Free Learning Activities & PLAY Ideas from Teacher Karen
PLAY addresses all areas of child development. It’s all about PLAY-based learning!
Teacher Karen’s Mission
To increase children’s PLAY!
Research proves, and her own experience has shown,
PLAY is the BEST way for children to learn and is best for their overall health & well-being!
PLAY & GROW SERVICES
Go PLAY Activity Cards
Go PLAY Activity Cards™ foster literacy and facilitate hands-on PLAY. Ideal for the preschool-aged child, children 3-5 years old, infants and toddlers also can benefit from an immersion in language with interactive and engaging fingerplays and books. Go PLAY Activity Cards™ GROW with your child as they GROW & LEARN!
Articles by Teacher Karen
Teacher Karen’s Thoughts are a guide for knowledge and information on early childhood-related research, guest posts and issues on children’s overall health and wellness!
Teacher Karen’s Events
Invite Teacher Karen to speak to your group about her passion—PLAY and young children! You’ll come away with hands-on activities, enriched play-based, learning opportunities and other ways to extend the play—and the learning—at your home!
PLAY & GROW™…Recognizes PLAY MATTERS in Childhood™
PLAY & GROW™ supports parents to insure their children play…every day because play is essential for a child’s well-being. There’s no question, parenting is a full-time job; a job for both Mom and Dad! Add, on top of that, working outside the home, societal expectations, social media comparisons and it’s no wonder these parents can burn out! However, for children to THRIVE, they must PLAY!
PLAY & GROW™ offers products, services and resources to parents with the goal of increasing their children’s play.
•Looking for screen-free ideas for your child?
•Searching for ways to develop a love of reading?
•Focusing on creating a foundation in STEM?
Using PLAY & GROW™ activities Dads naturally engage with their children through PLAY!
PLAY & GROW™ advocates for children by:
• Speaking out on the importance of play and sharing its many benefits;
• Offering recommendations on children’s picture books and toys; and
• Giving direction on facilitating meaningful play at home!
Our Go PLAY Activity Cards™ are a valuable resource for Moms and Dads, grandparents—even nannies! The Go PLAY Activity Cards™ foster literacy skills and provide step-by-step plans for play-based activities easily done at home. A variety of themes are covered in Go PLAY Activity Cards™ with learning activities that span the early childhood curriculum.
Look to PLAY & GROW™ Recommendations for details to make informed purchases. Recommendations are made from observing children interacting and engaging with toys and/or with each other while at play. Additionally, some toys are tested out in the community, providing unbiased feedback used in the recommendations.
For preschools interested in being considered for testing toys and/or toy manufacturers interested in having toys tested, please fill out the information on the Contact page.
Teacher Karen’s Recommended Toys
Country Critters Play Cube by Hape
In general, I like Hape products, I find them well-made and made with safe, non-toxic materials. This activity cube is no exception!Read more
Even though I give the Country Critters Play Cube my PLAY ON stamp of approval there are a some drawbacks:
- First is the shape-sorter—the pieces are too small to be safe for a toddler to use unsupervised; they should be considered choking hazards. Parents need to always supervise younger children playing with this toy OR put those pieces away until your child is older than 3 years! Also the mechanism to hold the shapes inside the cube can be a little hit-or-miss, with shapes falling straight through before the knob is pulled.
- For some families, the fact there is a hammer available might prove problematic—ie, it’s used to hit another sib and/or visiting friend. I would say take that as a teachable moment and carry on!
- You might have to true up the wires of the maze if they become bent impeding the movement of the beads—but correcting that isn’t difficult.
- PRICE—quality comes with a price so it shouldn’t be a surprise then that the Country Critters Play Cube is expensive. If it’s beyond your family’s budget—and you’re in the Greater Seattle area—think about renting!
- Lastly, storage issues: You can try to keep the shapes ‘inside’ the cube and the balls resting on the racks, but I would suggest keeping them in a small container (with a lid) so none end up disappearing or rolling away.
AquaPlay Super Set
Water play is always a good go-to for children and the AquaPlay Super set is a great option. Whenever I set this up for the preschool kidlets it was guaranteed there’d be no extra spaces left vacant around it! Read more
The AquaPlay Super Set is actually 2 sets combined. You can get one part, the AquaPlay box from Hearth Song. The AquaPlay Box comes with its own carrying case that also holds all its 21 pieces. It also doubles as a system of byways where its truck can roll down a road or its boat float down a canal. Operating the locks and controlling the flow of water throughout the canals was always a main attraction for the preschool kiddos and I’m sure it will be with yours as well.
Without a doubt your child(ren) will want to PLAY ON and I concur—this is a fantastic, imagination-rich toy for children 3 years and older!
- Adults are required for assembly. Be prepared, for that first time, that it’s going to take quite a bit of time in fact. You’ll need to put on the strips that prevent water from leaking when the pieces are connected. Plus you’ll need to add the stickers to create lanes. Once that’s finished, you’ll find laying it for assembly is a huge help.
- You have to develop a ‘knack’ to connect the pieces—the pieces are very stiff and non-compliant initially (and really for several assemblies down the line)—you’ll know you’ve got the pieces in correctly when you hear a ‘click’. As difficult as it is to connect the pieces, you need to be somewhat gentle taking them apart to avoid breaking key parts of the piece.
- The PUMP! It can be the source for a lot of frustration. It takes work pumping the handle up and down; precision keeping the bottom of the pump in the water; and patience for the TIME needed to be able to draw UP the water. BUT once they see how the water comes gushing out of the spout it’ll be worth it and they’ll keep at it…besides, sometimes learning something new is challenging! That’s why doing it in a PLAY setting is perfect—there’s no downside.
- PRICE—getting both sets together will save you money but it’s still a very expensive toy. Hearth Song offers the other component occasionally but it’s also available on Amazon.
- So I said water play for kidlets is great—and it IS—but for adults that might not be the case. If you choose the AquaPlay Super Set make sure you either set it up outside OR clear out a rather large area in the kitchen with a lot of towels available…the floor WILL get wet, as will your kidlets!
NOTE: Play & Grow participates in several affiliate programs receiving compensation from those companies through your purchases, but at no cost to you! Play & Grow reviews and honestly recommends toys and books regardless of any affiliation.
Teacher Karen’s Recommended Books
Below are just a very few of the many, many children’s books I think are absolutely fabulous! Find more book titles as well as step-by-step plans with Go PLAY Activity Cards™! These Cards help you to foster your kiddo’s literacy skills and promote PLAY with PLAY-based learning activities! Additional titles with corresponding learning activities and/or play ideas can be found in Learning Activity posts.
Remember: Readers are made on the laps of their parents…and grandparents!
Learning is Fun & Easy with PLAY & GROW™!
About Teacher Karen
PLAY & GROW blossomed out of Teacher Karen’s commitment to children. The early childhood years are special magical years. She counts herself very blessed to have shared many children’s early childhood years as co-founder and teacher of a hands-on, preschool.
Central to Teacher Karen’s core teaching beliefs is play is essential to early learning. In 1995, Teacher Karen co-founded and taught at Red Gate Farm Preschool. A key characteristic of Red Gate was facilitating learning through play.
Teacher Karen’s family has grown to 8 members including 2 beautiful grandchildren. As a parent, and now grandmother, she knows the value and power of play. With that experience as well as her engineering and early childhood education backgrounds, she helps parents facilitate learning activities, based in PLAY and backed by science! Teacher Karen looks forward to giving you the tools for your child to #PlayEveryDay because #PlayMattersInChildhood!
We love the Go PLAY cards! They are just the right size for carrying in my purse or tote, and that way I have them when we need a quick activity due to a delay or other unexpected hiccup in plans. The songs and fingerplays are a quick, easy way for us to connect in joy.
Pretty chilly out there but we did your scavenger hunt on our street! Surprisingly, couldn’t find a puddle until we were coming inside and spotted one in the back of the toy car. Thanks Teacher Karen!Miles (age 4) & Claire (age 2), Play Experts