How playing with your kids can amplify learning and strengthen your connection

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My first  6 years of teaching were all spent at the same school, in the same grade. I was single for over half of those years and did not have children for any of them. I don’t think by any stretch having or not having kids makes or breaks a teacher, but for me – not having kids during those first years somehow was an integral part of shaping the teacher and homeschool mom I would be. It was in those early years I learned how playing with your kids can amplify learning and strengthen your connection. That lesson has never left me.

My First Years Teaching

When I reflect on those first years, I’m flooded with memories of “those poor kids” as well as – I wish we could go back to those simple days! Through the magic of technology, I am blessed to be in contact with many former students from those “early” years. As far as I know, none of them blame me too terribly for how their lives turned out! 

Every year, I had at least 38 students. Some years 43! Private schools don’t have the same limits as public schools. If the desks could fit, I taught them! 

I taught back before standards were a required part of the day-to-day. This helped me develop a more relaxed attitude, yet firm confidence that my students (and my children) were learning, and standards had NOTHING to do with it.

My relationship with my students, and later my children, was the KEY to everything. That relationship gets built by playing with them. Not by doing laundry, cooking, or the 1,000 other tasks that require our attention. Living in the moment and playing formed the connections that amplified their learning like nothing else.

Tips for Building Connections to Amplify Learning in your Homeschool

According to scientific research, relationships can shape our brains. They help improve learning, workplace productivity, and even our parenting skills. Relationships see us through tough times by helping us heal. The time in which we have to nurture the relationships in our home has limits. Here are some ways you can use Play in your homeschooling to foster these continued connections.

Spice things Up

It’s easy to get caught in a homeschool rhythm. In fact, Rhythm helps things run smoothly. You can Play with your kids and form connections when you spice things up in these easy ways.

Backward Day

Won’t your kids remember backward day? Teach all the subjects in reverse order and served breakfast for dinner.

Take A Mystery Ride

My favorite way to spice things up is the unannounced field trip called THE MYSTERY RIDE. Everyone is up and dressed as usual. You may even start your morning with the BOOK BASKET. Make an announcement canceling school for the day. Let your family know, instead, you will go on a mystery ride. Load everyone up and go to an undisclosed location. Preferably one you have never been to. You can give clues every few miles or minutes as you see fit if you want the kids to guess before arriving at your destination.

Take the learning outside

Sometimes the easiest thing to do is change locations. Pick everything up and go outside. Yes, it’s a huge hassle because the wind blows the papers and the sun is in everyone’s eyes. Where there is a will, there is a way. Simplify and bring out your family reading book or an easy art project. Plan a messy science experiment that absolutely must get done outdoors.

Say YEs

In my homeschool, I had the “Kid of the Day” and the Energy Bucket (like a marble jar) – but something special was always going on so we didn’t get LOST in the learning! It was as simple as sitting with my kids and eating lunch WITH them, rather than doing chores while THEY ate. I sat next to the kid of the day.

Tea parties, play dough and saying yes as often as possible also brought play into my homeschool.

I have a cousin whom I love dearly. She, however, never let her kids paint or use play dough because of the mess. She let them stay with Aunt Christy and experience homeschooling YES at its best.

Forts in the living room. Play dough every day for a week. Tea parties in the yard. A tee-pee in the backyard. These things, if I’m being totally honest, were a pain in the butt. My cousin is 100% right. They make a mess. The kids are loud. (and sometimes wild). But the memories that were made are irreplaceable.

Take, for example, the last day of Autumn leaf jumping. Jumping in leaves is a huge mess. It makes the leaves much harder to bag because it breaks them into smaller pieces. Jumping in the leaves BEFORE mowing the lawn was also going to make everything take longer. None of that mattered. Playing, and experiencing the last day of Autumn together with such a timeless activity, was far more important than the hassles associated with the activity. We said YES!

How Holidays bring Play into your home

The best homeschool year by far was indeed the year of holiday learning that has inspired Happy Hive Homeschooling as a business. Even what may seem like an ordinary holiday can be a reason to PLAY together.

Children look forward to the “big” holidays throughout the year. Holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are full of traditions that carry special significance and lend themselves to strengthening connections. Rather than take a break during these times, it’s the perfect opportunity to Homeschool through the Holidays!


Tap into the “holiday spirit” and easy memory-making ability with the Holiday of the Day. Holiday of the Day activities are the perfect complement to any curriculum you are currently using and don’t even have to be used every day.

Check out our Calendar of Holidays and pick 2 or 3 to incorporate into your home this month! Watch those connections form!

Be An Active Participant when playing with your kids

The trick for these connections to work in your home or classroom is you have to take part in the play. Just brewing a pot of tea for the tea party, wasn’t it. I was sipping tea with my pinky in the air, too. The kids LOVED when I took my turn jumping in the leaves. I’ll admit, I helped construct the fort, and provided food for the natives in their tee-pee. I couldn’t always engage 100%. I get it. But I will tell you 100% from the heart, THOSE were my kids’ favorite. 15 minutes of play dough lives in their memory, creating a special connection I would not trade for the world.

Thanks for stopping by Happy Hive Homeschooling for tips playing with your kids

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I can’t wait to share my homeschool expertise and mindset-shifting superpowers with you each edition of THE BUZZ. We’ll also chat about the methods I used to organize, schedule, and lesson plan in my homeschool with the hopes it will help you have a happy hive too. In the meantime, “Bee” sure to check out the different methods of homeschooling as well as our 3 easy strategies for burnout.

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