Playing IS Learning: A Night with Kathy Hirsh-Pasek | Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

February 7, 2012

Playing IS Learning: A Night with Kathy Hirsh-Pasek

I don't often share reviews on things.  They pop up from time to time, whether it's a product I've used or an event I've attended.  But I mainly reserve my opinion regarding such things for times when I am really impressed or inspired.

And recently, I was blown away. By an educational parenting seminar I went to, no less.  I know, I know. When I say "Seminar," you're all "Snore fest I graduated from college years ago eyes glazed over ZzzzZzzz."

But it's not like that.  I left feeling motivated, inspired and, most importantly, rejuvenated in my role as a parent.  Heck, I felt like maybe I was even doing a thing or two right.

See?  Blown. Away.

So, I'd like to share a bit with you about the seminar in the hopes that you might utilize some of the resources I learned about and be inspired too.

Two weeks ago, I signed up to attend my first event hosted by the West Chester Area School District Preschool Parents' Club.  This group is an invaluable resource to the local parents of preschoolers who will be entering the WCASD in the near future. The idea of this group is to connect the parents of preschoolers with one another, while helping families become more familiar with the school district. Monthly events are held to educate and encourage parents.  Kid events, such as story time or holiday celebrations, are a great chance to socialize as well.  I love that I get to meet other families with kids who will potentially be going to school with Little Chica and Bitty Bug.  And really, any chance to learn, socialize and be encouraged is A+ in my book.

I digress. Back to the seminar.

I wasn't really sure what to expect. The speaker, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, is well known in the education realms.  She is a professor at Temple, and has written several books (some of them award-winning), including Einstein Never Used Flashcards. Many of my friends who were teachers were already familiar with her and were very excited to see her speak. I wondered how Ms. Hirsh-Pasek would do speaking not just to educators and students, but to parents as well.

She. Was. Amazing.

From the moment she stepped on stage, Kathy HP (which is how I will refer to her for the rest of this post) had my attention. She was engaging without being overpowering.  She was informative without being boring.  And best of all, she was hilarious.

Like seriously, I laughed a good bit that night.

Kathy HP shared a great slideshow with numerous statistics from studies conducted, but she glazed over a lot of the analytical stuff and got right down to the heart of why every parent was there: How can I do the best for my kids?

Her answer?  Play with them.

According to Ms. Hirsh-Pasek, there are 6 C's that our children need to be skilled in to be successful in the 21st century global workforce:

  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
  • Content
  • Confidence
  • Creative Innovation
  • Communication

Many of us parents worry daily if we are getting our kids off to a good start.  We fret about what activities to get them plugged into once they are of the age to go to classes (gymnastics, swimming, sports, dance, music, etc).  We obsess over picking (and getting into) the right preschool, for fear that if we do not, our children are destined for a lacking future.  We get them involved and scheduled and overcommitted, focusing on their academics, their involvements, their accolades.  We want to make sure they learn EVERYTHING they need to know to be a success.

But we're missing the point.

One statistic that really stunned me was this:                                      "In 1981, a typical school-aged child in the United States had 40% of her time open for play. By 1997, the time for play had shrunk to 25%.any schools across our nation have eliminated recess. We are testing our kindergarteners. We have come to confuse "learning" with "memorization," and "test scores" with "success."

Kathy HP helped us to see that the 6 C's are skills promoted through play, that HOW you learn is as important as WHAT you learn.  Play and learning are not incompatible, and play is not wasted time. So what can we do as parents to embrace these truths and enable our kids to learn and grow? Kathy Hirsh-Pasek says: Be a parent.

Play with your kids. Be involved with what they are doing and learning.  For some this might be intimidating. After long and tiring days, our creativity is spent and we are not sure where to start.  Need some ideas?  Here are a few:

  • Tell family stories
  • Cook with your child
  • Explore the outdoors
  • Stop the "planned" activities and have "nothing time" - let them fill it in.

Engage your children in Free Play (where you let your kids manage their own time for short periods, seeing where their imagination takes them), as well as Guided Play (a planned play environment with objects and toys that provide learning opportunities, where you can let the kids play, and you play along with them.  Ask open-ended questions, suggest new ways of exploring toys/materials the kids have not yet thought of).

Take time for DOING with and for your child, and enjoy BEING with your child. 

It will make all the difference.

I am so thankful to have experienced Kathy Hirsh-Pasek in person.  She is a phenomenal mother (who lovingly shared about "Her Boys"), as well as a great wealth of knowledge with a mission to educate, motivate and inspire not only the nation, but the world.  I encourage you to learn more about Kathy (especially her Ultimate Block Party movement).  As I said earlier, she has several books, some of which I hope to purchase in the near future.

And if you live in the West Chester Area School District and have preschool-aged kids, I hope to meet you at the next West Chester Area School District Preschool Parents function!

You can find the WCASD Preschool Parents' Club on Facebook

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