Just Playing : pop, pop, popcorn

Today, I am joining my fellow bloggers for a new series titled “Just Playing?” In order for this idea to work, it will need a little help from you all so I hope you jump on in and have fun…

The Goal of “Just Playing?”

Play is a critical part of early learning and yet it is easy to overlook the complex learning that is taking place and dismiss child’s play as nothing but “just play.” This exercise is to help each of us build and strengthen our skills in observing, reflecting, and recognizing the value of children’s play in the process of learning and developing important new skills.

Just Playing? A fun exercise to discover the power of play.

How to play

  1. Look closely at the photo below and read the title on the photo (which is the only hint you get).
  2. Then answer one (or all) of the questions below the photo.
  3. Come back next Thursday to read the entire post about this play experience.

Just Playing? Pop, pop, popcorn! by Teach Preschool


  1. Observations: What do you see? What is happening?
  2. Outcomes: What kind of learning is taking place? What skills are being practiced or developed?

Thank you so much for your participation. I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments below! Be sure to check out the blog hop just below to see what my fellow bloggers are sharing for this week’s edition of “Just Playing?’

By |2014-02-20T06:00:22+00:00February 20th, 2014|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Samantha @ Stir the Wonder February 20, 2014 at 7:52 am - Reply

    I see imaginative play, creativity, fine motor skills and perhaps counting and math skills being worked on while playing! Can’t wait to read all about this valuable play time! P.S. – love the way you formatted this post.

  2. Julie February 20, 2014 at 9:17 am - Reply

    It looks to me like a child is playing in the mud and squirting water from the hose. Fine motor skills are being developed as she squeezes the nozzle. Scientific thinking is evolving as she observes the changes that happen to the dirt with the addition of water – it gets goopier, feels slippery, squirts all over the place if she sprays close-up and squeezes hard.

    • Julie February 20, 2014 at 9:30 am - Reply

      LOL…just realized I was looking at the wrong picture!

  3. Kim February 20, 2014 at 12:55 pm - Reply

    I see potential for many things to happen but it is very difficult to tell from this picture what is actually happening or what type of learning is taking place. It appears from the title and what I can see that a child has put yellow cotton balls in a play pot and is pretending that it is popcorn. That is great imagination. It is difficult to tell if the child is perhaps counting the balls while he is pointing at them or just placing them in the pot. There is some limited fine motor skills being used as he picks up the balls and puts them in the pot. It would be great if he had tweezers to help enhance this skill. There could also possibly be some sorting going on if the child has other colored cotton balls available but again you can’t see this.

  4. Jenny February 20, 2014 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    I think they have already “poured” yellow butter on their popcorn. They may be ready to count and compare their numbers to others or they may be ready to find the smallest popcorn. But mostly I know their having a great time learning through play and imagination!

  5. Stephanie Schuler February 20, 2014 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    Love it! Sounds like a great, authentic learning experience for students!

  6. anne February 21, 2014 at 4:44 am - Reply

    I see sensory as he plays with the fluffy popcorn. maths and fine motor skills.

  7. Estela February 21, 2014 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    Math skills, motor skills and imagination. Pom poms are popcorn, can count them and pick them up to transfer to another receptacle. Agree tongs would enhance the motor skill.

  8. Jeanne February 21, 2014 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    I appreciate the close up photo of specific materials – one blue bowl, 5 yellow pom poms – and the child’s hand ready to manipulate, add or subtract pom poms, or feel the texture. When children have defined/chosen materials with which to work, and perhaps a context for the game or exploration, it allows for a clearer observation by the educator to interpret the creative or cognitive process of the child.
    I am wondering what was happening right before this photo was taken, and what occurred five minutes later.
    I am wondering if this child had expressive language that was math based such as counting quantity of pom poms, or perhaps identifying sensorial experience of soft or fuzzy, or dramatic play language around popping popcorn for friends or a party.

  9. ayn colsh February 21, 2014 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    I can imagine lots of scenarios that might include this. I certainly see some sensory input going on. I wonder if the children popped the pom poms up in the air to simulate the popping of the popcorn? I’ll bet they did some counting–maybe to divide up the popcorn equally among friends? I can’t wait to read what the actual play was!

  10. Nadia February 22, 2014 at 3:38 am - Reply

    I see bright, fluffy pompoms(sensory experience)
    From the heading I can imagine that the kids played this was popcorn(imagination play)
    Opportunity for counting ,sorting , dividing arises.

  11. Jessica February 22, 2014 at 8:34 am - Reply

    Sensory play with soft squishy pompoms. Imaginative role-playing as they pretend to cook popcorn and are probably mimicking an experience they have had. Possibly social play if they are involved with another child. Can’t wait to see more about it!

  12. Amy @ Child Central Station February 22, 2014 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    I love that this prompt leaves so much up to our imagination. It is a reminder that so much learning happens in even just a short period of time. It is hard to tell if the child is counting or grabbing the loose parts (pom poms) they are using to pretend to be popcorn. Fine motor skills are being developed, as well as well as expressive language (inferred from the pop-pop-popcorn). The photo leads me to believe that this is an act of solo play and imitation of the child’s previous experiences with popcorn. I can’t wait to see what else is coming! Thanks for linking up!

    • Melanie February 24, 2014 at 6:53 pm - Reply

      It looks to me that the child is counting the imaginary popcorn as he or she is picking them up.

  13. Bekki @a better way to homeschool February 24, 2014 at 10:09 am - Reply

    I love this article. The idea of “just play” being critical to learning is so important! I’d suggest that it is critical at all stages of childhood as well. There are lessons to be learned about teamwork, justice, mercy, and creativity that can be gleaned from play that occur naturally.
    Thank you for this:)

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