The How To Dos

Early Childhood Backbone

When presenting or networking with fellow early childhood passion-ers I am often asked for good resources.  Here is a list of some of my top go to early childhood resources.  Some were critical to developing my foundation in early childhood and my backbone for supporting quality early childhood practices.  Others are resources that I still keep on hand.  And a few are some recent finds.  Enjoy and dive in!

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Deb Curtis and Margie Carter are early childhood geniuses!  Their tips and perspective on how to stage an environment and how to interact with children are dynamic.  Their recommendations in the text: “The Art of Awareness” for observing children and applying observations towards adapting curriculum and environment are essential skills for reflective educators to learn.  Their recommendations are child centered, aesthetically pleasing, and innovative for today’s contemporary and adaptive classrooms.

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Vivian Paley has mastered the art of story writing and storytelling with children.  Any teacher that has the desire to increase children’s joy and interest for writing should try incorporating story dictations and acting in the classroom.  Vivian Paley’s books support the success and methods of how to implement this practice.  I have had the great honor of hearing her speak on the topic of preserving play and childhood in Kindergarten.  As I waited in line for her to sign my copy of “The Girl with the Brown Crayon” I remember excitingly waiting as if I was in a concert line for an autograph.  You just can’t replicate true passion for children and this timeless woman has it pinned.

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images  Looking for ideas for staging dramatic play areas?  This book is packed with how to stage a dramatic play area in a way that is engaging for the children and filled with key literacy development opportunities.  It is also filled with checklists and guides that help with developing play areas, assessing play, and being armed with information on how children learn through play.

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These Reggio Emilia and Emergent curriculum books (Emergent Curriculum by Elizabeth Jones, Bringing Reggio Home by Caldwell, Working in the Reggio Way by Wurm, and In the Spirit of the Studio by Lella Gandini and Co-Authors, The Wonder of Learning by Reggio Children publication and Exhibit) were all key reads for my foundation in and passion for following the lead of children and incorporating interest based curriculum in the classroom.

My new Reggio finds that I have been in love with can be found online. (a lovely blog about incorporating Reggio and Montessori materials in everyday life and learning) and Branches Atelier ( in Santa Monica.  If ever you have a chance to attend one of their workshops run!  Run to it fast.


Mem Fox is a well know children’s book author.  You must read her books to your children especially “Tough Boris” (an enchanting story of a pirate that cries too).  But more importantly you must read her book “Reading Magic” for teachers and parents.  Her perspective on teaching reading and the importance of Reading Aloud to young children is inspiring and life changing.

A solid ground for me is preserving nature in lives of children.  So “Last Child in the Woods” by Louv is a must read.  It really puts the need for outdoor play and natural experiences on your priority list.

And the list goes on…  I could fill this page with hundreds of good reads and experiences that will fill your cup with inspiration.  But, here I stop.  I think this dose will keep you busy in your studies.  Another day when someone prompts me with a “but how did you…”  I will post another list of resources that made me the educator I am today.

“What you do today can improve all your tomorrows”

The Environment

Small World Play

Republished from archived blog Polliwog and Flutterbys October 2012


There is a popular form of play called small world play.  It is very common across the ocean but here in the US we seem to forget about it in the classroom.  As teachers many of us pile up the animals, figures, and little world props in manipulative bins.  But it is a missed opportunity when we do such.  If we took those materials and staged little worlds for the children we are essentially setting up a platform for major learning.  By attracting children to a small world filled with scenery, figurines, and related play props we are inviting them to be social with others, to expand their language skills, to use their imagination, to move things with their hands (which enhances fine motor skills necessary for writing), and to open themselves up to becoming storytellers or project collaborators.  So take those lego guys out of the bins, the mini animals, the little dolls, the cars, and other small play props and design a eye catching world for the children to engage with.  It will be well worth the time and I think you will be pleasantly surprised to see what the children do there.


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The How To Dos

Why Time Out Doesn’t Work

Many Early Childhood educators today are being told that they are not allowed to use time out. Today while attending a Challenging Behaviors training a topic of discussion came up and of course it was… TIME OUT. Some preschools shared that they use TIME OUT, some shared that they are not allowed to, while others said they use it but they do not call it TIME OUT. So after this training I realized that the most important factor was not JUST whether we use time out or not but what we see as a time out.

A time out is a break from play or activities. When we are angry (even as adults) it is important to have the opportunity to stop and think or step away from a problem. It is not a break from play that makes time out ineffective. It is how time out is implemented. When time out is used as a punitive punishment to isolate a child from others it is emotionally harmful to a child. Often a child will feel shamed and revengeful rather than sorry and empathetic for their wrongs.

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What am I doing here?  

As educators we want children to grow so that they will independently be able to solve problems and conflicts. If we take control by sending a child to time out we are throwing up several barriers against this goal:
– isolation in time out to “think” about a problem is often cognitively challenging to a child. A child may not be able to separate their emotional brain from their problem solving brain. If a child has not had the opportunity to be a part of problem solving prior to the conflict they will not have anything to think about in time out – they need help walking through the steps of a conflict so that they know what their “good choice” options are.
– sending a child to time out takes away their opportunity to be independent. We take away the power from children to be actively engaged in resolving conflicts when we send them to time out. A child needs to have power over fixing a problem so that they are able to resolve conflicts on their own.
– often a child is sent to time out and is given attention by the teacher or other students which often is the reason for misbehavior in the first place. This allows the child to obtain the desired outcome in the first place without being held accountable for their actions (time out does not stipulate the need to make a mend with another or to change action towards a better choice option).
– time out allows for a big ugh-oh to happen on the teacher’s part. The ugh-oh I left you there for 15 minutes and now you have been sitting there for much longer than intended. Now who owes who an apology?

So is it ok to let a child take a time out? Of course. If it was their choice. A child can learn how to say sorry or I will change what I am doing so I can stay here – but it is also acceptable for a child to say I do not want to talk about it. It is ok for a child to need a break before discussing a conflict. If a child needs time to cool down or walk away this is a self regulation strategy that even adults implement. Don’t tell me you have never told the love of your life to give you space before you boil over.

What is our obligation as teachers to children during discipline and problem solving?
– help children resolve problems with assistance until they are ready to do so on their own
– help children label feelings such as anger, sadness, worry, scared, etc.
– help children monitor their own emotional cues (e.g. I can see that you are not ready to come back to the sand pit because you are clenching your fits and breathing heavy. Are you still angry? Can I help you take a deep breathe or would you like to do something else until you are ready?)
– build a tool kit of resources with children that help them positively socially engage, resolve conflicts, and self regulate their emotions
– help children adapt their behaviors to positive choices (sometimes this means asking a child to leave an area until they can be safe, this is not a time out)
-keep all children safe and assist each child in feeling a part of the community
– help children find positive outlets to release anger (bottled up anger is not good for anyone)

Although I was a bit charged about the promotion of time out my take away from the training today was to identify the source of the challenging behavior (attention seeking, revenge based, feelings of inadequacy, or desire to have power) and to allow children to release emotion physically (even if it means hitting a pillow. These take aways highlight the importance of identifying the source in order to address a solution and allowing for children to release energy before it becomes aggression targeting a person.