No Learning, Just Play

Daddy: “Did you do any learning today Buddy?”

Jack: “No. No learning. Just played.”

OHP and mosaic pieces from An Everyday Story

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Lately I’ve been feeling like our days have been becoming a little too me-directed. While I think the explorations and activities I was preparing were hands-on and engaging, they still came from my planning and my agenda.

I was starting to feel that I was placing more importance on language and math than on Jack and Sarah’s self-directed play. It didn’t take long into our homeschool kindergarten for the teacher inside me to take over.

“The value of child-initiated play can hardly be overstated….children thrive when they have significant amounts of time to pursue their own ideas through play using open-ended materials.”

…we never want to inadvertently diminish the vital importance of sustained child-initiated play. Rather than interfering, taking over,  or overwhelming them with too much instruction, the actions you choose should support children’s learning.”

~ Learning Together with Young Children

Drawing power lines from An Everyday Stoy
Drawing power lines
Drawing circuits from An Everyday Story
Labelling a circuit design before building a working circuit

And so today I watched; I watched Jack and Sarah play. They played their usual games but today I had different eyes open. I scrapped all the planned activities I had today and waited for them to show me the way forward.

I waited for simple moments for me to help them build on their play; build upon their experiences. I listened to their play and their stories for cues of how I could support them…and the cues came.

Kindergarten science from An Everyday Story
Drawing a transformer
Playing school from An Everyday Story
Playing school

Jack wanted sticky tape but couldn’t use the dispenser himself so a short lesson there allowed him to continue his play; Sarah wanted to create a school but couldn’t find an acceptable desk so a short lesson walking around the house discussing possibilities allowed her to problem solve, make a decision and continue with her play.

Exploring our world - kindergarten geography from An Everyday Story
Exploring countries, world landmarks and foreign currency
Building with cups on the OHP from An Everyday Story
Building cup towers

And so the day unfolded. And since I had done away with my agenda, I was open to theirs. They decided what was worth learning; what was worth pursuing. And wouldn’t you know it, we still did some reading and some writing, we still did some math and some science.

“…you create an expectation and awareness that they [the children] are here to ‘get smarter’, not by reminding and instructing, but by describing and inquiring about what is unfolding.”

I learnt a humbling lesson today; one that I thought I knew but guess I forgot. I learnt to trust. To trust that Jack and Sarah will learn what they need to learn in that moment; that they will write and read and draw and explore in a way that is relevant to them.

I learnt that my role is one of gentle mentor; subtly injecting provocations to help Jack and Sarah to pursue their play further, master skills, ask questions and seek answers; supporting them in their learning experience.

And what a wonderful day we had today. No learning, just play. 


I shared two short videos on Instagram today; one of Jack and Sarah working and another of Jack after he created a working circuit.

I’m @kate_aneverydaystory .


~ These are the World landmark figurines we have

22 Replies to “No Learning, Just Play”

  1. It’s so easy to let the “teach them stuff” mentality creep back in, especially after milestones that feel very important to the world in general, like “starting kindergarten”! I know *exactly* what you mean 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing, Kate! My children are 10, 8, and 5 and I think this is still important to remember. There’s so much in their play that I can pick up…

  3. Love this post! “…….no learning, just play”. Out of the mouths of babes!

  4. Love your post so beautifully written. I am learning so much how to interact and play with my little ones from your posts. Thank you h.

  5. Thanks Kate. I seem to have scrapped nearly all my planning because the girls have been playing so well together. I feel like a fraud when I say I am home preschooling them because I don’t do much. thanks for reminding me that actually I do plenty. When they ask what for ideas I provide them and sometimes they request thing like Lola the listening leopard but otherwise I am following their own direction and I’m so glad we can ‘just play’.

  6. I think there is a lot of pressure from society in general to ‘teach our kids everything all the time or else they will fall behind’…. it is often so hard to let go and trust that they really do know what they need to learn right now. You are doing a fabulous job!

  7. I’m sure finding that balance is going to be an ongoing challenge for you. With three individuals in the home, it is no wonder that your days are being pulled in different directions with three sets of needs, desires, goals etc.

    Children are wonderful teachers!

    I loved this post. A lovely reminder for me too. Despite being a teacher and having an education-based blog, I have not ever directly taught my daughter any reading and writing skills- it all happens through play and everyday activities. Whilst I have no doubt that her skills will develop over time, at the moment she is not reading and writing at the same standard as her peers who are taught using flash cards, programs and tutors. I have been starting to doubt my approach to her early years, but you’ve reminded me that we are on the right path.

    1. Your comment really resonated with me, Jackie! Its funny to realise my daughter (who I also have not pushed/formally taught literacy) may not be reading like some of her peers.. feel that initial rush of pressure then realise ‘oh wait, I dont even WANT her to be reading yet,under those circumstances!!’. but when the doubt creeps in, posts like this reassure me too, that letting them learn and develop at their own pace is one of the very best gifts we can give them! the environment of literacy you have created for your daughter inspires me so much too!

  8. I often feel the pressure to teach them and be more structured. its easy to forget that they learn through play so much and fall into a directed teaching role.
    I am actively trying to be more playful with the kids each day, its way more fun 😉
    I love your pictures. beautiful!

  9. Oh how I struggle with this. Love this post and aspire to get to that point myself.

  10. beautiful post and beautiful reminder, Kate! so true that sometimes we have to remind ourselves to ‘get out of the way’ and let them follow their natural learning impulses! I love how you said/showed how you encouraged and provoked further learning but let them lead it. A great example and reminder. They are just amazing little creatures, huh 🙂

  11. I love this. It’s easier to be full on or full off. It’s a much harder route as a parent to take that engaged backwards step.

  12. So inspiring, as usually. I need this reminder sometimes too. I get caught up in what I feel like they should be learning and forget that they are a better judge of what they are ready for and interested in at any given moment. I love where their questions take us – such a wonderful reminder to really listen.

  13. I loved this post Kate. Loved it!
    It’s such a great reminder that our kids will be okay, better than okay, if we let them follow what interests them and create opportunities for them to do so. I, like Jackie above, haven’t intentionally taught my youngest any reading or writing skills before starting school this year but sometimes catch myself wondering if her teacher expects her skill set to be higher (for want of a better word) because I teach. Your post reminds me that I want her to love reading, for example, because she’s come to it when she ready not just because she’s a certain age.

  14. How absolutely gorgeous. I loved reading this and it was lovely to hear the trust you have in your guidance and their ability to learn at their pace and as they become inspired. What a fabulous teacher.

  15. Hello, Kate! I’m so thrilled to have discovered your site. I’m a Montessori-trained teacher. I have just been recently hearing about Reggio Emilia Approach and I would love to learn more about it. Will definitely keep coming to this site more often.

    Thank you.

    Mars M.

  16. Great post. I love your relaxed approach to learning with play, it stands to reason that kids learn better when they are interested in what they’re doing (don’t we all!).

  17. I reckon they were still learning a lot. What wonderful experiences your children enjoy. Love!

  18. This is what I love about the investigations time at my daughter’s school. Where children are trusted to play (and learn) independently for the first 2 hours of each day. I hear so many people saying that there’s no way that would suit their child as their child would “just play” and wouldn’t be learning anything in that time. If only they’d just sit and watch one day to see all that really does get learnt through self initiated play. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Such a lovely post and a wonderful reminder to be guided more by our children. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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