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Disclosure: I received complimentary access to the Playful Learning eLessons so that I could put my huge stamp of approval on the courses described in this post. I found them so valuable to me personally that I also signed up as an affiliate, so some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Maker Mama will receive a small portion of sales from these links (thank you for your support of independent women!).

Today I’m excited to be sharing a recent interview I did with Mariah Bruehl, the extraordinary woman behind Playful Learning. When she contacted me back at the beginning of summer I was both honored that she had been reading my little ‘ole blog and impressed with how down-to-earth she is.

Her site is full of inspiration for creating intentional learning environments for kids, with everything from how to create a learning nook, to simple and gorgeous craft activities, and most of all, ideas for developing a lifelong love of learning. She is a woman I would love to sit and chat with over a cup of coffee!

The first eLesson I tried out was The Power of Put-Ups. It’s an interactive bite-size course with video for parents and kids that talks about building respect, positive relationships, and awareness of how our words and actions affect others.

The entire eLesson was very easy to navigate,  mobile-friendly, and my kids were really intrigued by the video made just for them. It was a great way to talk about some issues we’ve had with negativity in our home at times, as well as positive steps we can take to change our family. I especially loved the printable notes to write our own put-ups to each other.

What’s even better is that right now this class is being offered for free! Use discount code WORLDPEACE at checkout for a 100% discount for The Power of Put-Ups. She also has a free eBook for raising lifelong learners.

Let’s get to know this generous and talented woman a little more, shall we? Here’s my interview with Mariah:

1. As an organizationally challenged person myself, is there an easy first step you recommend for parents seeking to create an engaging learning space for their kids?

I think it is most practical to start with something simple. When we start out by wanting to tackle the big areas in our home, it can become overwhelming and often lead to analysis paralysis—and not much being accomplished.

I have seen that little changes can make a big difference and are a great way to build your confidence and create a positive momentum. It is for this reason that I often recommend that people start by finding a little nook or corner in their home where they can leave out a theme-based basket of materials for their children to discover. When you start looking through your children’s toys and materials with the idea of sorting them by themes, you will often find that you already have everything you need to create an inviting nook. You will be amazed to find that old toys presented in new ways can spark a fresh interest in your child.

2. You began Playful Learning after ending your job as a teacher and becoming a work-at-home-mom. Did you know how big it would become?

I started Playful Learning when I left the school environment. Although I was eager to be at home with the girls, I loved my work and thought that starting a blog would be a good way to keep my feet wet in the field of education.

As some of you may know, starting a blog is a humbling experience. There was nothing more exciting than clicking “publish” on that first blog entry and nothing more deflating than having no one read it (for months). For the first six months of Playful Learning’s existence, I felt like I was writing to myself—into a cyber abyss. I contemplated giving up many times. Yet, slowly, blog post by blog post, I started to find myself, my niche, my purpose, and a wonderful community of readers (thank you!).

Ironically it was just at the moment when I started to wonder whether all of the hard work was worthwhile, that I received the opportunity to write the book, Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder with Roost Books. This was a powerful lesson to me as I have found that just beyond those moments when we question ourselves and are filled with self-doubt, lies little miracles waiting to happen. Yet if we give into the fear and play it safe, we may never uncover them.

It is fun for me to look back at my very first blog post. Whenever I read it, I am always amazed at how I found my voice as a woman, a parent, and an educator through writing the blog. And while I can see how my writing has evolved over time, it is a good reminder to me that my current goals and my original intent are still the same…

“Our wish for this website is to create a community of families who document and share their playful learning experiences so that we can learn from and collaborate with people world-wide.” – June 2, 2008

3. What gives you strength in balancing your business and full-time motherhood? How do you see Playful Learning growing as your girls get older?

I love that you asked about what gives me strength rather than how I find balance! I personally feel that the idea that we can actually find the perfect balance between work and family is a bit of a myth. With that said, I feel like women have more options than ever before to do work that they love and be there for their families. The internet provides so many opportunities for woman to build community, utilize their strengths, and pave their own career paths.

The Playful Learning Ecademy is truly a family run business. Our daughters listen intently to discussions my husband and I have about the direction of the company and will often contribute with their own ideas. As the girls get older they become more intricately involved in every aspect what we do from brainstorming ideas for eLessons, to writing their own scripts, to planning out the shot list for filming days.

While there are a lot of little things that we do as a family to make sure that we are all thriving both as a unit, as well as individually—I must say that it is not until recently that I have realized how important it is for me to prioritize myself. I spent many years putting myself last—thinking that it was serving my family and furthering my career. Now that I am taking that little bit of extra time to exercise and nurture myself, I realize that it is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It was a big paradigm shift for me, and it has made a huge difference in the way I see myself and the world.

I hope you found inspiration in both Mariah’s interview and the amazing courses she offers. I’ve just started her newest course, Playful Learning Spaces, and I’m excited over the possibilities for improving our home for the kids–especially as we venture into homeschooling this fall.

Today Mariah is very generously offering one free Playful Learning Spaces course to a lucky Maker Mama reader. Made up of 6 classes filled with videos and tons of supplemental material, as well as a private space for students to chat with each other and share photos of their own spaces in progress, there’s no way you won’t be inspired by this course!

Sign up below for your chance to win free lifelong access to the course, or if you’re itching to get started right away you can sign up for any of the Playful Learning eLessons here. Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

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