Literacy Partners

3 Ways to Make Learning at Home More Joyful & Playful

When California schools closed down, I jumped into action and hopped on Facebook Live to talk to parents and teachers to provide some comfort and support. A series of different guests joined me too — find them all here on Facebook or on Instagram. 

The last guest who joined us was Kristi Mraz, a friend and colleague for 15 years. Kristi and I met when I was her staff developer, and she was a 2nd-grade teacher in Brooklyn. When she came to me at the end of that year, I suggested she come to work for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project with me.

I’m thrilled to report that she did and the rest is history. We were colleagues at “The Project” as we called it and we remained friends. She later decided to go back to teach in the classroom at an NYC school and went on to write some amazing professional books. If you haven’t read them yet, add them to your reading list!

During our Facebook Live, Kristi and I shared ways to make learning at home more joyful and playful. She talked a lot about the research around how important it is to help kids build skills like curiosity, resilience, and problem-solving.

Now is the perfect time to help kids build these skills and perhaps make it feel less academic.

Here are some of the big ideas she shared during our talk:

  1. Try some non-computer based activities
    1. Organizing family photo albums
    2. Family Inventory & More
    3. Writing Books 
    4. Doing Storytelling
  1. Start a 10-Day Passion Project with your child or students.
    Kids can become Fortnite experts or experts on anything they’re eager to know more about. This can lead to a lot of engaged reading and writing. One of my other colleagues at “The Project” created her own passion project on a padlet. For older kids, creating padlets is a great way to organize all the information they’re gathering.
  2. Set up open-ended independent centers for kids at home.
    Kristi has written at length about adopting a play and a growth mindset, and she shares in more detail inside the play packets below. Have your child or student work independently at this center for 30 or more minutes.

To further promote independence, we can also consider the kinds of questions we’re asking kids. Here are some ideas:

  • What will you create/build/play?
  • What will you do next?
  • What can you do to solve that problem?

While the kids are home from school, the days may certainly feel long. Please feel free to share this article with parents who are trying to work from home or simply run a household while they’re also trying to help their kids use their creativity during this time.

And if you enjoyed this article, you might like these too:

Recent Blogs:

Keeping the Love of Literacy Alive During State Testing

Keeping the Love of Literacy Alive During State Testing

It’s that time of the year again, state testing. I remember the pressure and the stress that would set in during this time. With schools emphasizing test preparation and students feeling the pressure to perform, it is easy for the love of literacy to get lost in the...

read more
Tapping into Kids’ Passions

Tapping into Kids’ Passions

Want to build a love of learning? Start learning what they love! I’m not embarrassed to admit that I get a lot of recommendations from my students! Whether it's during recess or dismissal, I’m always curious to hear what “awesome new thing” I’ve been missing out on....

read more


Literacy Partners


Customized professional development that increases test scores and teacher retention while fostering a true love of reading and writing for your students.



Modern solutions for busy teachers who want to stay at the top of their game and nurture their passion for teaching.

Literacy Partners


Learn how you can be an advocate to strengthen literacy in your child’s school.