Category Archives: Suggested Reading

Suggested Reading for 9/6/13

The classroom is almost prepared, we’ve almost got our plans for documentation, we’ve fully planned our first week of curriculum… All we need now is the kids! Next week I plan to start a “Notes from the Floor” feature on the blog. For now, just a few items you should read.

suggestedreadingEspecially this really, really good one from Teacher Tom, about teaching children to question authority by (in part) saying silly things. And then another post with excellent examples. I tell you, the man’s a genius. On my good days, my classroom is like his.

An anecdote, from NAEYC’s blog for families, about how the start of the school year is a learning time for children and teachers alike.

And a neato little art activity, and new way to use a light table, from Teach Preschool.

Have a good weekend!


Suggested Reading for 8/31/13

suggestedreadingA really marvelous post by Laura Markham on dealing with intra-sibling aggression. But you should read it even if that’s not a challenge you’re having in your house, because it’s really about effective, compassionate discipline, and listening to children, and communicating, and conflict resolution, and an approach that’s positive and powerful for every situation involved in caring for children. Seriously, read this one.

And THANK YOU Amanda Morgan for writing this post about science in preschool. I have plans to write something similar, but I’m not sorry you got there first. Science curriculum for young children is, to my mind, the most fundamentally and tragically misunderstood content area. I look at 90% of so-called science activities in preschools and think to myself, “That’s not science!”

For those starting a year of preschool, here’s a nice little piece about “What Should a 4 Year Old Know?” from A Magical Childhood. It’s good stuff for those thinking about what a preschool should be doing, and what parents should be doing. (And don’t worry: if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably doing all this already 🙂

For those who wonder what the heck a “Reggio school” is, here’s a quick and easy guide to the main points of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education, from An Everday Story.

A provokative little comparison between Magda Gerber and the “Happiest Baby on the Block” Harvey Karp, and their approaches to infants. I think these short clips make Karp come off a little worse than he deserves: his technique is effective in changing babies’ behavior, and that’s important to many many families. However, I think the comparison really makes Gerber’s respect-based approach look philosophically right… [edited 9/1]

Have a great weekend!

Suggested Reading for 8/24/13

Right! So, starting work really cuts into my blogging time. Who knew?

But seriously, this was my first few days at Children’s Community School, and I’m super pumped. Kids don’t start for another two weeks, so we’re planning and discussing and learning, and it’s great. My colleagues are kind and thoughtful and experienced and dedicated, and I can’t wait to spend the year working with them. In all likelihood I’ll have a recurring “dispatches from preschool” feature on this blog soon, where I discuss what we’re up to. But we’ll see.

Anyway, I hope to keep up 2 blog posts a week. Can he do it? Stay tuned!

suggestedreadingIn the mean time, while I didn’t have much time for reading this week, here’s a few things I think are worth your while.

First off this hilarious, awesome idea. I’ve never really liked those magnets that come in most preschools these days, with big plastic handles. But this is a genius use for them. Faces! Pipecleaner hair! Hilarious.

Next, from the always-intriguing Brainpickings, some thoughts on how children perceive and understand metaphors. Not especially practical, but will make you go, “Hmmm!”

A great story from Picklebums on building children’s self-help skills by simply being patient and not stepping in to help. If this sounds like you, you’re doing it right.

From Teacher Tom, some thoughts on the transition from play-based preschool to more traditionally structured elementary school. Reason for hope.

Have a great weekend!

Suggested Reading for 8/16/13

suggestedreadingFrom a preschool in Maryland, a fabulous blog post about allowing children to take physical risks in their play. More specifically, allowing children the opportunity to assess risks for themselves. They’re doing it right.

For everyone planning to have a baby: here’s someone (in the Wall Street Journal) examining the published research on all the things pregnant women are told to do/not do: don’t drink coffee, don’t drink alcohol, make sure you gain the right ammount of weight, etc. The good news is, we can all probably calm way the heck down about most of these recommendations.

A review in the Atlantic of, basically, every animated children’s movie in the last decade, blasting most of them for their relentless and unrealistic messages of self-esteem. I think a lot of the analysis is spot-on—though I think there’s a middle ground that’s possibly the best answer…

A nifty little art project idea I can’t believe I’ve never seen before: making your own water colors out of flowers. Great for summer garden fun. You could do this activity outside, too…

Teacher Tom writes about the benefits of playing board games in preschool. I personally recommed “The Snail’s Pace Race” as the best starter board game, for 3-4 year olds: it’s straightforward, but the right amount of complex to keep someone who’s never played board games interested, and practice turn-taking and other rules.

Janet Lansbury once again writes a piece that cuts right to the heart of raising children. The section on trust is particularly incisive.

Have a great weekend!

Suggested Reading for 8/9/13

Boy, it turns out that buying and moving into a house keeps you pretty disorganized and busy. Who knew? I have a feeling that 2 posts per week—one substantive, and one of suggested reading—is probably the new normal. But who knows? I might get feisty.

suggestedreadingTo kick off, this article discusses the importance of play in human life. It’s not at all specific to children, but certainly includes them. Teachers of young children know how crucial play is to learning, and to overall development. And not just for children—one of the reasons I love teaching is that it’s almost entirely play. I don’t mean goofing around; I mean the broader definition this article gestures toward: participating in voluntary, fun, engaging activities that require creativity and hard work and insight. The best days are when the kids and the teachers are both “in it”…

A fine blog post by Laura Markham about helping your young child build self-control skills.

Phyllis Grant writes the excellent food-and-children blog, Dash and Bella. This piece is elsewhere, and while you might not want to eat the sandwich she describes, I think her bit about cooking dinner and getting children to eat it is great—sane and reasonable and likely to be successful.

A wonderful piece by Teacher Tom about how teachers (and schools, and parents, and adults) should think about diagnoses for children. This certainly isn’t the only perspective on this complex and important issue—but for those of us who aren’t qualified to diagnose, this is a great way to think about it. And another one about a great real-life activity to do with young children: assembling Ikea furniture! Oh, okay, and one more: an amusing little piece about the joys of inventing new games.

Every time Tom Bedard writes about the sensory table, I think, “Boy, this guy understands how to make play set-ups that are as engaging as can be.” Here’s a piece about multi-level sensory table set-ups. Brilliant.

Here’s a short interview with the author of a book I haven’t heard of, but now very much want to read: It’s OK NOT to Share. I’m very intrigued…

A great little DIY toy idea from Mama OT: a fine-motor activity that you can make almost for free and I bet will grab the attention of any toddler.

Kate at Picklebums writes, “I am working on letting my kids just feel whatever they feel.” Yes!

From Creative with Kids, a piece about “Teaching Peace to an Unpeaceful Child.” Some good tips in here.

And for your viewing pleasure, this dude talks about how makers of media for children seem to be afraid to include any references to things children don’t already know about, and why that’s a dumb perspective. He makes some good points. Here’s to media that challenges children!

Have a great weekend!

Suggested Reading for 7/26/13

suggestedreadingTop pick for the week, this truly beautiful post from Hands Free Mama: “The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up.'” It’s a story not only about slowing down in your life with your child (important), but also about learning from your, and allowing the ways they are different from you to be an opportunity for YOU to grow. Inspiring.

This is pretty cool. An engineer was bemoaning the fact that not many girls choose to pursue engineering as a career (only 11% of engineers are women!). So she decided to design an engineering-related toy for girls. And before you shout, “Legos are for girls too, you know!”, I agree, they are, but a lot of people don’t BUY Legos for the girls in their lives. Furthermore (this person says) girls in our society are socialized to play games that involve narratives, which aren’t intrinsicly present in toys like Legos. So anyway, she made this toy, and got it funded on Kickstarter. I wish I had heard about it earlier.

A sweet little anecdote about separation anxiety. Teacher Tom, you’re doing it right.

From How We Montessori, a post about letting her toddler use knives to help in the kitchen—calm and reasonable and excellent. Also, a great little post about “transfering” activities—pouring and spooning. A terrific example of how, often, the simplest activities are the best.

Alissa, at Creative with Kids, writes about what’s going on with discipline with her kids. It’s always great to see a professional in the field try to practice what they preach. This, in particular, is a great illustration of how you might approach discipline without resorting to any kind of punishment. Yes, it’s harder—but it’s also, you know, effective.

Here’s a little piece, from Regarding Baby, about letting babies solve problems, not rushing to help them immediately. Which is different from ignorning them. Rather, you want to be present, attentive, supportive—but not take away their agency and power. There’s a video in the post which is a lovely example—though my personal style in this kind of situation is to be less verbal about it. I might just say, “Yep, you’re stuck! … I see you … When you want to come out, just duck your head under,” and leave it at that. But this parent gets great results with her approach as well—notice the HUGE smile on the baby’s face at the end.

Have a great weekend!

Suggested Reading for 7/5/13

This right here? Is my 100th blog post. Hooray! (Imagine confetti coming down from the ceiling in the room where you’re sitting. See, wasn’t that fun?)

Next week there may be no blog post at all. I’m headed up to the mountains to officiate a wedding, which will be new and exciting and lovely. But there’s no internet in these particular mountains, so the blog will have to wait.

In the mean time, read some of these things, and share things you’ve read in the comments, so other people can read them.

If you’re looking for messy activities? Here’s some messy activities. Great for summer. Though also, you know, for any time. I especially love the rubber band painting idea and the paint inside a box idea.

My colleague Barbara has some tips for traveling and vacationing with children. If you’re traveling with kids this summer, I bet some of these tips and things to think about will help you.

From Picklebums, a little piece about falling (and not falling) into the trap of only thinking about and discussing the negative things about your kids. It’s a thing that’s easy to do without thinking about it.

From the always useful Laura Markham, some useful thoughts on discipline, and in particular how to say “no” to your child in a way they might respond well to. Not surprisingly, it’s about communication, listening, and respect. And on a related note, some tips for being a good listener that help your child be independent and resilient.

Finally, for a little humor, read this critical theory analysis of the children’s book genre—in particular, times when characters in children’s books are, themselves, reading or referencing children’s books. Deep stuff. Borges is referenced.

Have a great week!