Playful Learning: An Interview (& Giveaway) with Mariah Bruehl

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Mariah Bruehl is an educator at heart. After receiving her master’s degree in elementary education from Bank Street College, she taught at the Dalton School in New York. She then worked as the associate director of the Ross Lower School in Bridgehampton, New York.

After years of working in the field of education, Mariah created the award-winning website Playful Learning, which helps parents support their children’s learning and development.

Mariah’s first book was recently published, and it is packed full of ideas to integrate learning in natural ways for children ages 4-8. I recently had the chance to ask Mariah a few questions about her book, her educational philosophy, and her upcoming e-course. Check out the end of the post to see how you can win!

An Interview with Mariah Bruehl

1. How did becoming a parent change your views about teaching and learning?

“First and foremost, my children have shown me that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to educating children. Every child has his or her own learning style that needs to be taken into consideration.

“My daughters have completely different ways of approaching new information and experiences. My oldest needs to understand the larger picture or gestalt before she is ready to learn about the specifics of any given topic. My youngest daughter needs to understand the details and how they all fit together before she can see the big picture. These differences have big implications for how they learn to read, solve math problems, approach science, and so on. The same is true for parenting.

I strongly believe that there is not only one right way to raise children. Different children need to be approached in different ways when it comes to motivation, discipline, and learning how to find their place in the world.”

2. What learning experience from your book has had the most profound impact on your family?

“That is a really hard question! Each activity in the book holds such fond memories for us. If I have to choose one experience that has had the most profound impact on us, it would be the lesson on Put-Ups and Put-Downs. I feel strongly that if every parent and child were introduced to this concept the world would be a better place!

The idea is simple—put-ups are things that people can do or say that make you feel good and put-downs are things that people can do or say that make you feel bad. Yet, by identifying them and giving children simple vocabulary to use to talk about situations as they arise, they become very aware of their actions and the actions of others.

“Having an understanding of these simple terms has helped us to better communicate as a family and to discuss and work through a variety of social situations that have come up for our daughters over the years.”

3. Now that your children are a bit older, what do you think they have gained from engaging in these types of experiences with you?

“My daughters are now seven and eight years old. I feel that engaging in playful learning experiences with them over the years has helped them to develop lifelong habits of heart and mind. Although learning facts and developing specific skills are very important, a positive disposition towards learning and the desire to take on intellectual and creative challenges are characteristics that will serve children throughout their lives.

“The work I do with my girls and all of the students in my courses focuses on developing passion and teaching children how to effectively express themselves and their understanding of the world. Children’s voices can be very powerful and as adults we can learn a lot from them when we take the time to listen.”

4. Can you tell us about your upcoming e-course for children, Through the Lens: Explorations in Photo Journaling?

“After launching my e-course on Playful Learning Spaces, I became very excited about the potential of online learning. I loved the sense of community that was created by the participants.

“Through everyone sharing and discussing their work, we created an amazing collection of ideas and inspiration. It was a wonderful example of how a collective can became so much more powerful than any one individual.

“While Playful Learning Spaces is geared toward parents and teachers, I received many requests to create online workshops for children. My first offering is Through the Lens: Explorations in Photo Journaling.

“I feel that engaging in interactive classes online is a great way for children to channel their natural attraction to technology in a positive direction. The goal for Through the Lens is to nurture positive self-expression through photography, writing, and art—to discover and develop a strong sense of voice.

“This course will be dynamic and offer many ways for the participants to showcase their work and interact with one other in a safe and protected environment. It is also a wonderful opportunity for parents and teachers to join in on the process and to connect with their children or students in new and exciting ways.”


Mariah is generously offering one Simple Homeschool reader a copy of her book as well as a space in her upcoming e-course!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post, answering this question: What have your kids done recently that looks like play, but doubles as learning?

If you’re reading this in an email, you must come over to the blog to comment.

If you’d like two additional ways to enter the giveaway, here’s how:

Additional Entries

1. Mention this giveaway on Twitter, including @simpleschool, @playfullearning, and the URL of this post — . Then come back and leave an additional comment here, telling me about your tweet.

2. ‘Like’ Playful Learning on Facebook. Then come back here again and leave a comment, telling me you did so.

This giveaway has ended. Thanks for entering!

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.


  1. My children are married, but something my daughter in law does creates a learning situation for my grandson. And the end of the day she enumerates all the things they did in chronological order. Great bedtime AND learning technic.

  2. We have our own little garden and have just planted seeds of broccoli, lettuces, spinach, and cilantro. We have fun every morning going out to see our sprouts and see who is growing the most!
    We also do a LOT of crafts around here. My children have half of the laundry room to use as a Creative Craft Center-drawers of fun things and materials, paints, feathers, pom pom balls, fabric, sea shells, etc.
    Of course we have lots of role playing with dolls, action figures, Playmobile, Schleich and Papo figures, etc.

  3. I also liked PL on FB, too!

  4. Esther L. says:

    We made paper spiders as Halloween decorations. I used that craft to talk about spiders and also work on counting with my 2 year old. The kids just thought they were having fun!

  5. We’ve been deeply immersed in the era of the Revolutionary War. As we’ve been studying our Founding Fathers, we have been as deeply entrenched in the lives of the minutemen and militia that walked for endless miles without shoes, jackets, or gloves all in the name of “Freedom”. I will often catch my boys making complicated drawings depicting the Red Coats against “Us”. As I look at their art work, I realize how deeply they are trying to connect with the history that they are studying. Their drawings help them to understand the why’s and what for’s of it all.

  6. My two-year old daughter loves to play with blocks, but I think her favorite part is the clean-up. She sings the clean-up song, and as we toss the blocks back into the bag, we count them or we search for colors. She thinks it’s only a game, but she’s learning at the same time!

  7. What a coincidence…I just requested this book from the library!
    My girls just spent an entire afternoon turning our kitchen table into a giant board game complete with a giant dice and personalized game pieces.
    Learning should be personal and fun!!!

  8. I “liked” Playful Learning on FB:)

  9. Liked you on Facebook!!
    aubrey’s latest post: A Lovely Rescue

  10. Board games are a big thing around here. And helping to cook in the kitchen. My girls have lovely little aprons and they adore mixing and measuring and reading recipes at ages six, four, and three.
    aubrey’s latest post: Intervention Needed – Where I Plead for Your Help

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  12. I enjoy taking my children on hikes and watching them explore the plant and animal life.