Watch Me Play and Grow!
My son has taught me a lot over the past three years. Watching him grow has given me a stronger understanding of the importance of play. In Wyoming’s Coherent Path to Quality, we learn that “Learning experiences are the interactions and experiences in which learning takes place. It’s the moment when something familiar meets curiosity; in a way that invites investigation.” During my son’s play, he has used familiar, exploratory materials to further his learning. The Coherent Path continues to explain, “Learning is a process, not a product.” I have learned how true that statement is as I’ve watched my son go through the stages of play with materials he has always had access to and is interested in.
“Optimal learning experiences promote children’s ability to construct knowledge through exploration and investigation with time to tinker and ponder” (Wyoming’s Coherent Path to Quality). As my son explores through his play, he is progressing through the stages of play and learning.
I have observed my son develop from grabbing blocks, stacking blocks, knocking over towers, building homes, and using Legos to create animals, dinosaurs, and people. As he created animals, dinosaurs, and people, it turned from making them to playing with them as he imagined the story they were acting out.
I've watched him progress through play with animals, from grabbing them, holding them, petting them, to acting out elaborate play scenes. He now puts them in families, categorizes them, tells a story with them, has epic battles between animals with dramatic scenes, and then doctors up their injuries.
I've watched as he has learned by playing with cars and trucks, from grabbing, sorting, racing them, to wanting to fix them. He finds the tools he needs, rolls up his sleeves, and gets to work.
Every time I play with him, I'm amazed at his growth and development. As a mom and an educator, I remember trying to create “the best learning experiences.” Often, he wasn’t truly engaged in these experiences because they didn’t interest him. When I took the time to see what he was doing and focus on that, I witnessed how many concepts and skills he is working on. He demonstrates math concepts, emergent literacy skills, and much more through his play. The Coherent Path to Quality reminds us, “When you are present, and in the moment, you notice things that activate curiosity, create spontaneous learning experiences, and make meaningful connections.”
My son’s progress in play shines the light on letting him explore with materials he is interested in. “Exploratory learning experiences are those that engage children in hands-on investigation and exploration of materials, ideas, and concepts. During exploratory learning experiences, children are their own best resource. They use what is familiar to them and their physical sense to figure out the question they’ve constructed” (Wyoming’s Coherent Path to Quality).
Through my son’s evolution of play from grabbing things as a baby to a three-year-old engaging in purposeful play, I have learned with him. As he has explored various materials, he has created more elaborate, purposeful play. His play has resulted in new skills he investigates, explores, and becomes more comfortable with. As he has become confident, I have seen him develop more curiosity in higher skills, and as he does this, his play skills advance. “Exploratory learning experiences spark curiosity, invite investigation, and nurture learning” (Wyoming’s Coherent Path to Quality). Most importantly, my son is always engaged, excited, and confident as he learns.