Playing as a Teaching Moment

I was once advised to consider pursuing a Montessori teaching certificate because of my fascination with informal education. Montessori believes that children can learn effectively through play, which can be carefully crafted into an informal learning experience without ever being transparent.

Case in point, last Friday I accompanied a friend to his department’s picnic. We spent the afternoon at a beach in Ballard walking and playing and eating and chatting. It was a very relaxing afternoon.

At one point, I grabbed an ice cream treat and went to sit on the swings. A mother and her little girl (who couldn’t have been any older than four) came up and took over the swing beside me. The little girl plopped down on the swing while her mother asked her how many pushes she wanted. The girl thought for a moment before asking first for fifteen, and then settling for thirteen. Her mother pushed her, counting each push out loud.

I couldn’t help but smile as I watched them. Without being obvious, the mother was instilling number sense in her daughter. They had somewhere to practice counting that didn’t feel stale or rote, and the little girl was having a great time.

If you have the opportunity to play with little ones, look for ways to incorporate a little bit of learning or practice into your play time! They’ll benefit from it!


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