Near the end of the movie “The Wizard of Oz”, the wizard reveals the balloon by which he intends to take Dorothy back to Kansas.  He says, “I, your Wizard par ardua ad alta, am about to embark upon a hazardous and technically unexplainable journey into the outer stratosphere to confer, converse, and otherwise hob-nob with my brother wizards” (Screenplay, 1939 Wizard of Oz – movie script by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Alan Woolf, based on the book by L. Frank Baum)
One time, I was preparing to go to an education conference.  A colleague asked what I do at these conferences, and I said “hob-nob with other wizards”.  The more conferences I attend and the more friends I make among other presenters, the more wizardly it feels. So I looked up some dictionary definitions of “wizard” and aside from magic and the maleness of distinguishing from witches, there are many great definitions including clever, excellent, amazing, brilliant, expert, and other really neat words. 
The NAEYC Professional Development Institute that year was about as full of wizards as any conference I’ve ever attended. Leaders in the field sat and learned in workshops given by other leaders in the field.  It was an amazing few days of learning. The last workshop I attended was about making blogs. So I came home and created this blog.  I hope you join me in this blogging adventure and that you find it fun and educational.

Sometimes, we tell stories with children to help them work through problems.  The scene: The park.  An older child grabbed your child’s toy and it broke.  He gave it back and left the park. You were too far away to intervene. Your child, A, was very upset and could not calm down enough to play and you and the rest of the family went home.  At bedtime, A was still upset. “He braked my toy”, A said over and over again, getting more and more agitated each time.  You pointed out that sometimes, toys break, and it was not A’s fault, and next week, when it’s payday, you can try to get A another one.  NO!! I want my toy NOW!!!

Calmly, you say, “Let’s make a story about the toy.”  What happened?  He braked my toy!  Where were we with that toy?  In park. Yes, we went to the park. You brought your toy. A big boy broke your toy and ran away. You were angry! Another day, we can buy another toy. 

Talking about it and adding details may help A decide that the new toy should be bigger or smaller, or a different color.  This way, A can look forward to getting a new toy and talk about the attributes of the new toy every time the story is retold.  Maybe, after lots of retelling, A will want a different toy instead.  Maybe a picture of A’s angry face can be made and another one with A’s happy face with the new toy. The details aren’t as important as the process of channeling the anger into storytelling, and accepting emotions, even strong ones. 

Things don’t always work out the way we want them to, but we can always manage our feelings. 

When children are able to choose their own activity, it often brings them joy. Sometimes they look very happy, laughing, squealing, shouting, and the like. Sometimes, they get fully engaged with what they are doing and they may not look joyful. When adults are fully engaged with their own efforts, they call this “flow” or “in the zone”, and they usually look serious and lose track of others. It is exactly the same with young ones. Sometimes, we will hear “uh-oh” when something doesn’t quite work and they have to try something else. When they figure out what they were trying to do, they will usually smile, yell, or somehow call attention to what they did. When adults observe the action, and maybe take notes, it doesn’t interrupt the child and allows the child to complete whatever the child was doing. It also can bring joy to the adult to see the child actually learning. Adults can take some brief notes of what the children are doing and can add the learning concepts to their observations. It also helps them frame comments and questions after the activity, such as “When you were pushing the car up the ramp and it fell off, I saw that you changed the ramp.”

When adults either interrupt the action or arbitrarily decide to intercede in the action by asking what seems to be a relevant question, it spoils the child’s concentration and is definitely not helpful. It took me a while to understand the difference between asking questions to increase the children’s responses and not breaking their concentration. When they look to you, you can look back and after a little while, say what you think is appropriate. But whey they are fully engaged, please don’t interrupt the learning! Adults are so interested in increasing children’s attention span. When they interrupt the child, it SHORTENS the attention span and can lead the child to think it may not be worth it to get involved since they are just going to be interrupted soon anyway.

Today is September 1. For most education oriented folks, the school year either started already or is about to start. Jews are thinking of the Jewish New Year which starts later in the month. So many starts.

I have started with a new webhost and I’ve been figuring out how to make new blog posts. Once I get the hang of it, I hope they will be more frequent. But for now, what do the start of the school year, the religious year, and a new webhost have in common? It’s a time to think of what was, what is, and how to make make what will be better than what was. In all of them, we should not be expecting huge transformations. We can improve best by making small steps and keeping at it.

Let’s see where we all go with all of these pending improvements. Here’s to a successful year, no matter which or how many years we are in.

Is your child excited about going back after having been away from the program for a long time? Is the child somewhat fearful? Is the child wondering if the people will remember her, if her friends will be there, if her teacher/s will be the same, if they will still like her? All of these may or may not be going around in the child’s head. The best way to know is to ask. Let’s think about going back to the program. Do you wonder about anything? You will probably NOT know the answers to most of the questions. This is okay. Just say I don’t know. What can we do to find out? Maybe you can ask some of the questions before the starting day. Maybe not, and maybe you will all just have to find out. As long as you approach it as an adventure, your child will get some reassurance from your attitude. Just be careful not to tell the child that everything will be wonderful. Maybe it will, but if it isn’t, you can create trust issues.

When you look online or in stores for toys for young children, many toys are offered for lots of money where they make noises, have lights, music, and other such things. None of them are necessary. Empty plastic containers, with and without lids and empty boxes are wonderful toys for exploring all sorts of learning. Comparing sizes by putting one thing in another teaches science and math without anyone instructing the child. Listening to the difference in sounds as these containers and boxes are clapped together or banged on the floor or against a table teaches difference in pitch, volume, and other musical concepts. More to come.

Play is an overused word that means much to early childhood educators and very little to many other adults. They often think of children “wasting” time with play.  It is during independent exploration that children discover and learn so very much. I challenge all who care about children to stop using the word play and replace it with exploration and discovery to begin to educate adults to the importance of what we used to call play.

This week, we’ve changed the clocks and everybody’s body clock will take about a week to get used to the new time.  Adults and children find this week difficult.  On top of this, we have an emotional election going on and most adults are concerned, whatever their political leanings.  We are also in a pandemic where the daily count of confirmed cases is growing daily.  In most states, children cannot play freely with their friends or see their grandparents.  In the north, the weather has changed nearly overnight from summery weather to wintery weather, requiring jackets, hats, and in many cases, gloves as well. All this is a lot for everyone to absorb at once. Every year, the number of all sorts of accidents is higher the week the clocks are changed.  If you drive, please be super careful because some of the other drivers are having body clock issues as well.

If you are involved in education, please do not give any major exams, teach anything difficult to understand, or expect papers to be in on time this week.  If you’ve already scheduled some of these things, try to modify it out of respect for the students.

The younger the child, the more difficult to adjust to the time change.  Young children who are having behavioral issues and who have begun to make progress may lose some of that progress this week. Do not think your attempts at improvement are worthless.  Take a deep breath, realize they are having a tough time, and ease up for a few days. These children need extra support right now.

When I ran early childhood programs, I tried to modify the meal and rest times during the week of clock changes.  On Monday, I tried to make the mealtime about 45 minutes off of the official time, gradually getting towards official time by Friday.  In the Fall, they needed less nap time, but were crankier as it approached the end of the day. I changed the daily schedule to allow for more outdoor time if possible, more stories, more singing, and if some of the children spontaneously fell asleep at weird times, I encouraged staff to let them sleep.

Every time the clocks are changed, some people find it harder than others to get their body clocks reset.  Cut them some slack.  There are things that you find hard that others find easy. This will always be true. It’s not personal. It just is. Please, out of respect, no deadlines this week.

Also, if you are in a relationship, be mindful of your own and the other person’s need for time to adjust to the time change.  If a major argument starts to happen, try to back off. Try to take some slow, deep breaths and just address it next week.  If you think it will help, show that person this article.

In case you wondering how I’m doing with the change, I’m finished writing this at 6:24 AM, Standard Time.  Wishing you an easy time change.

You don’t need a book to tell stories.  Story telling happens in all cultures, and has been going on far longer than the written word.  Any time you describe something that happened already, you are telling the story of what happened.  The more you do it, the easier it gets.  The first stories can be 1 statement.  We ate lunch.

Then add to it.  What did we eat?  “Pittr buttr”, which was how my second one said peanut butter.  What else did we eat? Apple.  Did we have anything to drink?  Milk.

Here’s the new story.  We ate lunch. We had peanut butter sandwiches. We drank milk.  We cut up an apple and had it for dessert.

It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. 

Do you want to tell the lunch story again?  Each time, you and the child/ren can add things – We were hungry. We wanted something that we could eat quickly.  We looked in the pantry.  (What did we find?) We found a jar of peanut butter.  We got a knife (where was it?) from the drawer.  We got bread from the counter (or refrigerator, or bread box).  We got plates.  (What did we put on the plates?) We put a slice of bread on each plate.  We used the knife to spread the peanut butter on the bread. We put another slice of bread on the top. We took out glasses…

You get it. This can take longer than the original lunch.  But as you add details, the child remembers and helps you add some more details.  And as you retell the story, the idea of order – what came first enters in to it as well.  There are many lesson plans on how to teach sequencing, but when children are in the habit of thinking about what came first, and then, and then, sequencing is not hard for them.

The idea is that any experience, when remembered, is a story.  Stories help review things that happened. Help remember how problems were solved like how the child/ren helped find something important. Help remember how upset/sad/angry they were and how it worked out.  And help children learn to make their own stories.


Someone asked how to introduce loose parts in an early childhood center where the teachers were not familiar with them. It would have been better to  introduce the idea at a staff meeting first. But it’s too late for that now. 

So I suggested what I did when introducing the study of balls.  I assembled 3 large bins of many sizes and types of balls, and put 1 in each of 3 classrooms.  I told the teachers that the only rule was to observe – and they couldn’t “teach” anything about them.

The staff meeting was 3 days later.  I told everyone about what I had done and asked each of the 3 teachers what happened.  One said “They didn’t learn anything, they just rolled them around and around.”  I asked her to tell us more.  They rolled them on the carpet and on the bare floor. They rolled them up and down ramps they made out of blocks.  Again, she said they didn’t learn anything.

The second one said they tried bouncing all of them. Some did bounce and some didn’t. Some of the children kept on trying to bounce the ones that didn’t bounce. Some children, after trying them, only would bounce the bouncy ones.

The third teacher said they threw the balls to each other.  First, they gently tossed them from very close to each other.  She did tell them not to throw them AT each other.  I said that was okay.  That morning, a few children made a throwing game – they stood on different sides of a cabinet and threw them over the cabinet.  Then they sat and threw them over the cabinet and tried to catch them.

The first one said, “See, I told you they didn’t learn.”

I said when children explored freely without adult interference, they explored different properties depending on their interests and their friends’ interests.  Without adults telling them what to do, one group investigated rolling, one bouncing, one throwing. 

This is PROOF that children learn by doing and by investigating on their own.  If I tried to set this up, I couldn’t have done any better.  I was SO excited by these results!

That was the first step towards developing studies of balls.  First children explore, then adults can come in and expand the learning opportunities.

This works with balls, loose parts, rocks – anything they can touch and move on their own.

Most often, children who make things, especially pictures, collages, block or rock or other structures, have no idea before-hand about a finished product.  They just make things.  Sometimes, after they are finished, they look at it and notice it looks like something.  One of my children made a sort of rectangle, looked at it for a while, and said, “Look, Mommy!  I made the refrigerator!”  He said it with surprise and pride at the same time.


Either they know what they made or they don’t. If they don’t, the question makes them think you want an answer, so many children will often say something to please you.  This is starting them on the slippery slope to lying. Yes, lying. Because making words up is lying.


If they do know what they made, the question can lead to thoughts of:

  • I’m not such a good artist (builder, etc.) or you would be able to see what I made.
  • You aren’t paying attention, just asking a question and not really looking at my work.


None of these answers are encouraging of the child or respectful of her feelings.  What can you say?

  • Please tell me more about this.
  • If it’s a picture – I see some colors – a lot of ___.
  • If it’s a structure – I see bigger pieces and smaller ones.

The idea is to notice something about it, and tell something about what you see without labeling it.  This shows the child that you look and see the work and that you are paying attention. This counts!



Now is the time, when states are re-examining their education systems, for all early childhood advocates to make our voices heard, and loudly.  We need to cite research that play and movement are critical to children’s development and demand that children through kindergarten have significant time for unscripted movement and play, with suitable materials for them to make discoveries and solve problems on their own.  Please join in this critically important work to roll back some of the anti-child, overly academic preschool, pre-K, and kindergarten practices and to literally save our children.

There will be more posts with more info.  Meanwhile, whenever you hear that someone in your state is working on changing education, SPEAK UP!!

When my children were small and medium sized, I was too often home with them during bouts of childhood illnesses.  “Boring” was not a word I liked to hear. So I tried all sorts of silly things to keep them interested.  One of their favorites was living room picnics.  I took a real tablecloth and brought food to the living room to have a picnic lunch together on the floor.  The children would help choose the foods, and as long as the whole day’s foods were healthy, I didn’t care if one meal was out of balance. We found that if it were more often than once a week, it was too much.  And it’s a bonus if it’s a rainy day.  Try it!