homeschool: self-directed learning and free play

Do you need a toybox to play and learn?

Four year old Zach and I had one of our only weeks together alone. The girls were at their activities during the day, so we found our way to a beach, a waterpark, and a playground for at least half an hour a day.


Bring a single child, or a flock of four, to a beach or waterpark, and there’s some pretty creative stuff happening. Gullies and castles are built. Some kids are buried in the sand. There are water somersault contests. Friends are made as random kids share their sand toys.

Left to their own device, kids do creative stuff.

There was a time, one daughter would spend hours in the summer building clay bricks in the backyard. Perhaps it was the new soil that intrigued her. Maybe it was her way of carving quiet time away from siblings. I don’t know. But she poured water, smashed earth together and formed them, over and over and over, until it looked like the Egyptians had returned.

Take my son to the beach after an errand, without beach toys, just a simple blue and white fish net, and he finds stuff to do. He builds sandcastles too. He fishes for tadpoles. He sifts the river.

How valuable are toys?

The notion that kids need a lot of toys might be fed by Mattel, Fischer Price or the Christmas Wish catalogue. It might be fed by the notion that we want to give our kids the very best.

You’ll find a well-procured miniature Toys R Us in our kids’ rooms and playroom too, so I won’t boast of about my counter-cultural ways.

With or without toys, children are remarkably creatively when left with quiet and space.

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