Real World Play

8 Reasons why we love it & Why we quit our jobs to design in for you!

Check out our Video Mini-training Series Freebie to learn more about how to do and plan topic-based play!

A deep dive into fish and sea animals!

Volcanoes, Bumble bees, Trees, Trains, Farms…

What do all of these things have in common? They are amazing topics that promote early learning and brain development when playing with young kids! At grOH! we wholeheartedly believe in topic based play... In fact, we quit our jobs for it. We knew that it was how we wanted to play with our own kids, how we wanted to teach them, how we wanted them to experience the world... but it takes A LOT of time, energy and brain power to design... we did not have any to spare when working full time jobs, and we couldn't find anyone else creating this content. So here we are. Building out amazing experiences for our kids and for yours. We couldn't be happier to empower kiddos to learn about the world through play!

You’re probably asking, “what is topic based (or real-world) play? And what makes it so special?” Well let me tackle both of those questions.

What is Real World or Topic Based Play?

It is purposefully planed, play-filled learning experiences ALL on the same topic, like dinosaurs, plants or lions!

It is not a list of random activities with a different one to do each day.

Topic based play is when children engage in play on a single topic over an extended period of time... from several days to several weeks. For example, your child might explore and play with Dinosaurs for 4 to 6 weeks.

At grOH! our goal is to make the play rich and well-rounded so that kids can learn the most from their experiences. We love topic based play because it is the perfect vehicle for rich and well rounded play. Rather than doing random, activities night after night that are fun but disconnected... Topic based play provides them with different experiences, different materials, and different types of play that ALL engage them in a single topic. It is purposeful, it develops meaning over time and it helps kids build a complex understanding of the world around them.

Engaging children in this way continually peaks their interest and sparks their curiosity in the topic as well as others. We think it is important to integrate many different types of play and learning activities as you explore a single topic. This keeps the learning interesting, provides a depth to the content AND exposes our youngest learners to Arts, Sciences, Motor, Sensory, Math, Literacy, Problem Solving, Social Skills and more!

Maria Montessori, the founder of Montessori, said “play is the work of children”. When we give children the option to play in so many diverse ways they are working hard, engaging deeply, developing curiosity, and learning so much about the world. This is a gift that prepares them for the rest of their lives.

Why Is Topic Based Play So Special?

So let me tell you a couple of the many reasons we believe in topic based play, why we quit our jobs for it, and why we do topic based play with our own kiddos!

Reason 1: It increases language & vocabulary skills

Playing with a single topic, like trucks, over a long period of time helps build vocabulary for both kiddos and adults.

When children hear and see the same words in a context they know a bunch about, those words become more likely to stick in their memory. Children have more of an opportunity to develop a deep meaning surrounding new words.

After playing with, reading about and exploring trucks for an extended time, children's soon learn the names of every kind of truck, the parts and mechanisms of those trucks, and the jobs or purposes of each. As their understanding deepens their vocabulary grows… likely, so does yours!

Reason 2: It builds knowledge about the world

Exploring gardens for a long period of time builds knowledge about the world. As children learn more about a topic, they become curious about gardens... and other related topics, like worms or sunflowers. Their investigating deepens, their interest peaks, and their knowledge grows.

This type of knowledge building has a compounding effect! Pretty soon your garden lover we'll know all about different types of plants, how they grow, what they need, and that gardens look differently all over the world. Plus they will want to start a new investigation about worms... kind of like If You Give A Mouse A Cookie!

Reasons 3: Building knowledge builds knowledge

Speaking of compounding knowledge, once you deeply understand the meaning of a word in a single context you are more apt to be able to infer the meaning of the same or a similar word in a different context. For example, if you spend a lot of time playing with farms you develop a complex understanding of farms. Farms are places where people grow different products, like apples or milk, to feed and sell to other people. Once you develop this understanding you can more easily infer the meaning of fish farming might be.

Reason 4: It gives kids authentic reasons to do tricky thinking

Becoming deeply immersed in a topic of Interest gives kids in authentic reasons to be curious, to do challenging thinking, and to ask questions. Children will be more likely to independently want to write down (or draw about) their ideas, build something to solve a problem, count something to answer a question, listen to an interesting book about the topic, or spend a long amount of time in a museum looking at artifacts. The more we know about something the more invested we become!

Reason 5: It helps kids access harder books

When kiddos are older and beginning to read, topic-based learning does something really cool! It improves their reading level.

The way most schools and classrooms work is, once your kiddos starts to read in school his or her teacher will likely assign a reading level. What is often overlooked is that when kids know a lot about a topic they can read books that are far more complex than the “reading level” assigned to them after a test when are asked to read a random book called, “My Art Teacher”.

When children read on topic, they are more confident and willing to pick up challenging text, figure out tricky words (which they can do because of their knowledge base), and feel successful. MAGIC!

Reason 6: It helps kids figure out what they enjoy learning about

When we give our children the chance to deeply explore the many different amazing and interesting parts of our world, they get to figure out what they are really interested in. This could help them decide what book to get out of the library, what topic to focus their project on, or what to study in school.

Reason 7: It helps kids and parents figure out HOW they like to learn

In the same vein, when we allow our children the opportunity to play in many different ways through visual arts, music, science, math, movement etc. they have more opportunities to figure out what type of learning they really love doing.

At the same time, we get to watch and figure out how they learn best. This knowledge is priceless for us as parents because it can help us decide what schools would be the best fit for our children, and can help us advocate for children so we can make sure they get what they need.

Reason 8: It strengthens our bonds with our kids

This may be the best reason of all, when your children are playing with and exploring topics deeply, so are you. You teach your child how much fun learning can and should be; you learn together, and regularly have fun and rich experiences that you will remember forever! This strengthens your relationship with your child and builds a life-long trust that you will rely heavily on when they are teenagers...

Playing with apples!


Topic based play is playing in many different ways with a single topic, like dinosaurs, gardens, or trucks over a long period of time. It has so many benefits from increasing your kiddos vocabulary and language skills, to fostering life long learning, to strengthening the bond between yourself and your kiddos.

Ready to do some amazing topic-based play?

This Video Series Mini Training Freebie will take you through the steps to design some play yourself

It does take some planning, so follow us for more ideas, and check-out our grOH Guides if you want us to do the planning for you!

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