I read an article, which for the life of me I cannot find now, about a school that has children write up a play plan and then stick to that playing for an hour. They are not allowed to stop playing that particular thing for an hour, although if they'd like to go longer that's ok. The point is that focused playing helps children learn and then retain their learning much better than traditional learning.
I've been trying to incorporate this into some of my schooling. Things like history and languages, which don't have concrete examples to demonstrate to children like say math or science does, or the interest level of reading a story, are perfect for play learning. We have some playmobil toys which look particularly German and so there is a rule that when they are played with they must speak in German, or with a German accent. Since we're still in a very primary stage of German I hear a lot of "Guten morgen! Let's go get the sheep schwester!" Our Lalaloopsy dolls only speak french and the fairies speak spanish. Although we haven't been doing this for very long I've already noticed a difference in how willing my children are to speak other languages. Before they seemed to be shy and embarrassed, but playing affords them the freedom to perhaps make mistakes and to just be silly and enjoy it. I encourage them to even think about their toys in terms of the other languages. There is no fairy with the blue dress, it is the fairy with the azul dress. The Lalaloopsy dolls love saying c'est bien! and are generally frivolous and silly little things, even the boys.
Today we were talking about the Pont du Gard and other aquaducts. I told them they needed to build a village and somehow get water from the "lake" to the village. They used hotwheel tracks to create an aquaduct and even made a storage container for it, and a dam to hold flood water back. But then I told them a drought came, so they tore down the dam to purposefully help the land flood to bring back moisture and nutrients.
This is the lake and aquaduct
Because Industrialization was occurring a train bridge ran over the aquaduct
And then it finally rained. So I threw water at the kids. To say they thought it was funny is a bit of an understatement.
Unfortunately it didn't rain soon enough for the horse and fish. They died.
The possibilities are endless for play learning. If there is one thing I've learned about how my children learn it is that I need to get out of the way. I'm there more for guidance and loose direction than telling them what to do and what to learn. Creating a climate of learning is so easy and the children just really seem to take it from there.
Speaking of playing and learning have you guys subscribed to Bedtime math? You should!