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. Laura Strong says:

    My girls love to be outside and we use that to ask questions and find out answers about the world around them! :)

  2. Laura Strong says:

    I liked Playful Learning of FB, too! :)

  3. Playing with legos: art, sorting by size and color, organizing a plan or thought pattern, working cooperatively with siblings

  4. I also like Playful Learning on Facebook.

  5. Playing in the fall leaves!

  6. Legos and building blocks = lots of learning: colors, shapes, basic engineering, creative design, cause & effect

  7. Cooking in her play kitchen. I hear her repeating the kitchen lessons that I have been giving her to her “children”.

  8. Helping us out in the garden: learning about our little back garden ecosystem (worms to chickens), using different tools for different jobs, teamwork (who gets to use each tool at a given time), cleaning up (and turning off the hose when it gets dark and you come insdie)!

  9. Helping us out in the garden: learning about our little back garden ecosystem (worms to chickens), using different tools for different jobs, teamwork (who gets to use each tool at a given time), cleaning up (and turning off the hose when it gets dark and you come inside)!

  10. My 3 year old son is obsessed with puzzles right now which are huge learning tools. My five year old daughter loves pretend games and many of the scenarios we have been doing lately involve writing (filling out pretend hotel slips, sending mail) so she is practicing her letters while also having fun.

  11. I “liked” Playful Learning on facebook! (and I really do like it IRL!)

  12. Kristin Lambert says:

    Gardening, cooking, building, singing…drawing our forms in the air with ribbon sticks and drawing them with chalk on our driveway and walking them brings a lot of laughter and smiles too.

  13. I went with my 7 year old nephew to the Omnimax theatre to see Hubble!

  14. I am entering again, for liking Playful Learning on FB!

  15. I think all of their play is learning in disguise. Barbies are an exploration of social behavior, lego building is an exercise in spatial relations, drawing is fine motor practice and creativity. It’s all in how you look at it!

  16. I tweeted about the giveaway!

  17. I “liked” playful learning on facebook!
    Jenny’s latest post: Try, try again

  18. visiting our local art museum and aquarium……so much fun with sooo much learning

  19. I also like Playful Learning on facebook

  20. We picked up fall leaves to put under paper and colour and talked about what kinds of trees they came from.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  21. Christina D. says:

    Simple play with a pinwheel yesterday led to learning about what air,wind, currents are.

  22. Christina D. says:

    We are also friends on Facebook!

  23. We love to play “store.” We sort and stack. We practice interpersonal skills. We count some sort of tender. And we have lots of fun doing it!

  24. I liked it on Facebook! What a great facebook page!!

  25. Baking bread – kneading the dough, patience while it rises and then shaping it into new creations.

  26. Writing their Christmas lists! And hammering nails into pumpkins. Lots of physical learning going on there.

  27. Board games!! :)

  28. Mixing pain colors

  29. LEGOs are big in our house…as are building “secret hideouts” of various kinds (indoor and outdoor)…we also like to create fairy worlds out of various plants and seeds…my daughter has learned more flower names by studying her fairy book than by any science book! And then she seeks to find the flowers to try and find the fairies!!! :-)

  30. They love playing Greek Gods.

  31. We planted a garden!

  32. nopinkhere says:

    My 5yo son recently assembled his own observation kit and took it to the park with us to look for insects. He even wrote down which insects he saw in a little book.

  33. Baking, baking and more baking! I love the put-up, put-down concept. We’ll be adding that to our lessons this morning :)
    Jen’s latest post: a mother’s heart

  34. i “liked” playful learning on facebook.
    Jo’s latest post: Playful Learning!

  35. Hammering nails in to a pumpkin! So much fun and strengthening muscles needed as she learns how to write.

  36. My kids just got home from Home-School camp, organised by one of our fellow home-school moms. After chatting with them, I realised how much they have learned in the last 3 days about team-work, friendships, & responsibility, just to name a few. I think that all they think that happened on camp was endless hours of fun!

  37. Crafty Mama says:

    My son and I would take his letter magnets and arrange them on the fridge so they would make crazy “words” (e.g., gjkhdx). I would then sound out the “words” as he cracked up. Even if they weren’t real words, he noticed how I was sounding out the letters, and then started to do that with real words. :)

  38. Crafty Mama says:

    I Tweeted! (Win a copy of @playfullearning ‘s book (by the same name) at the @simpleschool blog!

  39. Crafty Mama says:

    I like Playful Learning on Facebook! 😀

  40. Building with our trains and blocks!
    Jessica’s latest post: Treasure!

  41. I liked on Facebook~
    Jessica’s latest post: Treasure!

  42. My kids love to read, and then act out the stories they’ve read. Even my younger kids understand the story lines of books they’ve never read, because they’ve acted them out with their older siblings.

  43. We “collected” gold for the King to practice counting for my little guy and multiplication for his big sister. That all ties into their love of Robin Hood right now… and learning about the middle ages. Fun.
    Dawn Suzette’s latest post: Sick Day Supplies

  44. Playing with a homemade submarine in the bath tub -filling it with water to make it go underwater then blowing water into it through a tube to bring it up again. my son loves playing with water and figuring out how it “works”.

  45. My daughter loves helping me cook. She measures, pours, stirs, etc. and she’s the best taste-tester!
    Sarah’s latest post: if you’ve got no money, honey

  46. Already like Playful Learning on Facebook! :)
    Sarah’s latest post: if you’ve got no money, honey

  47. Tweeted about the giveaway too!
    Thanks to @simpleschool & @playfullearning for the giveaway of the great book Playful Learning. Enter at —

  48. My daughter is drafting her christmas list. It has already gone through several revisions as she carefully considers what she wants.

  49. Faye E. Hunt says:

    Just last night I cut out a pumpkin shape out of orange felt, a stem out of green felt, and different shaped eyes, noses, and mouths out of black felt. This morning after breakfast I gave the felt pieces to my two year old son and told him he could make a jack o’ lantern face. Boy did he light up! Not only did he have fun making a creative face, but he was learning about shapes and spacial relationships and practicing his fine motor skills to boot on in good Halloween fun!

  50. Faye E. Hunt says:

    I just “liked” Playful Learning on FB. Thank you for this awesome giveaway!