Play and learning blog

nursery aged boy building with unit blocks

Open Mathematics, open minds

‘Imaginary play helps children to think beyond the literal, they can use a chair to be a pirate ship, even though the chair does not resemble a ship…play is crucial to children’s development of abstract concepts like mathematics,’ writes Elizabeth Carruthers, who has developed the concept of Open Mathematics to help young children understand maths.

Open Mathematics is ‘not neat and tidy.’ It draws on children’s interests and makes maths relevant to their play. ‘It involves deep-level learning and sometimes the chaos of thinking, refining and finding new mathematical ideas.’ Read the article.


keilhau germany

200th Anniversary Celebration of the Keilhau School

The school in Keilhau will celebrate its 200 year anniversary this year. On 22 April visitors to the Froebel school will have the rare opportunity to visit and tour the school grounds, attend workshops, (both English and German) and experience a day in the place where Froebel was free to put his educational theories into practice. It is still possible to register to take part in this unique day! See more Information about the event. Speakers include Tina Bruce, Jane Read, Stella Louis and Pete Moorhouse from the UK, as well as representatives from the International Froebel Society, Deutschland.

Register online at or email

About the school
Where are children truly still able to experience a childhood? One of the secret havens is Keilhau - a tiny village in Thuringia, Germany where the well-known educator, Friedrich Froebel, founded a school in 1817. He worked to provide children with the tools to become “free-thinking, independent people,” uninhibited by the whims of fashion, society and the stifling spirit of the age. Froebel believed that formal education should not be separated from the rest of a child’s learning: “school and life should become one!”

Unlike other initiatives started by the father of the modern Kindergarten, the school in Keilhau has not been turned into a museum, and remains a living memorial to Froebel’s work and vision. It continues to run based on his principles and ideas: education through example and love. Creative, imaginative and explorative childhood is still to be found here in the school and the surrounding woods and mountains.

child playing with blocks as teacher watches

The adult’s role in block play

Do you have unit blocks in your setting? How do you use them? Many things can affect children’s experience with blocks, but possibly the most important influence is the interest of the adult.

“I think one of the most effective things a teacher can do to facilitate deep block play, is to be an active observer,” says Elise Bauer who works at City & Country School, founded by Carolyn Pratt, the inventor of the unit block.

So what does this look like in practice? Here is time tested advice from educators at the City & Country School, who believe in the power of block play. Watch the video.


girl stroking a rabbit

Why children need outside time (and lots of it)

“The more I think about ways to support children in growing into productive, happy and kind individuals, the more I realize that time outdoors may be the missing ingredient.” writes Lauren Maples. “Spending unstructured time in nature opens a world of wonder and awe.”

Time in nature is not just a luxury; it’s a very important educational platform which every teacher and parent should embrace. How and where should you begin? Read more.


teacher reading a story to a group of toddlers

Something to talk about

“I’m Mopsy,” says Mia, hopping around the room. “What does ‘don’t get into mischief’ mean?” At four she loves Beatrix Potter. The stories are simple, yet they suddenly present new words:

Peter gave himself up for lost, and shed big tears; but his sobs were overheard by some friendly sparrows, who flew to him in great excitement, and implored him to exert himself. –The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Books give children something to talk about. “When you come across a word children might not be familiar with, take a moment to talk about it.” writes Jennifer Fiechtner. This is “an important vocabulary building exercise, and it helps you tune into their interests as you choose your next books.” Read the article for language development strategies.


PS. Mopsy, in case you forgot, is one of Peter Rabbit’s good little bunny-sisters.

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