Whew! What a year THAT was, am I right?! As we say farewell [and don’t let the door hit you on the way out] to 2020, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks for how to add more play to your homeschool routine this year. Because I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to make 2021 a better year than ’20!
How to Add More Play to Your Homeschool This Year
Play has the power to transform your family life and homeschool routine.
I’ve always been a play advocate, but never more so than this past year. Play can help you survive rocky homeschool seasons.
How do I know this?
Well, one of the main reasons why this goofy crew…
… made it through 2020 was because we made play a priority in our homeschool.
I’m not kidding! My husband works on the frontlines treating patients with COVID-19 and we are so over-the-moon proud of him – always, but especially this past year. But I’d be lying if I told you 2020 was an easy one for us.
It wasn’t. It was downright crudalicious and completely craptastic if we’re being 100% honest.
Do you know what helped a little bit?
Chucking squishy burritos at each other:
Yep, you read that correctly. We spent a good chunk of family time in 2020 chucking squishy burritos at each other. We played Throw Throw Burrito, a dodgeball card/burrito game, over and over and over.
We played it so often that one of our burritos is missing its eyeballs, as you can see from the photo above. That’s right-we played so much that we loved his eyeballs right off.
I’ve said it before, and you’ll hear me say it again and again: I truly, wholeheartedly, believe that homeschooling can be *almost* all fun and games.
Now, is Throw Throw Burrito an “educational” game?
Ummmmm, I think it’s safe to say “Nope!” to that one.
But do you know what? For gameschooling to work well, you do not need to play games that are Educational-with-a-capital-E.
In 2020 Times, my husband and I weren’t concerned with our children’s academic progress.
We were far more concerned with their hearts. My mantra for 2020 was “Hearts over heads.”
And boy-oh-boy did Throw Throw Burrito fill our hearts. It made us cry-laugh, again and again. The game helped to ease stress. It distracted us when we were preoccupied. Plus, it got us moving. And we made some incredible memories in a craptastic year.
And that, my gameschool friends, is priceless.
Gameschooling boosts academic skills, but there are many other benefits.
We often talk about the academic benefits of gameschooling, and those benefits are many! But gameschooling also works on soft skills, and these are just as important – if not more so- than academic skills.
Soft skills are the skills that we all need to interact well with others. Things like your ability to communicate, be kind, negotiate, be polite, work well with others.
Do you know that dreaded s-word that everyone seemed so concerned about [until 2020 hit and the whole world started homeschooling]? When that lady in the checkout line asks, “But aren’t you worried about socialization?” she’s referring to these soft skills.
And guess what?
Gameschooling works on soft skills in a way that workbooks and classrooms cannot.
Every single time you sit down to play with your children and teens, you are connecting. You’re conversing, negotiating, collaborating, and competing. You are following instructions and taking turns. And you’re learning to win, and to lose, with grace.
Even the ugliest of ugly play and gameschool moments are important ones.
I’m talking about all those squabbles, the board flipping, the quitting, and the cheating. Yes, we have those moments, too! But those moments- as painful and as ugly as they are- are super important. They are teachable moments! They are opportunities for growth and learning.
Here’s the thing- play is fun. We choose to play what we enjoy. And we play for as long as it remains fun.
So, if your son is obsessed with Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza, he’s going to want his sister to play with him. And he’s going to want her to keep playing with him. If he gets overzealous and smacks her hand too hard and she cries and quits, he’s going to have to have to work with her to convince her to play again. This could mean apologizing, making a deal, or compromising.
You guys- these are life skills. These are the skills our children and teens will need every single day of their lives, whether they’re playing King of Tokyo, interviewing for college, getting a speeding ticket, negotiating a pay raise, or helping a friend.
So, the next time your kiddo asks you to play a goofy game, like Throw Throw Burrito, please know that they are learning from the experience.
At this point, you might be sitting there thinking, “Okay, Cait. I get that gameschooling can work on academic skills and life skills, but what if I don’t have a lot of games? What then?”
And to that, I would say…
You do not need a huge game collection to add more play and gameschooling to your homeschool routine. You only need three things.
Earlier, I told you that I believe that homeschooling can be *almost* all fun and games.
Now, does that mean it looks perfect? That our days are filled with laughter and sunshine and rainbows? Heck, no! I already told you that gameschooling can be downright ugly at times, but that even the ugly moments are important ones.
So, what do you REALLY need to add more play to your homeschool day?
- A playful mindset
- Just a few basics
- Space for play
1. A playful mindset can transform your homeschool routine and family life.
Research has shown, again and again, the power of play. Play impacts the whole child; it has a positive impact on physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development.
But did you know that play is good for all of us?
As grown-ups, our play will often look different than it did when we were children. And play is unique to the individual. I love to run, for example, but that sort of physical “play” might be torture for someone else. My husband loves to play the guitar and tinker. I am not good at either of those types of play. You might love to bake and decorate cakes.
It’s important to get in touch with your playful side. It can boost your mood and spirit. Forget about homeschooling, a playful mindset makes life-in-general better! A playful mindset has the power to transform your family.
I talk a lot about gameschooling on this site because gameschooling is an easy way for homeschool parents to add more play and make it count for those year-end Homeschool Powers-That-Be, but you *really* don’t need a single thing to play more.
You don’t need anything to play. Tell a joke. Make a funny face. Leave a silly note. Sing at the top of your lungs in the car. Dance in the kitchen.
It is often said that play is the language of childhood. Children will play with anything. They don’t need fancy-schmancy toys and games. In fact, if there are no toys in sight, children will find a way to play.
Children will play with anything and it’s the play that matters, whether they are playing with mud in your backyard or they are playing Parcheesi on the family room floor. The cardboard box was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2005 and the stick was inducted in 2008!
In my course on gameschooling, I devote the first two modules to play. Not gameschooling, just play.
The first module is called Play Matters and it has three lessons: What is Play?, The 8 Play Personalities, and Benefits of Play. The second module is titled How to Add More Play to Your Homeschool Day and is comprised of the following two lessons: Make Space for Play and How to Facilitate Play. In these early lessons, I provide resources and ideas on how to sprinkle more play into your homeschool day without any fancy supplies. A stick, a cardboard box, the nature in your backyard- the sky is the limit when it comes to playing!
I designed the course in this way because it is the play that makes gameschooling work. I want homeschoolers to play more. It’s the play that matters- gameschooling is just one path to play.
That said, gameschooling can be a wonderful way to play more and make that play “count” for those year-end Homeschool Powers-That-Be, just know that you don’t need much to get started.
2. If you’d like to play more via gameschooling, you don’t need much to get started.
I need to say this again: You do not need a ton of games to be a gameschooler. I want to add ninety bajillion exclamation points to that last sentence.
Because I’ve seen something happen repeatedly over the years. I call it the dangers of gameschooling. Here’s how it all goes down…
A homeschooler will discover gameschooling. They can’t believe games can be used as learning tools. They’ve never thought about this before.
Then they will join our Gameschool Community hoping to learn more about the ins and outs of gameschooling. Our Gameschool Community is the most playful, fun-tastic place on the internet. It is filled with over 30k creative educators from around the world.
But here’s the thing… Many members of the Gameschool Community are lifelong gamers.
I’m raising my hand over here. Lifelong gamers have been playing for decades! These members of the Gameschool Community have amassed quite the game collection over the years.
So, this new gameschooler will enter the Gameschool Community and see all of these families playing games they’ve never heard of before. They’ll see gorgeous game rooms and jaw-dropping game closets and shelves.
And then the FOMO sets in.
I’ve been there, too, you guys. I would love to have an entire room devoted to gaming! I’d love to have those cube game shelves lining the room, a big gaming table in the middle, with gaming art on the walls.
But I don’t have a gaming room. We usually play games on the family room floor, the kitchen island, or the coffee table.
And I don’t have game cube storage shelves lining my walls. Truth be told, our games are housed in our downstairs bathroom closet.
Kind of gross, right?
But it’s the only space in our house that works and so a bathroom game closet it is. True story.
I digress… Let’s get back to the dangers of gameschooling.
So this newbie gameschooler will feel like he or she needs just a few more games. They’ll learn about budget gameschooling and they will start adding to their game collection.
Budget gameschool finds can be incredibly exciting.
I know because I’ve been there, too. When you find a game you’ve had your eyes on at a thrift store for next to nothing, you want to dance a jig.
And so the new gameschooler will dance a jig and then snap a photo and hop over to the Gameschool Community to share the excitement with others.
Now, there is nothing wrong with budget gameschooling and sharing exciting finds in the Gameschool Community. Nothing at all. I love to share incredible deals on games because games are not cheap!
And that’s where it gets dangerous. Games are expensive! I’ve built my gameschool collection slowly over several decades.
My other concern is whether or not these families are actually playing all those steals and deals. It’s far more important to sit down and play with your children and teens than it is to grow your collection.
I’ve said it before, and I need to repeat it: You DO NOT need all the games to be a gameschooler.
You need only a couple of veeeeeerrrrry basic supplies. I’m talking two, maybe three things.
Are you ready?
You need a deck of cards and one or more of the following:
- The Bicycle Cards App or website
That’s it, you guys! I’m 100% serious.
If you head to the Bicycle website or use the Bicycle app, you can find oodles of rules for every card game under the sun. That should keep you busy for months and you need not spend a dime!
Every year, Board Game Geek hosts a board game challenge. It’s called the 10 x 10 Challenge. The goal is to play ten games ten times over the course of the year.
Think about that for a second. Ten games (and you can use a deck of cards) ten times. That’s 100 games with your family!
Can you imagine what an impact that would have on your homeschool atmosphere?!?
That’s all you need, truly.
I promise you- even if you think your current game collection is abysmal, you could be utilizing it differently and playing more.
Even with just a deck of cards! In my gameschooling course, I talk about this and I also help you to assess your current collection, organize it, and maximize gameplay. Plus, I’ll show you how to document this type of learning!
3. You must prioritize play to play more in your homeschool.
This might seem obvious, but it’s easier said than done. As a homeschool parent, you have a never-ending list of boxes to check every single day.
I know because I have them, too.
But to play more, you must prioritize play. You have to make space for it. Sometimes this means you’ll be left with unchecked boxes come bedtime.
And that’s okay.
Making space for play will benefit your entire family. Play impacts all aspects of child development and it’s important for adults, too. Play is learning!
I consider play to be one of our daily homeschool must-dos. Each day, I want to read aloud to my children. And then I want the kiddos to work on math, practice piano, get outside, move their bodies, and play.
That’s right- I think that play is just as important as math. And guess what? Virtually every board game on the market today involves a stealth math component. That’s a win-win!
I know it can be scary to add something that doesn’t feel “academic” into an already-full homeschool day, but I promise you it will make a difference.
Would you like some help adding more play to your homeschool day this year?
I would love to help you! I am passionate about play and gameschooling and I want you to be successful. Here are more resources to get you off and running.
Join the MLP Gameschool Community
The MLP Gameschool Community is the most playful space on the internet. And it’s free! Join the fun today.
Grab my 365 days of play prompts
Are you looking for a super-simple way to add more play to your homeschool day in 2021? Well, I’ve got you covered!
Grab 365 days of play prompts today and challenge yourself to play more tomorrow. That’s right- one prompt for every single day of the year!
Still struggling? Check out Gameschooling 101
Finally, if you need more help, I’ve created an entire course on play and gameschooling. I poured my game-lovin’ heart and soul into it because I want you to play more.
And if you think that chucking squishy burritos at each other is hilarious, get a load of THIS:
Behold, our favorite Christmas gift of 2020:
Yes, that’s a screaming goat figurine. My husband gave it to me for Christmas and it is hilarious!
Being playful is important every day, but especially in hard seasons (I’m looking at you, 2020!).
I know it can feel scary to make space for play. I know you already worry about a million other unchecked boxes, I know adding something new can feel like one more thing, but I promise you it will be worth it. And you will never regret the moments you spent playing with your children and teens. I’m 100% sure of that!
I’ve said it a bajillion times before and I’ll say it again: I truly, wholeheartedly, believe that homeschooling can be almost all fun and games. I want you to play more with your kiddos and make memories in your homeschool!
Now, it’s your turn. Tell me: What is your biggest struggle when it comes to adding more play to your homeschool day? Share here!
- Rock Your Read Alouds with This Simple Trick - January 16, 2021
- Does a game need to be “educational” to teach something? - January 10, 2021
- Why You Should Start Your Day with the Easiest Thing - January 7, 2021