You are here

Shared Learning Through Play

“Learning through play” is a phrase I often see in boilerplate copy – in my son’s nursery school’s curriculum, in a company’s product description on a new line of toys, and even in our own outreach materials at Room to Grow. It’s a short, positive phrase that promotes early learning and toys as one of the primary teaching tools for parents, caretakers and educators. But over the past few months I’ve been thinking about this phrase while observing my children play together. The concept of sharing comes to mind often and means so much to me on several different levels.

Shared learning through play  is what I see when my infant daughter is drawn to whatever toy happens to be in my son’s hands – for example, a set of wooden building blocks. Earlier this morning, my son lined up his blocks in a row and organized by shape and color on the living room floor. She quickly crawled over and started moving and stacking them haphazardly. Flustered at the disorder, my son looked at her unsound construction and after giving some thought, aptly named the pile a ‘sand castle,’ declared the living room floor a ‘beach,’ and the tassels on the area rug as ‘seaweed in the ocean.’ He then gave her a pail and shovel and told her to start ‘scooping the sand.’ She followed suit and on this windy and rainy day, my children pretended they were on the beach.

Shared learning through play is what I see at Room to Grow when the children in our program receive toys that others have outgrown. We provide families in need with individualized parenting support and connections to vital community services and all of the needed baby items to ensure a healthy and secure start in life for their children. Families visit us every three months starting from the mother’s last trimester of pregnancy until the child turns three. At every visit they receive essential high-quality materials including toys, donated by generous supporters whose children have outgrown their belongings. To me, there’s a thoughtful sense of community when families contribute baby items that are still in excellent condition to other families in need. The parents may never meet each other, but their children will have played with the same toy - worn the same shirt - read the same book.

On a wider scope, shared learning through play is what happens when Second Chance Toys connects community groups and corporate organizations with charities that serve children in need. At Room to Grow, we are grateful for our ongoing partnership with Second Chance Toys. Through their annual collection drives and special events throughout the year the organization keep toys out of the landfill and in the hands of children - where they belong. The nearly new toys they collect for our children are shared, loved and appreciated.

To share, sharing and shared. It is a kind gesture. It is imagination and creativity in (inter)action. It is a thoughtful way of giving. “Shared learning through play” is a slightly longer phrase, but one that implies families, kinship and community – and important for all children to experience.

To learn more about Room to Grow contact Elaine at

Author: Elaine Chow, Community Relations Manager at Room to Grow NYC