Sunday, October 21, 2018

More Harm Than Good

  Not allowing a child to use their muscles, their inner assessment skills, or to get to know their physical and mental capabilities is doing more harm than good. 
Not allowing a child to learn to trust themselves, but instead teaching them to lean on the assessment of adults does nothing to promote true safety. In fact, I'd argue that it creates an unsafe environment. 

 Not allowing a child to fall and learn how to get back up and try again is setting them up for a life of not being able to deal with failure. 

No one is suggesting that we allow children to jump off of a roof onto concrete, but bumps and scrapes are a part of childhood and an important learning tool. 

It is not our job to stifle the child's natural ability to decern what is too risky for them. 

It is not our job to restrict a child from learning to trust themselves and know their own capabilities. Let's make sure we are not doing more harm than good by "protecting" children. 

Instead, it is our job to design environments that support the child's inner need to take risks, jump, climb, run and roughhouse. To provide safe spaces for children to self-assess. 

To allow children to fall and get back up again. To feel the feeling of making a misjudgment and be motivated to alter their way of moving. 

This environment along with the time to explore it will allow the child to develop key skills needed to "be careful" to self-assess, to develop the proper muscles to safety perform challenging tasks.  
This new found trust and self-knowledge will present its self cognitively, physically,  as well as socially and emotionally contributing to the building of a whole complete child.  
Let's be sure that we are not doing More Harm Than Good. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

You Can See It

Like the layers on a cake, knowledge is built.. Like a block tower, knowledge is built block by block layer by layer, if you watch closely, you can see it.

We observe for this growth and development of understanding, the construction of new knowledge.  Children's play is so full of it... it's in everything they do, If you look closely, you can see it.

When a child goes from filling and dumping to filling and transporting then dumping.

Then to filling, transporting, refilling, then dumping.

 Then later repeating these actions while adding tools, adding ramps, and adding additional play partners.

We are seeing their understanding grow, their intrinsic interest deepen, and the difficulty level rise.  If you look closely, you can see it.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hijacking Play

The other day two of the boys in my group spent the majority of the day in the mud kitchen, They filled pots and pans with natural loose parts, packed in dirt, rocks, and water into muffin tins and worked long and hard planning a party complete with a very well decorated cake. They used kettles to fill cups with mud mixed water and laid out found pieces of felt on wood stumps as placemats for guests.

 After spending the day setting up they collected paint chips and set off to cut up tickets. "What color do you want?" they asked as they cut tickets off of the color reel.

As  an educator, I am able to observe this play, see what each child is getting out of it, visualize their thinking, their process and ultimately their learning. I understand the value in the children's own natural intrinsic motivation.
As I observe children in the "Zone" I watch as they solve problems on the spot, share ideas and consider the ideas of others, collaborate on completing a task, use past knowledge to take themselves further in their thinking and understanding, in effect stretching their own learning. It's like their mind is set free and their vision is clear.

If  I am watching from a, what I call,  "outside of the bubble" position I can see the rich learning present in this type of organic play.  I can see the whole picture and all of it's moving parts. I can see children who have a deep understanding of numbers, fractions, equal parts, volume, one to one correspondence, language, vocabulary, and an understanding of how tools work. Not to mention the scientific understanding that is gained from manipulating natural loose parts, mixing mediums, and hands-on experiences with the Earths treasures. I see children who display impulse control, respect for others, turn taking, critical thinking, problem-solving, and the ability to create an imaginative story line based largely on past experience.

Now, what do I do with what I see, do I take it and plan a "CAKE MAKING DAY?" no, I allow the children to own the idea, it's theirs.. they own it. I will not hijack their play to make it fit into my mold of where it should go. I will not steer it in any direction, I will not rob them of the right to create their own play, by creating it for them.

If they evolve to the point of wanting to make this "pretend" party into a "real" party I will be there to support them as they write the list of what they need, I will take them to the store and shop for their needs, I will provide them with all the time in the world to experiment with this idea and again.. get out of their way and allow it to unfold, allow the natural learning to take place, to allow the children to own their process.

They have all of their life to learn how to do it "right", right now is the time to learn how to figure out what their "right" way is and that takes experimentation.  If they look to me as an expert in cake making and ask for my input, I will be there, asking questions, reading labels, and filling that role, but until I am pulled into the play, I am not barging in..                                                                     
 -Lakisha Reid 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

In Their Natural Habitat

He walked with his chest out, arms swinging side to side taking hard march like steps. His smile stretched clear across his face, a look of satisfaction simmered in his eyes. He was HOME.. he was connected he was in nature. I had never seen that side of him, the side that exuded this kind of confidence, pride, and strength. He was only two, but somehow seemed older, wiser, and just plain POWERFUL. I continued to watch as he climbed, jumped, lifted and dragged heavy logs across the forest floor. He was nonstop as if a voice inside him was guiding his actions. From time to time he would gather with the other children in an imaginative scenario, they would rip and run, then regather adding new twists and turns to the plot and then rip and run again.  I could make out something about bears, they were chasing bears, catching them, building traps for them and letting them free, running gleefully as they pretended to be chased by them. 

As I watched I began to dissect the meaning and the learning behind this play, this seemingly meaningless play, where children ran and screamed, banged on tree stumps with sticks and dragged and moved large logs from place to place and I saw learning so deep so primal that I'd liken it to breathing. 

I saw risk.. they created the feeling of real risk as they ran from a bear that I would have sworn was really there, they screeched and hid and ran hard in order to not be eaten by this bear. 

They created physical challenge as they used their whole bodies to pull logs twice their size, rearrange piles of rocks and climb piles of fallen trees. 

They collaborated as they listened to the ideas of each other and found ways to fit everyone's perspective into the play.  

They used their imagination to create such intricate story lines and used loose parts in symbolic play to turn sticks into guns and trees into cages. 

Their sense of belonging was reinforced when all of the children gathered and huddled together to add to the play.. taking turns listening to each others thoughts, making alterations to the play to include one more friend.  

These children were mastering play in their natural habitat. 

With nature as the backdrop, the stage, the props, and the participant, children are allowed to bloom grow and learn IN THEIR NATURAL HABITAT.

Lakisha Reid 
Discovery Early Learning Center 
Founder of Play Empowers ( Sharing the POWER of PLAY) 

Saturday, September 3, 2016


Even as a child I was aware of my rights.. and also willing to stand up for them. I remember being sent to the office several times because I was refused access to the bathroom when I needed to go.. I began to stop asking, I'd just inform the teacher that I was going to use the bathroom. This took the power away from her and honored my own needs. I'd walk out and she would push the button and call down to the office. In the end, the bathroom battle was won by me, no one could tell me with a straight face why I could not relieve myself as by body saw fit.  Fast forward many moons later and I find myself dealing with the same thing with my children.  When they complained to me that their basic needs are not being met I shared my experience with them. I have permitted them to inform their teacher that they HAVE to use the restroom and then when refused permission I gave them permission to go.    I called the school to get some sort of clarity on the issue because unlike me, my children have been so jaded by the system that they fear standing up for their own rights, they tell me all of the consequences.

 I had consequences too but in my eyes, my rights were worth the fight.   What does this say? What is happening to the children today? This fear and this refusal to protect their own basic rights.. this silence in the face of social injustice.. Well in talking with the teacher I soon found out how such a tight grip had wrapped itself around my children.. The teacher revealed to me that her hands were tied. It was the principle, he did not  want children using the bathrooms, he felt it was taking away from class time and would hurt test scores.. the same test scores that allocated money to schools in exchange for high numbers. I immediately settled in my mind that I would Opt my children out of such tests that resulted in the loss of their basic needs being met. 

I was met with two children who cried and begged to take a TEST... they had been so brainwashed into thinking that they would be punished, they would not be rewarded, they would not pass on to the next grade, they would have to sit in the office for hours on end separated from friends and worst of all, they would not help their school to "get the money". I realized that this issue ran deep, into the very bloodline of the public school system and the psyche of my children. 

We spend so much time empowering even the youngest children in our program to know and stand up for their rights. The social development that results in such an environment of respect and trust is at the core of the work we do. These children leave us and enter into a world where many will try to take those powers away from them. 

 If children are our future, imagine a world lead and run by people who have been taught to feel and be powerless, that are silenced and void of opinion. 

Children need as many ways as possible to feel and be powerful, express their points of view, have autonomy over their actions, relish in the joys and suffer the natural consequences . 

I know that through our work with these children each day by allowing and encouraging them to express their feelings and thoughts be them in line with or opposed to our own line of thinking, we are preparing them to question injustice and be active citizens in their community. 

Our work is important, more than we know... 

-Lakisha Reid 
Discovery Early Learning Center 
Founder of Play Empowers ( Sharing the POWER of PLAY) 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Space Like This

Before I knew about the Adventure  playground movement, I had a plan, a plan to make our playscape into one that mimicked the playscape that I spent my childhood in. It would be full of nature, overgrown grass, trees, water, dirt, and lots of "STUFF" to drag around and use in many ways.  The children would play freely and endlessly in this space, losing track of the time, only stopping to refuel and dive right back in. There would be little nooks and crannies for play that was best spent with one other person, or out of the watchful eye of adults. There would be free access to water, shady areas, and spaces that they could alter and develop all on their own.

I knew from my childhood that playing in a space like this was when I felt most free and powerful. A space like this is where my strength arose, I became a leader, a creative problem solver, and the risk taker that I am today.

I can count on one hand the number of conflicts I remember. It just seemed when we were out in fresh air, we were better listeners, we were softer, kinder people, our ears and hearts were wide open.  Sharing ideas and trying things out failure after failure without haste, because we knew we had what seemed to us like forever to get it right. Nature does that to you, it causes you to slip deep into its arms and float in a state of deep engaged play.

I remember collecting water samples from the creek in old jelly jars, drawing pictures of what floated inside, each morning we would run out to look at its changes, watch it mold, and grow with fuzz. We thought deeply, we thought scientifically, we taught ourselves.  I remember climbing trees clear up to the tips collecting pinecones, you know the tiny ones before they open up and turn brown? Oh I used to fill sacks and bags full of them. It was like an instinct to collect, to compile stuff, most of the time natural materials. I knew that our playscape would have to offer natural materials that could be collected and transported.

Weather didn't stop us either, in fact it just added to our already complex play.  rain became puddles and puddles became oceans, the creek swelled up and mud was abundant. When it snowed we ran to the steep hill trudging up and zooming down again and again and again... lifting and hoisting huge balls of snow to sculpt out snow families, building igloos and forts from snow.. oh those were the days.  I'd NEVER allow our children to miss out on the joys of the elements.. We would go outside in ALL weather in a Space Like This.

-Lakisha Reid 
Discovery Early Learning Center 
Founder of Play Empowers ( Sharing the POWER of PLAY) 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Thinking Together

Today we introduced our floorbook! I learned about this great idea after finding Clair Helen Warden's facebook page called Planning Through Talking and Thinking Floorbooks. "Claire Warden created the concept in the late 1980's whilst researching scientific thinking in young children." What pulled me into this style of documentation is the fact that it is inclusive of the children.

This tool pulls the children into the thinking, planning, and documentation process in a way that is all their own. It encourages collaboration, sharing of thoughts and thought processes, dissecting ideas, and thinking deeply.

As I introduced the large floor book, the size alone attracted children, I told them that I had something to show them, to share with them. They began to gather around the book. We thought together about our upcoming trip to a new forest location. There were some very interesting ideas and conversations happening. One child thought that the forest would be spooky with an owl " but he will not see us cause his eyes will be closed", he said as he closed is own eyes and began to well up with excitement as if he was actually in the forest in that moment experiencing what he held in his imagination.

Another child chimed in with " Cause he's nocturnal, nocturnal means that he sleeps in the day and opens his eyes at night!"  another said there would be lots and lots of trees then he thought out loud "How do trees grow? We pondered that question for a while and then another child said " They grow with seeds!"  Together we drew trees and water, spiders and owls. This was a great start to our inquiry floor book. We have a wonderful question to take into the woods to investigate "HOW DO TREES GROW?"

As the children talked and thought, I heard many hypothesis, theories, and ideas. One child wondered if there would be water, and if so what color the water would be. One child said "purple, cause purple is my favorite color". Another argued that it would be blue.

I could have told them how trees grow, or what color the water really is, I could have whipped out my phone, or iPad, or computer, I could have filled them with facts... but is it really about that?? NO, it's about instilling a love of learning, feeding their curiosity with deep thought and investigation through play, allowing them to discover new ideas, ask new questions and answer their own questions through hands-on exploration. If I give them the flat facts... then the process of learning is over, it's halted.. they ask the question, I give the answer.. THE END... I'd like to instead make this just the beginning.. they have FOREVER to learn all of the facts.. right now, they are learning the ways to learn and acquiring facts along the way. I am NOT here to fill their buckets up, I am here to pass them the shovel and watch them work.

-Lakisha Reid 
Discovery Early Learning Center 
Founder of Play Empowers ( Sharing the POWER of PLAY) 

Co-Host of Dirty Playologist Podcast