• Ishani Shah-Verdia

How to grasp teachable moments (in PLAY)?

Updated: May 3, 2020



Sahaj offers a TRUE PLAY based CURRICULUM for children in the age group of 2 to 6 years.


World Health Organization mentions on its website, “Children represent the future, and ensuring their physical, socio-emotional and language and cognitive development ought to be a priority for all societies”.

Researchers and developers know that it is only real play that will benefit the whole development across the socio-emotional, physical, language, cognitive development domains.


To the majority of people in our city, Sahaj appears to be a place where children are just PLAYING and nothing is ever TAUGHT, so, children never LEARN. On the contrary, real learning happens in every moment that the child is at Sahaj. Though PLAY may appear to be simple, PLAY is profound.


We sensitively OBSERVE every child and when a TEACHABLE MOMENT emerges, we support the child’s curiosity. In every other moment, we are LEARNING from children. We learn about their stories, their thoughts, their inner world, their dreams, their social relationships and through this learning we get a peep into their life and their developmental milestones. By learning from children, we are presented with the priceless gift of looking at the wonders of life all over again.


Most adults wish to make every moment into a TEACHABLE MOMENT. Sahaj does not employ a play-way method of teaching. We never promise to teach alphabets, numbers through a play-way method. Children discover alphabets, numbers, reading, counting, scientific phenomenons through PLAYING. We as facilitators are there to SUPPORT children.

As facilitators, we have attuned ourselves to spot a teachable moment and then support the child.

Supporting children in a TEACHABLE MOMENT empowers them and their PLAY. Attempting to teach in every moment leads to children’s curiosity and the POWER OF DISCOVERY being destroyed. This is the fine distinction that every PLAY facilitator needs to understand.

Let me share an interesting anecdote from the early days when Sahaj was operating from a temporary set-up and resources were made available as per the needs of children. It is a process that was spread across a few days.


In Cosimo’s play, the parachute became the volcano, Cosimo’s pretend play had volcano settings all the time. The rest of the children too started getting exposed to the word, “Volcano”


I asked him once, would you like to make a volcano? Cosimo excitedly with a big grin said, “Yes! Yes!”


So, the next day there was clay made available. The child made a volcano hill.


And, then, the next day, we asked the child, "what about the lava?"

Cosimo said, “lava is hot and that is why I am going to use hot rocks, so that hot lava comes out of the volcano." Could an adult have ever come up with the idea of using hot rocks? If an adult would have intervened at this moment, the child would have been devoid of the possibility to experiment making lava with hot rocks.

At this moment, I was reminded of Albert Einstein’s famous quote, “PLAY is the highest form of research.”

Since the other children didn't know what a volcano is, We arranged for a book on volcano to read about volcano and look at the images in a book. By reading from a book about volcanoes, we not only model reading, but also research techniques.


And, then the next day, I share with everyone ," I have got vinegar, baking soda to make lava." The child says, "oh, if we mix this, does that make a lava?"


I said, “Yes”. (In hindsight, I could have said, “maybe, let us try it and see.” )


The child says, but, lava is red. So, we give him red food colour.

Now, we are all set to make the lava erupt from a volcano. Before we commence the process of mixing the soda and other ingredients, Cosimo says in a highly excited voice, " this is going to be aaaaaa-mazing." The other children too start speaking in excited, bubbly voices.



While arranging the volcano, I share with children (in a simple person-to-person tone with the intention to share), "we had read in a book, a volcano erupts when the fire from beneath the Earth's surface comes out. Let us see if our volcano will erupt or not?"


The children take turns in "counting" the number of spoons of soda added. (children are learning how to wait for their turn while also engaging in COUNTING)

Then, we add the soap, the red colour, the vinegar.....

Voila.....

When,the lava erupts , there are so many excited, squeaky, bubbly screams, laughter all around me.


This is a child led process.

The children own the process of volcano making. When children own the process, children grow up to be self-confident decision makers. Volcano making was not part of a pre-determined curriculum. In schools, most of us are conditioned to think this is a science experiment. But, no, this wasn't an experiment, since, it was not a one day event where the teacher decides on introducing a volcano experiment as part of a STEM concept.

This was PLAY. This was an extension of play. This was giving life to a child's imagination. Play is learning, play is powerful, play is important. So, if the older children were excited to give life to a volcano, for the younger ones, it was a rich, sensory experience. They made many volcanoes for a few days.


After a few months, children started making volcanoes again with all the materials they found in our permanent space and asked for the materials they didn't find. This time they had improvised and made a hospital to take the injured insects to.



In the video, we could hear Apramaiya telling Raedita, “we can both do it.” Through these words, she displayed the essential life skill of creative problem solving, which lays the foundation for complex negotiation for social relationships and so much more.

Children will eventually learn reading and writing, but, without opportunities of TRUE PLAY in a non-judgmental space, children might not be able to learn the essential life skills that will help them navigate life's complex situations as an adult. It is through PLAY that children are naturally aligning their physical and cognitive abilities to reach the writing stage.


It is a nuanced skill to direct at the right moment. A play facilitator should invest energies in nurturing a CONNECTION with each child. When the facilitator weaves that CONNECTION, it becomes easy to spot the TEACHABLE MOMENTS for each child. For every child, the teachable moments are different. This is the reason why the maximum capacity of Sahaj’s play program is 12 children to be able to offer an intimate experience to each child.


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