One of the basic aspects in life-derived learning is to allow children discover the real world, through play. Because children, when given the power to choose, always transfer their play into reality.
One of our pre-k classes developed a genuine interest on how cars work! They talked about cars, read about cars, saw movies, played with toys, even constructed fake cars in various forms .
Were these enough? Of course not! Children went on asking more & more things, so we had to give them the chance to see a place where a car is born…
Unfortunately, in Greece we do not have a single car making factory. However, we do have many car import and repair companies and Mercedes Benz Hellas proved so willing to let our children visit their premises, ask questions and even play in their cars!
Children came back in school full of enthusiasm. Because it is not what you learn in such a visit – it is how it makes you feel; and our pre-Ks returned in school feeling as great as any of us after having played in a Mercedes Benz!
Cooking is one of kids most favorable activities in school. Apart from being a great life-derived play, cooking assists toddlers to get acquainted with a good number of skills.
Getting in touch with math, for example, in the age of 2.5 y.o is greatly achieved through cooking. Children start to understand what does it mean “two spoonful of sugar” or “4 eggs”.
Their fine motor skills also are greatly enhanced, as well as their decision making skills. “Which goes first, the oil or the cheese?” The purpose is not to give them answers, but encourage them to think for themselves.
As it always goes on play: we do not cook to learn, but we learn so much while cooking!
We do offer a DIY class in kindergarten, in order to introduce 6 y.o. children into creative thinking & problem solving attitude.
For example: by constructing a hydraulic robotic arm from scratch, children transfer their play into real life conditions by engaging in the following. They:
Derive the plan
Measure the dimensions
Cut the wood
Trial and error to make the junctions work
Understand how the hydraulic pumps work
Team & coordinate to make the arm move in all three dimensions
While the above consist the most fascinating play, yet encourage children to develop numbers of skills and engage deeply into creative thinking and innovation.
But most of all it’s just freely selected & non-directed play. Adults do not direct or impose, only inspire and facilitate. It’s not by coincidence that, when such a project is over, children rarely play with the outcome. They have enjoyed most playing during the construction!
In a truly play-based environment, every single item can be transformed into a hat, a shoe, a wheel or a stool. That is why our spaces often look like junkyards!
Children should feel completely free to engage into play with anything that exists around, no matter what it may be; so they imagine, innovate, combine, cooperate and develop independent thinking, on a free will basis.