The Importance of Learning with Joy

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Those things you learn without joy you will forget easily . . .     — Finish Saying

I just read a really interesting blog entitled The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland posted by in October of last year. It talks about how today’s kindergarten was yesterday’s first grade. How learning to read has become not only a goal but mandatory for kindergartners. We’re talking about 5 year olds here.

By now, we all know that time spent on literacy in our kindergarten classrooms has increased, at the expense of time spent on music, arts, child selected activities and active playtime outside, as in recess. Formal instruction has also increased as has the use of assessments. Again, we’re talking about 5 year olds here.


Of course, there are schools here that have gone another route and make child driven activities their focus, understanding that children learn best through play. But those schools are a small percentage when compared to all the schools that have more and more taken play out of the learning experience.

Finland has a totally different take on how kindergartners learn best. First, children start kindergarten at age 6. Second, they spend a large part of their days in active play. Finland requires its kindergarten teachers to offer playful learning opportunities to every kindergartner on a regular basis. The blogger – a teacher who had moved to Finland two years ago –  goes on to relate his story of visiting a Finnish public kindergarten where a typical school day is just four hours long. There are drastic differences between what he saw there vs. what happens in our own kindergarten classes here.

There are whole days devoted just to games and active sports, and whole days devoted just to songs and stations. The school’s kindergarten educators have their students engage in desk work—like handwriting—just one day a week. There’s an understanding there that it’s not a natural way for a child to learn when the teacher says, ‘Take this pencil and sit still.’     — Tim Walker


My favorite quote in the article is

Play is a very efficient way of learning for children. And we can use it in a way that children will learn with joy.     — Tim Walker

That word – joy – is my favorite word in the English language. It evokes so many good memories and feelings for me. In so many ways, I think that people these days have lost their joy in life, in love and in learning.


The blog goes on to quote an old Finish saying: “Those things you learn without joy you will forget easily.”

So, understanding that we are not going to change our own education system overnight.  There are ways to create joyful learning experiences for the children of our community. Here in Phoenix, you have the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, where their vision is to “foster a joy of learning” (check their website, it’s on their About Us/Mission & History page).  They have over 300 hands-on play experiences designed just for children ages 10 and under. And they have a specific focus on the five and younger set.


This Museum has three floors of interactive exhibits that are child driven, open-ended and no-fail. There is no right or wrong way of doing something here. What happens is all based on the child’s developmental stage at that time. Which makes the learning that much more important. Because what they can’t do, or don’t feel comfortable doing on one visit, they can try it on the next. And that repetition of doing something over and over until you feel you have “mastered” it, teaches a child to takes risks, to persevere and to succeed, all while playing. Unbeknownst to them, they will also be learning math, and science, and building literacy skills all at the same time plus so much more.


So if you think your child’s school is not doling out enough play time to your child, bring them to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix where they can learn in a truly joyful way.  Also, remember to always offer your kids open-ended play experiences where they can use their creativity and imagination early and often.

You can read Tim Walker’s great blog– the inspiration for this post — here:


About Marion Wiener 

I’ve always loved children. Even as a child myself, I would play with my dolls as if they were my babies. Or I would line up all my dolls and teddy bears and pretend they were in school and I was their teacher. As an adult, I have been blessed with twin daughters who spent a lot of time in self-directed, open-ended play when they were children. Children are our most valuable asset.

As the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Children’s Museum of Phoenix I get to surround myself with the sights and sounds of thousands of little bodies in the Museum each and every day. It made sense to me that I would wind up here in a place that values early childhood development and school readiness of children to the degree that we do.

Our mission, is to engage the minds, muscles and imaginations of children and the grown-ups who care about them. And in today’s world, when more and more of our children’s playtime is being taken away from them and being replaced by didactic learning environments, I feel especially privileged to work towards bringing learning into children’s lives the way that they learn best – through play!

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  • Reply Active Moms Blog AZ - Imaginative Play at its Finest

    […] things. This is such valuable play time for kids and I’m not alone in thinking this, see our recent guest post by the folks at Children’s Museum of […]

    August 7, 2016 at 10:33 pm
    • Reply Talyah

      I believe joy and fun should be kept in classroom and at home. It gives the child a better learning environment and makes learning fun.

      January 16, 2017 at 3:04 am
  • Reply Jodee

    Katrina, I love this! The article was thought-provoking. It is common for my kids to return from school with a hunger for play, like they have been starved from it for hours. It makes it so hard to then complete homework (more worksheets) before it is time for the dinner/bath/bed routine. So much is packed in our little ones’ days! The open-ended play at CMoP is like a vacation for them. After our visits we have to coax them to the car–exhausted, creative “muscles” stretched– with promises to return again, soon.

    October 18, 2016 at 7:25 pm
  • Reply Eva

    I definitely think joy should be infused in classes and at home. Kids don’t need to be siting down all day long, they are kids let them play and learn, it’s what they do best.

    January 14, 2017 at 6:39 am
  • Reply Noel

    Absolutely. I see my child feed off of the attitude that his teacher approaches each day with. She fills the classroom with joy and excitement about learning and he now has that joy and excitement as well.

    January 14, 2017 at 4:23 pm
  • Reply HollyA.

    Children always need more time to be children.

    January 14, 2017 at 11:13 pm
  • Reply Lisa N.

    Yes, that article speaks to my Early Childhood Educator heart! I taught elementary school before staying home and I feel like it’s going to be so hard to back because I know how much things have changed. I really feel like focusing on preschool where play is more valued. No matter what, I always hope to feel a child’s life with a joy for learning!

    January 15, 2017 at 4:05 am
  • Reply Heather W

    I completely agree that joy should be infused into the classroom and be an active part of learning. Children should be provided with developmentally appropriate activities that celebrate the child’s natural methods of learning. For a young child, natural exploration and learning are through play and social interactions. My children have greatly enjoyed their learning experiences at the Phoenix Children’s Museum by engaging in meaningful play. It is a wonderful place for children to explore and learn with their family!

    January 15, 2017 at 4:17 am
  • Reply Randee Beimer

    I toured a few Kinder Prep schools before we chose the one they attend now. Their class focuses on play, and that’s what we wanted for them before they head into a public Elementary School where academics will prevail. I just hope that I provide enough play and imaginative at home!

    January 15, 2017 at 3:47 pm
  • Reply Tiffany


    January 15, 2017 at 7:00 pm
  • Reply Jenny Gault

    Absolutely joy should be included in the classroom! The more children want the learn, the more they will learn.

    January 15, 2017 at 7:49 pm
  • Reply Lauren

    Children need to play to learn!

    January 15, 2017 at 7:52 pm
  • Reply Joy M

    Joy is the best way for anything & everything! Whether it’s work, chores or school, always infuse your life with Joy!!!

    January 15, 2017 at 8:00 pm
  • Reply Heather Kallies

    Our children are little for such a short time. I wish the education system could recognize that and utilize active, curiosity based learning more in the primary grades.

    January 15, 2017 at 8:18 pm
  • Reply Heidi B.

    I think a good educator makes learning fun. It’s so important to intill that passion for learning early on… it will benefit children for the rest of their lives!

    January 15, 2017 at 8:50 pm
  • Reply Jodi Slupski

    I love this! I often read aboit other countries and how their schooling differs,and how students are more successful. I wish we could take a look at these statistics and implement them in the US.

    January 15, 2017 at 9:33 pm
  • Reply Christina

    A large part of early education should be focused on socialization and allowing our children ample time for play to build relationships, investigate their curiosities, and develop a love of learning.

    January 15, 2017 at 9:49 pm
  • Reply Valerie Arnold

    I think when you are a kid learning should be fun. It is hard for little kids to sit still and this way learning is movement, fun, passionate, and natural! More kind of this learning.

    January 15, 2017 at 10:04 pm
  • Reply Lisa

    it’s a very fine line that educators have to encounter. it’s important to make learning fun, but what’s even more important is for our children to have human interaction. I see too many teachers turning to the internet for story time when it’s a classroom of 4-5 year olds.

    January 15, 2017 at 10:42 pm
  • Reply Crystal

    Yes I think it’s important that children enjoy learning. If they don’t enjoy it they won’t want to continue to learn. Even when school is over it is important to have the drive and want to learn more.

    January 16, 2017 at 3:43 am
  • Reply Lynnette Hunt

    I believe in learning with joy

    January 16, 2017 at 4:30 am
  • Reply Elizabeth Canuas

    It makes me sad that children as young as kinder have so many more pressures to succeed rather than just being a kid. Children can be successful with out being over tested.

    January 16, 2017 at 4:46 am
  • Reply Michelle oswald

    So important!!!! Kids are so much more responsive when motivated by fun!

    January 16, 2017 at 5:38 am
  • Reply Briseida

    Yes. My children go to a preschool that teaches with joy. It’s Joy preschool. Joy of the earth, joy of feelings, pretty much joy of everything. Including math, reading, arts and music. I always wondered why it isn’t applied after preschool.

    January 16, 2017 at 6:09 pm
    • Reply Katrina Sherk

      That sounds wonderful! And yes, why can’t that be applied throughout all the school years?

      January 16, 2017 at 6:29 pm
  • Reply Serapia

    When I was young and in school in Mexico they taught us with joy. I loved learning.

    January 16, 2017 at 6:29 pm
    • Reply Katrina Sherk

      That is wonderful to hear. Joy does make a difference!

      January 16, 2017 at 9:50 pm
  • Reply rachael debates

    I think joy and fun and laughter should be applied in school because it makes kids want to do more!

    January 16, 2017 at 8:08 pm
  • Reply Cheryl Mercado

    Kids are so excited to start school and then it fades. I think more joy in the classroom is super important.

    January 16, 2017 at 9:42 pm
  • Reply Meghan L

    Play opens the mind’s imagination and creativity. That leads to joyful learning. Our society needs to move away from core curriculum and hyper sensitivity on test scores and get back to the roots of learning. Let children play, explore, push boundaries, and learn by those empassioned.

    January 17, 2017 at 12:07 am
  • Reply Martha KJ

    My teacher 2 cents: joy + learning = a lifelong learner

    January 17, 2017 at 12:42 am
    • Reply Katrina Sherk

      I think that is worth a whole lot more than 2 cents 🙂

      January 17, 2017 at 2:44 am
  • Reply Melissa

    Thank you for sharing this-love!!!

    January 17, 2017 at 4:58 pm
    • Reply Katrina Sherk

      Our pleasure. We are very fortunate to work with the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, experts on making learning a wonderful, fanciful, colorful, musical, tactile experience. Watch for more great posts from the museum’s Marion Wiener.

      January 19, 2017 at 7:54 pm

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