Find Out How a Play Room Consultant Can Change Your Child’s Learning at Home
As parents, we often find ourselves scanning the living room or basement, wondering where the heck all these toys came from. And wondering, why after hours of tidying and picking up after our children, it seems like more and more toys keep appearing out of nowhere. It’s as if every parent is cursed with the never ending toy problem: toys keep sneaking onto every visible square inch of walkable space in our homes, destined to injure us parents as we stumble in a sleep-deprived haze as we try to make dinner, vacuum, or do anything else productive.
One thing I’ve never thought about as I stared at my toy-strewn living room in awe/disgust/despair, was how all these toys could potentially be a learning opportunity. To be completely frank, I’ve never considered how my children’s play room could be a learning space. But all that changed once I met Connie Huson, a play room consultant and former teacher who specializes in transforming play spaces into opportunities to educate our children as they play.
After chatting with Connie about her practice, I thought sharing an interview-style blog article would be extremely beneficial to parents who were curious to learn about the educational side of free play. The below interview is a result of my curiosity, and Connie’s philosophies. Get ready to learn!
Q: I haven’t heard of a playroom consultant. What exactly do you do?
A: I have taught with the Toronto School Board for 14 years, 7 of which were in Kindergarten, which is known to be a play-based learning program. I’m also a mom to an 8 year old and a 5 year old.
Using these experiences, I offer in-home consultations where I help parents create playrooms that foster learning and creativity. I teach parents about the value of play and how to set up an area of the home that will encourage lots of unstructured play time for their child. I explain how to decide which toys encourage more imagination and creativity than others, how to sort, organize, and edit the toys they currently have. By the time my 2 hour consultation is complete, a newly organized play area is set up and ready to use.
Following the initial overview of their space, I provide detailed notes with ideas for play, suggested furniture, suggested toys and art materials, as well as tips on how to maintain the space. I also bring a few of my favourite storage and organization units to show how an ideal play area would look, if the family I’m working with doesn’t already have storage in place.
My clients often say that after my visit, the way their children play has been instantly transformed, and they’ve learned more about how children play! That’s what I love to hear.
Q: I’ve never thought of how my play room can affect learning! Can you give some examples?
A: In Kindergarten programs, the environment is considered “a third teacher”, meaning it is set up in a way that guides student play and learning. The arrangement and types of materials that are made available can encourage play that will enable children to practice specific skill sets, even if they are not aware of it!
For example, setting up a mock restaurant with a kitchen, cash register, paper and pencils will encourage children to practice taking orders (which involves communication skills, social skills, writing practice and math).
The research on the importance of play as a way children learn is extensive. I’ve set up my own home using principles of play-based learning from my Kindergarten class experience, with great success in how much my kids play and create. My mission is to share this experience with other families.
Q: As a former teacher, why do you think free play is so important?
A: Over my 14 years of teaching at a mid-town Toronto school, I saw my Kindergarten students get enrolled in more and more programming – Mandarin classes, music lessons, hockey, swimming, tennis, gymnastics, skiing, art, robotics… all amazing opportunities, but kids already have a long day at school. And then for these children to go off to lessons several times a week, is asking a lot of them. The school day is very stimulating and very structured – the kids have little time in a school day to do whatever they want to.
I noticed more and more students in my classes looking tired, restless, or anxious. My wish was for my students to go home to relax and play however they liked, and perhaps spend time snuggling with a loved one while reading a book.
I want parents to know they will be giving their kids exactly what they need for learning, well-being, and future success by giving them as much time for unstructured play, imagination, and creativity as possible!
*Read the full article here for tips on how to organize and decorate your child's play room for maximum educational impact. *
*This article originally appeared on MomResource.ca