In many people’s minds play is very separate from learning. However, research has shown over and over that play is one way of learning. This is a way that children are able to use their senses and make sense of the world around them. They learn essential social and emotional skills by playing with others, talking to themselves and exploring the world around them. However learning through play doesn’t end with infant and toddlers.

 When learning is enjoyable it encourages creativity and imagination. So what does play really mean? For play to be an effective teacher it needs to be an activity that is freely chosen, not forced upon them. If a parent or teachers chooses the activity and expects a certain outcome this is work, not play. Work is fine for works sake, but children can see through our motives if we try to present work as play.
So if our child spends hours upon hours playing Legos, does this mean their time has been wasted? Not at all. I remember reading The Right Side of Normal, and how one of her children was so intrigued with Legos, that he would spend all of his time immersed in this activity. It helped his learning in so many ways, and influenced who he became as an adult. Legos are amazing tools for creating future engineers. Lil’ Z is my Lego man, he can find his flow within his piles of Legos. He gets so creative and has learned so much about physics, fractions, problem solving and working in three dimensions.
Children need unstructured time for play on a daily basis. Play helps in developing the brain and lays down our fundamental pathways for continued learning. It’s sad to me to see the recent trend in public schools to continue to cut back recess time and in some cases, eliminating it all together. Play enhances learning, and does not take away from it. The best schools in the world, such as those in Norway and Japan, play a high value on the role of play and learning.
Learning through play is valuable for adults as well. It helps with relaxation, emotional well being, creativity and so much more. Keeping a playful attitude can help build strong relationships, relieve stress and make life more enjoyable. As our family has experienced a lot of grief, play can also help to heal and build strong family relationships. I love the attitude encouraged in the Playful Parenting books. Even modern businesses especially those in the technology fields are recognizing the importance of play in the work environment. It helps increase productivity and keeps attitudes positive and increase job satisfaction. So for the love of learning, go play!
How do you include play in your daily life?


Grief (and learning)



Our family has experienced great loss throughout the years. First I lost my beautiful baby girl, Bella. Then 5 years later I have lost my first husband, Ian, suddenly. My current husband, Poose, had a similar loss with his wife. So all four of our children have experienced the loss of a parent, and two have also experienced the loss of a sibling. Our family has know heartbreak from all angles.

Grief isn’t something you can deal with for a specific amount of time, then be done with it. It keeps rearing it’s head over the years again and again. Memory, concentration and learning are all affected by grief, this is especially the case with children. Children need patience and an emotionally safe space while dealing with all of these intense emotions. Grief disrupts your mind and your thinking abilities, and this isn’t necessarily for just a short period of time. Complicated grief can show up years later and affect memory for good.
Children and adults can feel spread to thin with every little task seeming insurmountable. So a burdening school schedule can simply be too much for them to handle. While providing routine can be comforting to children experiencing grief, rigidity and busy schedules are overwhelming. Allowing children to follow their curiosities when they resurface, allowing them to take the lead as to what they want to learn can ease the burden of their grief, and provide that emotional support they need at such a hard time.
Processing grief and working through the anger, the denial, and depression of it all is a learning experience in itself. Providing the walls of support for the child to be able to build a life again is important. They may not be thrilled about their new life, but with time and space they an learn to be happy again and adjust to their new reality. Surrounding them in a loving, supportive environment at home with those that love them most, can help them to deal with the complicated emotional road they are taking.
In my experience in dealing with grieving children, keeping them with a simple, not over complicated schedule helps them to deal with the grieving process in a healthy manner. Spending times outdoors and not in the confines of the classroom can do much for our emotional well being. They are learning, it maybe not be out of a textbook, but they are learning how to cope with life and the sorrow that comes with it.
What has been your experience in dealing with grief?

Parenting Resources

Elizabeth Pantley

Advice, solutions, links and books about parenting. Raise children with love, compassion, respect, and consistency and learn to be a confident and joyful parent.


Mothering celebrates the experience of parenthood as worthy of one’s best efforts and fosters awareness of the immense importance and value of parenthood and family life in the development of the full human potential.

The Compleat Mother

This great site has loads of information on pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.

North American Industrial Hemp Council

Learn what hemp is all about.

Links Organic

Find international connections in the organic community.

The Diaper Lady

Information for new parents on cloth diapering, vaccines, SIDS, making your own baby food, and much more. Their goal is to help parents make informed decisions about their babies’ care and to help children grow up in a chemical-free environment wherever possible. Stop by for a visit and you’ll see what I mean! Here is some specific information about SIDS prevention.This is information that is not provided in pediatrician’s offices and is left out of mainstream parenting magazines.

La Leche League International

The La Leche League International mission is: To help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.

007 Breasts – Woman’s breasts are for breastfeeding!

Discusses how media and society have influenced us to see female breasts as taboos and sexual symbols and how this relates to breastfeeding. Topics include breastmilk, breastfeeding, taboo breasts, why women fail to breastfeed, bras, breast pain, normal breasts gallery, topfreedom, and more.

The Bump

This site has a lot of information and support for those breastfeeding or just wanting to learn more about it.


This website was developed to provide evidence-based information on breastfeeding, sleep and parenting.

The Bradley Method

The American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth has a near 90% rate of their students with unmedicated births. Through 12-week courses, you learn proper nutrition and exercise to keep yourself healthy and low risk. You also gain the knowledge to eliminate most of the fear that women usually have when entering childbirth. Find and instructor in your area or learn more about what they advocate. If you live in the East TN area contact me for more information.

Lisa Ross Birth & Women’s Center

East Tennessee’s only free standing baby friendly birth center. They offer a wealth of services for women from annual well-visits to water births. They also offer educational services for expectant and new mothers. Their site offers valuable resources and information.

Knoxville Home Birth Service

Lisa Coomer, Certified Professional Midwife, provides prenatal, home birth and postpartum services to families who desire to have a gentle and natural birthing experience. Serving the Knoxville, TN, and surrounding areas.