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

This giveaway has ended. Thanks for entering!

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 2 year old daughter loves to do stickers which also doubles as learning when she has to name colors and match outfits onto the doll stickers

  2. cooking/baking, collecting leaves from different types of trees, growing & picking different types of flowers (including veggies!), watching the birds, squirrels and bugs in our backyard …

  3. Liked on facebook

    and we went apple picking and my son learned so much about that. Growing seasons, where apples come from and more. It was a fantastic experience.

  4. They play “board games” that have been remade with questions from their memory work. They love it!

  5. My toddler has been playing with homemade play dough and helping me make soup (she’s learning more than she knows!)

  6. I like Playful Learning on FB

  7. Liked Playful Learning on FB

  8. Creating puppets and putting on puppet shows.

  9. I would love to win this! We have started a “timeline” of the kids. They have loved cutting out pictures and putting them on posterboard to show what has happened in the years since they were born!

  10. My 4 and 7 year old daughters were disappointed to learn that we were out of temporary tattoos today. So, they decided to make their own. They got out several kinds of coloring utensils (permanent markers, washable markers, crayons, pens, and colored pencils) and several papers (lined, computer and even toilet!) and then tried to transfer the pictures they drew to their skin. They even tried soapy water when plain water didn’t work. Nobody got tattooed, but I really enjoyed sitting back and watching their minds work. :)
    Thank you so much for the chance to win! I am especially excited about the e-course. My 7 year old saved for 9 months last year to be able to buy her very own digital camera and I know she would be utterly thrilled to participate!

  11. I like Playful Learning on facebook. :)

  12. We make up silly rhyming songs and play counting games.

  13. I’m a fan on fb

  14. We collected flowers while playing outside, then looked up the names and descriptioms of what we’d found

  15. Legos help my oldest with his math!
    My littlest loves to mix vinegar and baking soda:)

  16. MichelleD says:

    Would love to win this book… I struggle with coming up with fun activities to learn the important facts. We do put facts to music and sing them… if that counts!! LOL!

  17. Rhyming phonetic words sends my three year old into a serious giggling attack!

  18. MichelleD says:

    I liked Playful Learning on FB!! :)

  19. Sara Headley says:

    Oh! I have been wanting to attend one of these courses for so long! I’m so thrilled to have this chance! Thank you!

  20. Making up her own math game using her abacus, notebook, pencil and of course her drawing of a penguin that was a key element to the game! I would love a chance to win this book and the ecourse. It find it intriguing!

  21. My kiddos like to play with Wedgits blocks- spatial skills and fun all in one!
    Kinda Crunchy Kate’s latest post: Menu Plan Monday – Calm Before the Storm

  22. Sara Cornell says:

    Today we walked on a nature trail and saw caterpillars, grasshoppers, fall leaves, etc.

  23. We just went to the pumpkin patch to pick our own pumpkins. My 3yr old was getting down and exploring the ground, everything about the pumpkin, and where it was growing. Later that night he was eating some grapes and dad asked where the grapes had come from (not knowing we had some in the fridge) and my son said “dad, grapes grow on a vine – thats where they came from. grapes grow on vines like pumkins do

  24. I liked playful learning on fb

  25. Picking up leaves and sticks on our walk around the block and then using them to create a restaurant.

  26. I just blogged about a fairy village we built was a really great opportunity to show my daughter how improvisation and creativity with the materials available can lead to magical things!

  27. My son is constantly constructing forts inside and out… the intricacy and design, innovative ways of putting materials together, and very specific purposes of many fort features always astound me… and, they’re all so different from one another. I love to see him in action.

  28. My 4 year old just learned matching by cutting up an old work book and putting the pieces back together…. oh yeah, she also learned how to use scissors in order to get this done!

  29. My daughter has been mixing paint colors and mixing paint colors and mixing paint colors. All of her paintings right now are big swirls of mixed colors!

  30. Oh my, I guess that would be most of what we do! We’ve been to the aquarium, natural history museum, toured a tall ship and have a bank tour tomorrow, all within one week! We often approach math through games, and our grammar is learned through a story. Learning IS fun, and it shouldn’t be presented any other way!
    Casey’s latest post: Museum Scavenger Hunt Book

  31. My kids went on a nature walk and I created a book with different leaves & nuts/seeds from certain seeds that they needed to find. So fun! Energizing! And, they learned a lot!

  32. I like Playful learning on fb :)

  33. Liked on Facebook

    Didn’t think so at first, but tag is an excellent 2 fold playing/learning experience! My 7 and 5 year old play with my 2 year old “letting” her catch them sometime and pretending that she is too fast for them to tag. While my 2 year old learns the concept of taking turns, feeling independent/leading, my older kids learn to be empathic and that it is okay to let your guard down a little so collectively, everyone has fun. :)

  34. My 12-yr-old son just got a Goodreads account. He thinks he’s playing, but he’s journaling, documenting, and writing about books. He’s also getting super excited about all there is to read out there.
    Karina Palmer’s latest post: Avery Finds Her Groove

  35. I liked Playful Learning on fb :-)
    Karina Palmer’s latest post: Avery Finds Her Groove

  36. Andrea Ginsberg says:

    My son has been making up songs. He is 4 and they are full of rhyming words. At 3 he had tons of hearing tests done because he did not talk very much, and now he won’t stop.

  37. looks like play….OMG! So many things. Visiting the Monterey Aquarium! Playing poker with the family! Talking about Legos with friends! And on and on :)

  38. My 12 and 10 year old both write their own plays and then gather costumes and props and video tape their performances with their cameras. When they are done they edit their films and then we watch them.

    They learn to write, rewrite, arrange themselves and props to look good on camera, learn how costums and props enhance a performance, art skills from making the props, and presentation skills for when they have to introduce their films to the family.

    We love this but I don’t love the amount of money we are spending on batteries :):)

  39. Michelle Baesler says:

    Thank you for the opportunity!!

  40. My children love to build with blocks. While it may look like play, they are talking with one another about shapes that go together or sizes with one block in comparison to another. They also work out balance and structure when building. They recently built a clipper ship from blocks, complete with white napkins for sails. It was started after we read aloud a book about a clipper ship (“All Sails Set”) to my daughter. My son has a really unique eye for pictures and loves to take photos.

  41. My 2year old and I kick around in nature, discovering seeds, leaves, colors, shapes, textures, and animals / birds. We have fun identifying different bird songs and try to imitate them.
    Erin’s latest post: Monday Nature Walks

  42. I “like” Playful Learning on Facebook!
    Erin’s latest post: Monday Nature Walks

  43. We baked a cake and learned about measurements and following directions.

  44. Oh goodness. Playdough animals, board games, playing store with fake money, making ‘robots’ we are constantly making robots in this house.
    Molly L’s latest post: some school this week

  45. This week: making applesauce, exploring Botanical gardens, Wild West party, listening to fun music, creating puppets, Tae Kwon Do, reading comics…

  46. mushroom hunting in forest – fun adventure, finding, treasure experience, with true identification along the way…

  47. liked on fb too

  48. We would love this! We like to draw pics for the stories we read.
    Also we live cookie together recently we made mini brownies and
    Put raspberry on them so the had to count each brownie to know
    How many raspberrys we needed! They loved it! Both making and
    Eating them!

  49. We played a game like Go Fish with sight words….they had fun!!! Also, baking is a wonderful tool with my sons!
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: A Dime a dozen by Mindy Starns Clark