I am so excited to finally put together a post to share more about a successful 3 months of Play & Learn! This is something that we started last year with a couple friends but with a twin pregnancy, arrival of the babies and then life with 3 under 3, we took a little break. Once the twins were 5 months old, I was ready to get back into the grove, even if it meant towing infant twins around. This was something that was important for me to do for Toddler S. He is learning so quickly and absorbing so much on a daily basis that a fun, group environment was a perfect way to expose him and his buddies to even more!
I spent a lot of months looking into play groups, parent/student co-ops and montessori schools for Toddler S. There were daycares that would care of my kid all day, every day. There were “schools” where he would be able to sit at a desk and “learn” all day and there was only one Montessori school which I actually loved but required him to be away from home 5 days a week. None of these seemed to have the balance I wanted and needed for him. These are all things he is going to do the rest of his life. Right now, I wanted him to be a kid and have a childhood while being able to expose him to a strong culturally immersed environment, something I may not very easily be able to do once a regular school day begins for him (and me).
So, I decided I had to create what it was that I was looking for. I took matters into my own hand and that is how our Play & Learn sessions began! Our Play & Learn sessions are an extension to what we do at home but in a group environment where we are able to have fun, interact and engage with other kids in a similar age group. Maria Montessori said it beautifully, “Play is the work of the child.”
The name of our little group, Play & Learn, came about because I said this phrase so often when I was describing what we do to other parents. It is the perfect elevator pitch. Eventually it seemed to become the appropriate name for us (until we think of something even more descriptive).
What is Play & Learn?
A few of us have committed to meeting weekly to allow our kids an environment to learn, play and build relationships in a somewhat structured way.
This was something I had started with a small group of friends last year. We were already meeting with the kids on a weekly basis to play, catch up and have fun. The kids were picking up so much from each other, and they really enjoyed each others company. Given they are sponges at this age, it only made sense to bring some purpose to our fun with a small end goal of learning. A few more moms showed interest this year and we were able to restart our weekly get togethers with some more structure. Every week we meet and “teach” the kids about various topics ranging from Indian culture, Indian festivals, character studies all while incorporating the Gujarati language, songs, bhajans, shloks/prarthna’s etc. through fun activities and play.
What is the goal?:
My goal really is to be “that” environment. Play & Learn is a culturally immersed environment where the kids are able to speak their mother tongue, while learning about the world around them and their own heritage. Even though it’s only an hour a week, the impact of this hour lasts all week long and hopefully the power of the company & environment lasts a lifetime.
Where do we meet?:
When we began, last year, we chose to meet at each of our houses on a rotating basis. However, this year since there are more of us, we have been taking advantage of the amazing California weather, the outdoors and mother nature. For the last almost 3 months we have been meeting a central park. It has really detached us from the distractions the home environment brings and has allowed us to really embrace and incorporate our natural surroundings into our lessons. We made sure that the park that we meet at has an accessible bathroom and has a comfortable and shady grassy area for us to sit.
How do we Montessori?
One of the key Montessori aspects we bring into our weekly Play & Learn sessions is incorporating a wider age range rather than sticking to just the same aged kids. The first group we started with were all 2 year olds. But this year, we have had the infants along with kids aged 2.5 to 4 years old. The Montessori environment encourages the interaction of kids across an age group as they learn so many skills from one another.
In addition, we try our best to incorporate other sensorial activities into our weekly lessons whether it be related to the theme or just some simple hands on playing after our session. The kids love picking up sticks, running around in the grass, touching the various tree trunks, smelling (and sometimes picking) flowers and observing the environment. Some mornings we also have time for some stretching, yoga (Surya Namaskar) or even some concentration exercises such as saying “Om” allowed as a group.
It has been a very fun learning environment and a great way for the kids to interact and build their friendship. Three amazing & successful months of friendship, playing and so much learning.
When the kids ask each week…”what will we learn at our lesson this week?” You know they are enjoying it as much as we are!
I can’t wait to share more about each of our sessions. Stay tuned…