Play: Learning for Everyone

By Susan Stewart on August 04, 2016

I think too often even as homeschoolers we think learning means schooling, something that is assigned and can be graded. Many of us are aware of the idea that young children learn through play. It was the basis of the first kindergarten opened in Germany in 1837. Many early learning programs still use the concept. But what about older children? Can they learn while they play as well? I think so.

Hobbies: Adult Play

Take a moment and think about your hobby. I can’t think of a hobby that doesn’t require some learning to do well.

One of my hobbies is vegetable gardening. I need to know about plants (obviously), what makes them grow, soil chemistry, weather conditions and how it affects plants, bugs and insects.

A favorite hobby in my part of the country is fishing. My goodness, think of what needs to be learned to be a good fisher: types of fish, where they live, water conditions, weather conditions, best bait (fish food).

Some folks play golf or tennis as a hobby. (Did you see the keyword “play”?) I know adults who travel many miles during their vacation to play their favorite sport?

What are hobbies other than adult playing?

Turning Pastimes into Learning Hobbies

Older children and teens probably have a favorite pastime. It might be as simple as doing puzzles (problem solving) or as intricate as building models. This is play. This is learning. Two of my children began taking pictures with a simple, cheap point-and-shoot camera. They went on to learn photography techniques and both have sold some of their photos.

Too often I hear, “My child doesn’t have any hobbies.” What does your child like to do when given a choice? That’s the hobby; that’s the play. With your encouragement, this childhood play may turn into lifelong learning.

What does your family enjoy doing together? When our children were playing various sports the entire family took part. My husband and I both coached teams, served on the board of sports leagues, and a Saturday might find us all at the park watching or playing games and having a picnic lunch.

Another source of helping an older child learn a hobby is by spending time with other adults. People who are retired often enjoy the company of young people. My children learned to write simple poetry from a gentleman in our church who wrote poems for the church bulletin. My sons learned about aviation from a man who built his own plane. They would often take a morning flight with him for breakfast.

lego sculpture elephant hobby

Learning without School

Too often we get caught up in thinking that learning must look schoolish. We also forget that play isn’t reserved for young children. All of us can learn while we play.

I have an assignment for you. Grab paper and pencil or use the note app on your phone. Write down hobbies that are learning experiences. Let me get you started: stamp collecting, soccer, making a game app. See anything your child might be interested in?

This upcoming school year cut out some of the traditional school lessons, and allow your children, no matter their age, to play. Please don’t make this an assignment or a reward for getting the schoolwork completed. Allow the play to be natural and give time for it. It really is o.k. to skip a math lesson while your child builds a model. Who knows your child​who loves to build Lego sculptures may become an engineer.