Learning does not have to take place behind a book. Kids don’t show what they know with the use of pen and paper. Everyday learning occurs during simple tasks–chores, conversations, even play.
Everyday learning: it is something amazing to see in action. It was just a normal few minutes playing with my sons on the porch. Their dad had just bought a new bubble machine for his business, and like all good children, my sons were doing a quality assurance check. There is something pure and simple about the joy of children as they run around, trying to pop rainbow orbs that dance in the wind.
“Oh, look at that one!” I exclaimed. “A double bubble!” he yelled.
My three-year-old squealed with glee, “Double bubble!”
It became a competition of who could spot one first and pop it. I’ll be honest, he was winning.
Then a thought occurred to me, Who taught him what the word ‘double’ means?
Even though I never explicitly taught him the meaning of the word, it was obvious that he knew what it meant. He demonstrated it by only pointing out and popping double bubbles.
I let the educator hat slip on for a second and looked at what we were doing. There was the obvious reinforcement of the vocabulary word, but there was more. This was an industrial bubble maker, pumping out hundreds of bubbles a minute; imagine the control to look past all of the floating bubbles to look for only the “double bubble” — talk about an eye workout! Then we added the layer of hand-and-eye coordination, to physically pop the bubble quicker than me, and it gets even more complexed.
And don’t forget the social lessons — he was learning to take turns. The game itself was made up on the spur of the moment. We never formally decided on ground rules. He was able to fall into the natural rhythm, and follow the unspoken rules. That’s not something to take for granted. Adults sometimes have difficulty following the social nuances of unspoken rules.
Did I feel super proud of my well-crafted, multi-layered lesson?
Nope. Because it wasn’t a lesson. It was playing. No planning necessary. But just because it isn’t a formal lesson, doesn’t mean learning wasn’t occurring. This fun bit of double bubble time reminded me that playing for humans of all ages can be learning opportunities.