November 01, 2018

Kaitlyn Lee

Playful Learning on a Budget

Topics: Kids And Creativity, Creativity, STEM Education / Play, Learning at Home, Learning Through Play


Various playful and gaming aspects can be used in learning; some of them require our imagination and nothing else, others are more demanding and work best with special attributes, classroom themes, and so on. Teachers have to use all their creativity to reenact all those learning ideas and set up the right atmosphere.

When you know how to use playful learning, there is no need for expensive equipment; everything can be done using budget items and something you may already have. Creating an ideal classroom is easier than it seems. Typical Student has a few tips on what elements of playful learning can be easily added to classes without breaking the bank.

branchPhoto by Art Bar

Art Integration

Let’s start with easy training of kids’ imagination and creativity. At the early age, children should be allowed to express themselves in many ways in order to discover their strength and inspirations. For instance, painting is absolutely necessary for younger children.

To make this activity most effective without the need to buy hundreds of brushes, palettes, boxes, and so on, introduce finder painting to your classes. You can eliminate the need for special equipment and allow children a way to express themselves through the tool they are most used to, fingers. The only requirement is to provide high-quality paint that is safe for kids. This technique can be used for different grades, even for high school at times.

There are also certain ways to implement various elements of art to the lives of high schoolers. For example, kinetic sculptures develop engineering skills, dances can be integrated with social science and history, etc.



Set up the classroom with the DIY benches and shelves. While this may not be for the kindergarteners, secondary school kids will be glad to get an opportunity to decorate their class. Use easy techniques with the addition of some ready-to-use items and materials. The main purpose is to bring up kids’ creativity and allow them to work collectively, thus encouraging their problem-solving skills and the ability to work in groups. Some may express their leadership qualities, others will show their creativity, and so on. Classroom decoration unites various kids. Besides, they’ll gladly return to a room they’ve decorated themselves.

You don’t need expensive materials to make a classroom bright and colorful. Some old tin cans, cups, crates, cardboard boxes, and many other things found at homes can be used. There are many easy crafts for kids that are cheap but can be actually useful.



Task Cards

One of the easiest game techniques that can be used to teach students of all ages are task cards. They can be used for all subjects and topics. You may choose to follow existing rules of a game, change them to fit learning better, or create completely new ones, even together with children. Involve yourself and kids in the process to keep the focus on a subject and create personal interest in it.

The best thing about task cards is their flexibility. They may contain any kind of information, from logical tasks, to math, literature, and so on. Basically, any subject can be fitted into those.

For younger students, it can be a game of matching various cards, choosing the odd one out. Older kids would prefer quizzes, blitz rounds, and awarding extra points to those who answer correctly or faster.


Role Playing

Role playing is acting out an event, a process, or a topic. Though many teachers leave this tool to the acting classes, it can be beneficial for almost all subjects. History is what comes in mind immediately. Yes, this is a usual history device, as well as literature. It’s easy to take a story or an event and play it out during a lesson. The classroom just has to be big enough; costumes can be made by students. However, a few teachers of other fields recognize the effectiveness of role playing. Nobody thinks about playing out a chemical reaction, scientific process, mathematical operations, and concepts. Sadly, we miss an opportunity to make those things clearer by neglecting role playing for such topics.

Another important aspect is playing along with students. Join the fun and get involved in the process for the kids to see it as fun and not a compulsory assignment that you’ll grade and criticize. Your participation bonds you with kids and creates a classroom community of shared learning. Read some professional organizing tips beforehand to prevent the role-playing chaos.


Learning Outside

Who says that a classroom has to be surrounded by walls or restricted in any way? Kids are adventurous and can’t sit in a stuffed room for long periods of time without getting bored and losing all interest to what happens around them. Add a boring lecture on the European life in the Middle Ages, and you get a class that hates everything ancient and thinks history is stupid. The same can happen with any subject.


When you bring your class outside, you give children a break and create a new learning atmosphere that spurs the process. For young kids, outdoors is full of learning means. Practice writing words in sand, use fallen leaves to practice math, search for new words and signs, etc.


Additional Devices

It’s always great to have some technology in your classroom to illustrate information and use video and audio materials. Introducing media to learning is always beneficial. However, technologies are often stored for the older classes. Kids are left with only cheap books. So, what to do when you are teaching youngsters and your class has no devices?

First of all, laptops are great. If you have one at home, you can bring it for some lessons to show video materials. However, a cheaper and just as effective way of delivering information to small kids is puppets. Any sentence said by a puppet is valued ten times more by kids. They always carefully listen to what is said by fictional characters, even if it’s about calculations or writing letters. In addition, puppets are a great tool to introduce new games, songs, and poems. They are viewed as friends while teachers are often scary adults who “don’t know anything and are boring.” Giving children time to play with puppets also helps to master motor skills.

While playful learning is rarely used for math, there is one approach that can be used for small children. Using Legos to demonstrate how to add, subtract, divide, and multiply small numbers is incredibly effective. Children find this tool to be more engaging than keeping it in mind or looking at some plain tables in books.

Math Dice is another great tool to make learning math fun.


Is It Worth It?

Absolutely. Playful learning encourages children to participate and prolongs their focus on one thing. Indulging into playful elements with your students also makes lessons more interesting for you. Of course, the preparations for a lesson may be longer and more complex, but the final result will pay off. In time, you’ll see that playful learning makes the whole curriculum easier and your kids will learn faster. They will have more free time that can be used to take a break from studies and indulge in some physical activities that are also useful for our brains. Much can be said about playful learning, but until you try it with your own kids or students, you’ll never know how effective it can be.

What are your thoughts on this technique? Would you implement it in your classes? What other means can you suggest?


Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 12.22.53 PMKaitlyn Lee is a student in the Department of Journalism at Illinois. She is a professional editor and has contributed to organizations including AspirantSG and South Africa Today. Kaitlyn challenges herself to be a true educational editor by inspiring students all over the world to excel through her writing.



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