How Do You Follow the Child When All He Wants to Do is Play? Learning with LEGOs

When we first began this CoronaVirus quarantining and all the schools closed, I saw parents who were suddenly panicking and printing out worksheet after worksheet with the hope that something would be learned.  But did you know that there are other ways to learn?  I saw this on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, and it’s a message I want to spread far and wide right now:

They can!  You have an amazing opportunity right now.  If your children are home unexpectedly and the school did not send home work to be completed [or even if they did but it’s “optional”], I highly recommend asking your child what she WANTS to learn about and taking it from there.  Most of the year, she has to spend school time filling out worksheets and learning about the same thing as everyone else.  This is her chance to learn about something she actually cares about — and she will take it to the next level because it really is something she enjoys. I asked Lila (age 6) what she wanted to learn about while Nora is doing homeschool preschool, and she said she wanted to do some research on penguins using her Magic Tree House Research Guide.  So that’s what she’s did for her first week at home!  She spent most of that Monday morning taking notes and planning a big poster so she could teach us all about penguins when she was finished.  She even wanted to bring her research along when we went to pick up groceries we had ordered so she could continue to work in the car!  On that Tuesday, she finished taking notes and drew a detailed picture of a Rockhopper penguin, her current favorite.  Then she copied it even larger on some watercolor paper and painted it.  That Wednesday, she transferred the painting to her larger poster paper and added some interesting facts. By Friday, she had presented her research to her adoring audience: her family. [More on this child-led research study in a later blog post.]

 “But Angela, my kid just wants to play with LEGOs all day.”  LEGOs?  That’s wonderful!  Look at all the amazing things you can learn about when you “study” LEGOs:

*This post is in no way sponsored by LEGOs — it is just based on an actual question I received from a parent who was worried because all her son wanted to do was play with LEGOs.*

And it’s not only LEGOs — the same concept of “following the child” can apply to any of your child’s interests. Play naturally creates its own learning opportunities, so you don’t actually have to plan anything formal at all. But if it makes you feel better during these strange times at home when you’re suddenly responsible for the education of your child, just think about different ways to apply math/language/science/history/art concepts to that play and go from there.

An Instagram follower found herself in lock-down in a house that is not her own — she sent me a picture of a bunch of seashells that she had in the house and asked how she could use them to create Montessori-inspired works for her preschooler. Here’s what we came up with — just with seashells:

Then I opened it up to everyone on Instagram: I asked them to send me a picture of a random material along with the age of their child, and I replied with several options for ways to Montessori-fy those materials. Click the post to swipe through and see all of the pictures!

All that to say:  PLEASE follow your child in these uncertain times.  Trust that your child can develop her own course of study.  Follow her interests. Use what you have available to you while you’re stuck in your own home or in someone else’s. Get creative together.