Design Play Create

April in Boulder

It may be Spring in some parts of the world…..


but not in Boulder.


but that’s okay….


We’re happy in the snow.


We’ll just pretend it’s December.



This is the goal or more specifically, I think this should be the goal at preschool. We put up a swing on the playground last week. It’s a huge hit.


and I mean HUGE HIT. The go-to item everyday.


and this is how 10 three to five year olds play with the swing all by themselves. No teacher organized this line or made sure no one was pushing, or cutting, or taking too long of a turn.


and how they help each other get into it.


And how one girl takes responsibility to be the spinner.


This makes me so proud and happy. If this is what we have created here, then we’re doing great.

This is the goal.

Leesons Found in the Mud

We could all take a lesson from the program Brooklyn Forest in New York. I am so impressed with their encouragement of learning through creative play and the preschool program’s  “agenda doesn’t much deviate from getting dirty and making teepees with found branches. Children arrive looking as though they are professional fisherman and dig into mud, make mud pies, look for worms and handle worms. Children are guided rather than explicitly directed from one step to another – from mud pie making to hand washing, for instance – through song, because song, or soft song specifically, is understood to becalm”.

Pollack Painting

So we’re discussing the wonderful letter P these days. Obviously painting comes to mind and given that cleanliness isn’t our main objective, the painting style of Jackson Pollack also comes to mind. We watched a cool video of him from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art…. and then proceeded outside, because, well, you’ll see why:)




It’s one of the most fun painting activities you can do with your kiddos. What 4, 5, and 42 year olds don’t like to splatter paint? The best part I think? No one has to worry about their painting skills and whether they make a better splatter than their friend. Free-for-all style is a great self-esteem and confidence booster.

Note to teachers though: After having done this for several years, I recommend you have them take their shoes off. Painted feet are much cuter for parents than painted Nikes. And here’s our little video. I think Pollack would be proud.


Lifelong Kindergarten

Kudos to MIT for these sentiments on how adults should be more like children in their desire to create and invent. Along the same lines of “everything we need to know, we learned in kindergarten”, the MIT Media Lab encourages inventiveness, expression, and design experiments  in an effort to keep the world of kindergarten a lifelong experience.

The Lifelong Kindergarten group is fortunate to be located within the MIT Media Lab, a hotbed of creative activity. In one corner of the Media Lab, students are designing new musical instruments. In another corner, students are designing new social-networking software. This type of activity makes the Media Lab not just a good research lab, but a good place for learning, since people learn a great deal when they are actively engaged in designing, creating, and inventing things.

Unfortunately, most children don’t get the opportunity to engage in these types of creative activities. In school, they learn specific facts and skills, but rarely get the opportunity to design things — or to learn about the process of designing things. Outside school, they interact with electronic toys and games, but they don’t learn how to invent new ones.

In the Lifelong Kindergarten group, we’re trying to change that. We believe that it is critically important for all children, from all backgrounds, to grow up knowing how to design, create, and express themselves. We are inspired by the ways children learn in kindergarten: when they create pictures with finger paint, they learn how colors mix together; when they create castles with wooden blocks, they learn about structures and stability. We want to extend this kindergarten style of learning, so that learners of all ages continue to learn through a process of designing, creating, experimenting, and exploring.

Our ultimate goal is a world full of playfully creative people who are constantly inventing new opportunities for themselves and their communities.

Make Mistakes

In my sports psychology class I am reading a lot these days about coaching and how to handle your athletes’ mistakes. But what I think about most when I read this material is how it translates to the classroom and our little ones. If you teach in a play-based environment, then one of the goals should be to create an environment in your classroom that encourages mistakes. Lots of them. Play-based atmospheres ideally allow for experimentation and risk-taking because we want these kiddos to try new things for themselves, explore the world of cause and effect, trial and error, and practice persistence. Here’s why:

The Lifeblood Of Learning

“Mistakes are the lifeblood of learning. Without the willingness to make mistakes and learn from them, learning shrivels up. One of the reasons mature people are apt to learn less than young people is that they are willing to risk less. Learning is a risky business, and they do not like failure. In infancy, when children are learning at a phenomenal rate-a rate they will never again achieve-they are also experiencing a great many failures. Watch them. See the innumerable times they try and fail. See how little the failures discourage them. With each year that passes they will be less blithe about failure. By adolescence the willingness of young people to risk failure has diminished greatly. And all too often parents push them further along that road by instilling fear, by punishing failure or by making success seem too precious. By middle age most of us carry in our heads a tremendous catalogue of things we have no intention of trying again because we tried them once and failed-or tried them once and did less well than our self-esteem demanded. Fear of making mistakes is a paralyzing force that robs people of spontaneity, love of life, and a willingness to try new things. It is the no-buts approach to mistakes that gives the sense of psychological and emotional freedom that can unlock the learning process”.

Jim Thompson. Positive Coaching: Building Character and Self-Esteem Through Sports.

March Madness!

Yep, we’re into it. Basketball jerseys, brackets, hoop outside on the patio, we’ve got it all going on in the classroom right now. I am a firm believer in embracing events in the outside world when they can be translated to preschool and it makes for some fabulous video!

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