Mapping our way with Playful Learning

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PlayfulLearning I have the pleasure of participating in a blog tour for Mariah Bruehl’s debut book, Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder. I’ve enjoyed her blog for some time, and am loving her book now as well.

Mariah, a former teacher and curriculum developer, has written a book full of learning ideas that parents can use at home with their children, ages 4 to 8. She makes education accessible for everyone, which I think is key for those of us without backgrounds in education. I especially like her tip about not pushing learning, but rather following your children’s lead and interests and fitting these experiences in naturally.

Chapters include:

  • Nurturing Young Authors
  • The Joy of Reading
  • Mathematicians at Work
  • Scientific Investigations
  • Exploration of Art and Artists
  • Growing Globally
  • Raising the Citizens of Tomorrow

Each chapter offers between six and ten learning activities that can be easily explored at home (and I can see many of them being used in a classroom setting as well). Each activity includes how-to information, a list of “books to inspire”, and a section that helps parents prepare for the experience and stay “one step ahead”–which is all she claims is really necessary.

As always, I want to try everything in the book! So far, we’ve explored a couple of the mapmaking exercises–From the Heart (pictured below) and Mapping My House: A Treasure Hunt. Both were excellent learning and bonding experiences.


For From the Heart, Maia and I both created maps of our hearts. Following Mariah’s instructions, we drew hearts on watercolor paper with permanent markers then added pictures to represent the people, places, and things that we care most deeply about.


Maia included kittens, rainbows, books, and a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin (among other things) in her heart. We painted our hearts with watercolors and have plans to frame and hang them–perhaps a whole family of heart maps. Harry has shown interest in making one as well, and I’m sure Daphne would love to draw and paint in a heart.

I loved this idea as soon as I saw it in Playful Learning and I love it even more upon creation. Besides spending time thinking about and creating a visual representation of what is important to us (which I think is great in itself), Mariah suggests keeping these heart maps near the child’s writing desk to use as inspiration when writing. She also recommends making new heart maps each year as the child grows up, which we will definitely do!

Developing my daughters’ sense of joy and wonder is important to me, so this book is right up my alley. I look forward to exploring more of the learning ideas and activities with them soon.

If you would like to buy a copy of Playful Learning for yourself, you can order one from Amazon, get a signed copy from Mariah’s shop, or pick one up at your local bookstore.


PlayfulLearning For a chance to win a copy of Mariah Bruehl’s book, Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder as well as a space in her 6 week fall e-course Playful Learning Spaces, leave a comment here by Monday, August 22nd at 9pm EST. The winner will be picked randomly and announced on Tuesday, August 23rd.

Giveaway now closed.

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  1. suzanne says

    I would love to be able to give this opportunity to my twin toddler boys! Thanks for giving us the chance :)

  2. says

    Wow, what a wonderful sounding book. As a mom, and an Early Childhood Education professional, I believe a book like this needs to be read by all those who work with children! Great post and giveaway!

  3. Kate says

    What an inspirational-sounding book! And the heart maps are gorgeous, both as an idea and in Maia’s execution! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Catt says

    What a wonderful sounding book! As a mom of three young children this is definately something I want to read!

  5. says

    Thank you for introducing me to Mariah. This book looks like something I need. I will be homeschooling a 4 year old & 6 year old this year and am always looking for creative, kid centered ways to play & learn.
    Thanks for the chance!

  6. Amanda says

    How wonderful! we will do this too. Emma has had so much fun doing scavenger hunts too. Thanks for fantastic ideas!

  7. Karen says

    What a fantastic resource I love learning about creative ideas I can do with my children which aids their self expression and sense of self. The six week course looks great too!

  8. says

    Wow! Sounds like a great book. I have a 1 year old so I wouldn’t be able to use if for awhile, but I would love to add it to our library!

  9. Annette says

    Sounds great. On a side note, I love your blog! My child’s art experience is so much richer than it would be without it :)

  10. Katie says

    I love the mapping your heart idea. Will have to try that one out. I’m adding the book to my Amazon Wish List right now!

  11. says

    What a great resource. Thank you for sharing. I am homeschooling my 4 year old daughter and have been looking for resources. This book sound wonderful. I hope I win!

  12. Erin says

    delightful! Now that my daughter has started school I am finding I need to be more intentional with planning art activities. The heart map would be fabulous for a family art night.

  13. says

    That book sounds wonderful! I love the heart. I’ve been searching for ideas for my 6 year old who is stuck in a bit of a rut creatively, maybe these will help.

  14. kt says

    Hoping I get chosen. Looks like a wonderful book full of fun and learning. Thanks for offering the opportunity to win.

  15. Lori says

    Map of the heart…what a beautiful and meaningful project for everyone in the family to do. This book sounds very promising!

  16. Amanda C says

    Thanks so much for the chance to win this awesome book! Looking forward to seeing more of your girls activities from it!

  17. Dani says

    I am so interested in getting this book. The heart map is such a great idea. I think we will be doing this in the afternoon today! As always, thanks for the great ideas and excellent reference material!

  18. says

    beautiful artwork! I am following Mariah’s book tour in hopes to get my hands on one, but I know I will be getting this resource in the near future even if I don’t win.
    Sarah M

  19. Karen says

    I think the book sounds amazing!! I have an in home daycare and preschool, as well as my own littles. Her blog has helped me in so many ways, I am sure the book would also. Thank you for the give away and good luck to everyone!!

  20. Jill says

    We would so love to give this book a home – I am sure that it would be well referenced and a great source of inspiration. Also, having a tool like this in my toolbox would delight me. Thanks for the chance to win the book and the online class!

  21. says

    I already have a copy of the book and it is fabulous!
    If I were to win, I would give the book away as a gift and I would be thrilled to have a spot in the e-course!

  22. Karen says

    The heart exercise sounds great, and I’m definitely going to check this book out. Thanks for the giveaway!

  23. Sharon says

    What a great giveaway! This book will get used day after day and I am sure I can find somethings to use with my soon to be 2 year old. You never know when inspiration is going to spark. Thanks again!

  24. Allison says

    I love this blog and would love to have a copy of the book at my fingertips. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Susan Robert says

    I love the heart project and will be doing this with my grandchildren this weekend.. I would love to not only have this book to do projects with my grandchildren but to also share with my teachers.

  26. Brandy says

    Thanks for inspiring discovery learning <3
    “You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.” ~Clay P. Bedford

  27. says

    My daughter just started first grade and now for her it is all about school; I would love this book because I am sure it has lots of activites that we can do to rgently remind her that LIFE is learning – not just school.
    For another great mapping activity, try Sound mapping from Keri Smith’s How to be an Explorer of the World. Sit down somewhere for an hour (or however long is appropriaate for your child – The book is designed mainly for adults I think( and make a visual representation of the sounds that you hear.

  28. Catherine says

    Can’t wait to read this book. Will have to do the heart mapping soon. Thanks for the giveaway!

  29. says

    I’m loving this book too Jean. I am about halfway through and the heart drawings that you guys did are the thing I am wanting to do the most…just need the right moment. I love Maia’s heart, I wonder what my guys would do.

  30. Diana says

    I teach kindergarten and think this book would be a great resource for me. What a great idea!

  31. Monique says

    Oh, how I would love to win a copy of this book and participate in Mariah’s course! Thank you!

  32. Valerie says

    We are choosing to homeschool our son for first grade, I would love to check out this book for inspiration!

  33. mamina says

    This book has been on my wishlist over on Amazon for couple weeks now….thanks for a chance to win it here!

  34. jayme says

    I love the Playful Learning Blog, and this book would be a perfect addition to our library! Crossing my fingers and toes.

  35. says

    i’ve been seeing this book as it makes its way around on its blog tour, and it looks interesting! i would love to have a chance to win a copy!

  36. Rachel at Stitched in Color says

    The book and an eCourse. Wow, what a wonderful prize! This book looks right up our alley.

  37. Aly Kantor says

    What an awesome sounding book! I’d love to add this one to my slowly expanding early childhood library! None of your suggestions has yet to let me down! Thanks for the giveaway!

  38. Tina says

    What a great post–and a great book, it seems! I’d LOVE to win. Thanks for the giveaway.

  39. says

    As an unschooling mom, and an early childhood teacher who follows the children’s lead, I wondered if this book would be too activity focused for my taste. But the blog tour has piqued my interest! Thanks for the chance!

  40. Heather N says

    Her heart is just lovely! I would really like a copy of this book. Thanks for the giveaway.

  41. Jessica Flowers says

    I would love a copy of this book as i struggle continually to find ways to help Luke learn at home in a fun (no pressure) way. Thanks for the post!

  42. Karen says

    I just get more and more excited at the wonderful things that my daughter is going to be able to discover and explore as she grows! Sometimes I can hardly wait…Just the names of the chapters in this book has inspired me. Imagine what reading the actual book will do!

  43. says

    love the “from the heart” idea. we’ll be incorporating that project into our homeschool for my first grade little girl for sure. would love the book for other ideas!!

  44. says

    Wow, you’ve gotten a lot of followers! I’m curious about the book.
    I recently did a blog post (on Cornelia’s Kids) about how building marble sets works on preschool “objectives.”
    I love seeing kids learn, and the happier they are while doing it, the better for everyone.

  45. MaryAnn F. Kohl, art book author says

    Nothing better than bringing quality learning ideas to parents and ultimately to children. I can’t wait to see this book. If I don’t win, I’ll buy one.

  46. noelle says

    great giveaway…thanks. i could sure use some guidance in this department…parents as teachers….all the ideas i can get the better!
    thanks again!

  47. says

    I did participate in Mariah’s e-course, and must say that it was WONDERFUL!!! I recomend it with my whole heart! Her blog is fantastic, I love reading it! I can’t wait to read the book! Thanks for the opportunity, even though I plan to buy it if I’m not so lucky to get it!

  48. says

    Sounds like just what I need – I have a budding mathematician on my hands and no clue how to help him move forwards! Here’s hoping……

  49. Carla says

    I would love to read this book. So I can share with my little one. Thank you for the opportunity.

  50. pinar says

    I loved Maia’s heart, so colourful and just represents her age, I’m sure my five year old would draw same objects, maybe chocolate in the center:)

  51. says

    I actually got my copy last week and i just love it! so if i happen to win, please give my copy to someone else…but i just had to say how much i love how you showed the heart map. i can’t wait to do this with my daugther! and i just love all the ideas in the book – now to find the space to create it all!! crossing my fingers! :)

  52. says

    I definitely want to do this From the Heart project with my girls before the last days of summer vacation fade! I’d love a spot in Mariah’s Playful Learning Spaces. Thanks for the chance!

  53. Natasha says

    Been following the blog tour, and every project from the book looks great — I’d love to win a copy!

  54. says

    We need to re-set up our art room after a recent room shuffle. I would love some ideas on how to make it better. Thanks for the opportunity!

  55. Jessica flowers says

    Jean does this book, or do you, have any ideas for artful activities or games to help preschoolers learn to recognize their letters?

  56. Lori says

    OH!! As a former preschool art teacher, I would very much love a chance at winning this. I am attempting to go back to work int he next year. I have been busy raising my twin girls who will turn 4 on Aug 23 (the deadline!!). Thanks so much for sharing the joy of your ideas!!

  57. [email protected] says

    This book sounds fabulous!

  58. Mary says

    Wow. A book that works with deepening relationships between parents and children. What a gem!

  59. Erin says

    This book looks so good. I am really enjoying the Playful Learning tour and would LOVE to win a copy.

  60. Sam says

    What a beautiful idea. I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to share in Mariah’s blog tour and be introduced to all you amazing women. I shall be a regular visitor now that I know about you and can’t wait to engage my 21 month old in all these brilliant activities.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  61. Iris says

    That sounds like an awesome book! I would love to explore some of the activities with my daughter, who is about to enter kindergarten this year. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy and a spot on the e-course. I would love either one. And, by the way, I am enjoying your blog very much. Have been following for quite a while :-)

  62. Nicole says

    What a thoughtful activity to do with the kiddos, especially right before we get caught up in the back-to-school schedules. Can you guess what our family will be doing tomorrow! ;) Looks like a wonderful book! Thanks for the giveaway!

  63. says

    Wow! These hearts are beautiful! I found your blog from the Playful Learning blog! We will definatly be back and will be making hearts tomorrow! :) Thanks for sharing!
    PS We would love to win this book!

  64. Susan says

    I have wanted to take the Playful Learning e-course since first read about it in the spring. I was so excited that she was offering it again, but of course we are broke. It would be the most amazing gift to win. I know it would be so beneficial for my family and my work with children. Of course I’m also excited about the book too.

  65. Eileen says

    I would love a copy of this book! And a spot in her e-course would be fantastic!!! Thanks for the chance to win!

  66. Dulcie says

    Wow! All these reviews are making me want this book bad. My sons birthday is Monday. This would be a nice surprise.

  67. says

    What a wonderful activity! I love the art your daughter created – it will look great when it’s framed. I can see this being used in a classroom too. I need this book!! Thanks for sharing your review and the giveaway.

  68. says

    The book sounds great! Thank you for the giveaway opportunity, I am always searching for inspiration and new ways to play, learn, and express with my girls.

  69. Sandrala says

    Oh! I had this saved for August release. So glad it is out in the world now. Can’t wait to check it out!

  70. Karmen says

    My, I would love a copy of this book… thank you for such a sweet giveaway… I’ve got my fingers crossed that it’s my lucky day….

  71. Elaine Ee says

    Thanks for the giveaway. I would love to try out the activities the book with my two girls.

  72. says

    How beautiful! I have long admired your blog and all the wonderful art projects you do with your daughters. This book looks fabulous… very inspiring indeed!

  73. brenda t says

    i would love a copy of her book! i enjoy reading the playful learning blog and getting ideas! thanks for the opportunity!

  74. says

    My Map Book – which she references in Playful Learning – is a wonderfully inspired/inspiring book. Highly recommend it for this project!

  75. says

    Thanks for sharing. I recently saw this book and wondered how it was. You post makes me want to rush to buy it, which I will! Oh, wait, maybe I will win!!
    By the way all of your recent posts are great, thanks!

  76. Jill P says

    Sounds like a fabulous book! And I think we may try the heart map this weekend…how lovely!

  77. jgw says

    What a fantastic book. Thanks for the review on here. If I don’t win, then I’ll for sure be purchasing one to help navigate my life with 3 little ones at home.

  78. Double Glazing Stourbridge says

    The art painting processes in this research endeavour to study the artist identity of the artist through the exploration of consciousness.

  79. Alison R says

    This book looks fantastic, I’d find it so useful to use in the classroom.
    And Maia’s heart is just beautiful, she clearly thought carefully about what she wanted to include.

  80. Christine says

    I have had this book on hold at the local library while waiting for it to be published! Great to see it’s available now!

  81. [email protected] says

    Sounds great!!

  82. Amanda says

    What a brilliant prize! I enjoy reading the Playful Learning blog and would love to read Mariah’s book. I’d also love to win a place in her e-course, as a homeschooling mama this is very apt! Thanks for running a great giveaway!

  83. kim says

    I will actually try this wonderful idea with a playful group of educators… mapping their heart as a process to reflect on what is most important in their hearts in relation to their beliefs about ‘the child’. This will be a wonderful resource book for parents and educators, alike! Thanks for sharing!

  84. Eliza says

    I have two boys, ages 5 and 2 1/2, and I am always searching for ways to nurture their creative, playful side. I sometimes run low on inspiration due to fatigue and normal demands of life, so I would love some new motivation and great ideas and think this book sounds PERFECT!

  85. Mary A says

    I would love to win this book. Your mapping project ties in well with a novel I just finished about a 12 year old cartographer, The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet: A Novel by Reif Larsen. It is great to have a mapping idea for my own children. Thanks for the giveaway.

  86. Trish Butler says

    This sounds awesome! And it is definitely ideas I would enjoy doing with both my daughters (ages 3 and 6). Thanks for the opportunity!

  87. My Barefoot Angel says

    The book is fantastic and worth every penny! I would be thrilled to win spot at the e-course.

  88. Erin says

    This book looks so great! I am needing more ideas for homeschool activities and it looks like I could get some good ones here!

  89. CarinaRdz says

    I do skillbuilding with kiddos in the foster care system. I would enjoy using some of these activities to see how I can re-build joy and creativity into the lives of these kids.
    Plus I would enjoy using the activities to encourage my own children to foster more joy and more creativity as well.

  90. Susie says

    Love the heart and how Maya included a muffin. Your family is adorable. When I feel like I need a boost, your blog is the first place I go. Thanks for this book of ideas and for your blog!

  91. Suzanne says

    We did this as a family last night and had a blast together. Now to find a place on our already crowded with frame walls to hang these! Thanks for sharing, hope I win :)

  92. la robi says

    sounds interesting for my 1and 3 years old never stopping girls…hoping to win, thank you for the chance…

  93. Therese says

    Oh how I love the internet. I think there is a saying that goes along the line of “when the student is ready the teacher will appear”. I am searhing for inspiration for creative and educational activites to do with my children and your blog and this book give away are just perfect finds. Thanks!!

  94. says

    I love the ideas that I’ve heard about so far with this book. I would love to add this to our family’s collection.

  95. Lori N says

    Doing the heart map this weekend and can’t wait to see the other activities in the book.

  96. says

    Your blog and books like this give me inspiration with my own children but those I teach. Thanks for doing what you do and offering this giveaway!!

  97. Rebecca says

    I would love to have new ideas of how to foster playful learning at home and design child centered play spaces! Would love to win this book!!

  98. Carrie says

    Sounds like a great book! I have two young boys, back in school to get my art education certification and am always looking for new creative activities!

  99. Kim says

    I am not sure if my original comment made it through… I am so inspired by heart mapping, and I intend to use this idea as the framework for a session I am doing with a team of early childhood educators… I think I will be gifting this book a few times!! I’d love to win a copy!

  100. laura pasquini says

    I am inspired by just looking at the inviting cover page! I am the mother to a wonderful one-year-old boy and recently quit my job to stay home with him. I love the idea of creating spaces that inspire play and learning for my son. I also volunteer as the art mom in a local mom’s club and would love to get ideas from this book. Thank you!

  101. Ericka says

    I’m enjoying my library copy so much that it was added to my “want to buy” list. I’d love to win my own copy of this fantastic resource!

  102. Linda says

    I am excited to read this book just from reading the chapter titles. I think it will be much in keeping with my own philosophy. Thanks for bringing it to my attention and offering it as a giveaway!

  103. SAra says

    What a great project! I’ve seen the book mentioned on several blogs and can’t wait to read it.

  104. says

    We are going to start homeschooling.. I am in progress revamping my home more for my kids.. Loving every pic and articles I see on the blog. I am sure the book and course will be as great too! Thank you for the chance to win :-)

  105. [email protected] says

    That sounds like the perfect book to complement the art space! Thanks for the idea and recommendation!!
    jen whipple

  106. Jessica Bachar says

    I am an out of work teacher and stay at home mother. I would LOVE to win this and find out more!

  107. gabriela says

    Tend to spend more time doing arts and crafts in the fall/winter to gearing up to find lots of great new ideas and inspiration. The book seems like is would be a great resource.

  108. Kristina says

    As an architect with four year old twins, I’m always looking for ways to inspire them to be lifetime learners…looks like a great book and class!

  109. Krista Kiehl says

    I have that book in my amazon wish list — I think I saw it on your site and have wanted to buy it ever since. I have 5 & 8 year old and I love to do after school and summer projects — this would be perfect!

  110. Amy says

    We have made a family crest, but the heart map sounds fantastic. It will be very interesting to see what my son will include in the map of his heart. What a great exploring/learning/bonding experience.

  111. Nolan says

    I’d love a chance to win, as well. I have two year old twin girls and a not-so-great school system, so I’m looking at home schooling them. This sounds like an aspiring read and a great program!

  112. romina byrd says

    I would love to win a copy of Mariah’s book and a spot in her e-course. I adore how you share such wonderful nuggets of gold with us.
    I look forward to learning from her as well…not pushing learning is a simple and important concept for all of us.
    love and peace,

  113. Ann says

    Thanks for featuring the book. I will get a copy for sure as it sounds perfect for my family.

  114. says

    Your post is really wonderful and I think moms should read this. I also believed that learning must also come naturally. Parents must let their child explore some things on their own but with the parent’s guidance of course. So that the child will discover the things that they are interested the most without parents influencing them.