bear counter or a bridge to support a toy car.


If you are interested in reviewing our presentations they can be found at https://www.aimsedu.org/conferences/