Children are certainly resilient, but we make a mistake when we point to their play as evidence that they are “fine.”

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We’ve all seen recordings of children playing in refugee camps and in war zones. In Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn, he tells about the games Jewish children played even in concentration camps. They were games of survival, for the most part, like challenging one another to touch an electrified fence, but they were games and it was play.

Children play with or without toys. They play with or without freedom. They play alone and together. They play when…


Wonderful ideas may turn out, in the end, to be poppycock, but that’s beside the point. It’s the wonderfulness that matters.

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A group of boys had organized themselves into a game of superheroes, including Batman, Ironman, the Hulk, Captain America, and Spiderman. A girl wanted to join them. They told her she could be Wonder Woman, but she didn’t want to be Wonder Woman. “I don’t like her. I want to be a different superhero.”

“You have to be Wonder Woman. You’re a girl.”

“I know I’m a girl, but I don’t want to be Wonder Woman.”

“There aren’t any…


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It was cold out, but Maya didn’t want to put on her coat. An adult tried to compel her, bringing her the puffy pink parka she had worn to school that morning, holding it out to her coaxingly, urging her, “You’ll be too cold outside.”

Our policy was that the kids got to make their own decisions about wearing their coats, the theory being that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they discovered, on their own, the natural consequence of being underdressed. When it was particularly cold, I might say something like, “It’s cold out there.


We need to have discussions about the decisions ahead, and teachers must have a seat at the table.

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Last week, I wrote a post called Birds of a Feather Will Flock Together, in which I asserted the plain facts that if we are going to start sending preschool aged children back to their schools and child cares we cannot count on social distancing as a way to limit the risk of spreading the coronavirus. It will be impossible to enforce without draconian measures that will likely damage children (not to mention teachers) socially and emotionally. I did not take a…


Why social distancing in preschool is impossible.

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I learned the song “When Sammy Put the Paper on the Wall” from Bev Bos, Michael Leeman, and Tom Hunter. You can find their version with any search engine, but the lyrics I’ve memorized are:

When Sammy put the paper on the wall,
He put the parlor paper in the hall.
He papered up the stairs.
He papered all the chairs.
He even put a border on grandma’s shawl.
When Sammy put the paper on the wall,
He poured a pot of paste upon us all. …


“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fail.” — Confucius

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Many of the kids I know play soccer. They’re on teams, coached by dads and moms, and wear jerseys, which they sometimes proudly wear to school. They have practices, learn the rules, and play a schedule of games for which scores are not officially recorded.

As a preschooler, our daughter wasn’t interested, but played on a team for two seasons in elementary school. She liked the team, her coach, her jersey, practices, and even the rules and the games, where she and her…


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I receive a fair number of newly published early childhood and teaching books, often unsolicited, with the idea that I’ll write a review or otherwise promote it on my blog. I don’t read them all — indeed, I only tend to read those that come from authors who I know or who previously contacted me. I’m sure most are fantastic books, but I only have so much time, and even if I do read the book, there is no guarantee that I’ll hype.


If we had the collective will, we could use this unique moment to insist upon change.

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Yesterday, I read that the President wants state governors to “seriously consider and maybe get going on opening schools.” It wasn’t a surprise, of course, given that he’s been advocating for a rapid end to our nationwide quarantine. As anyone who regularly reads my work knows, I’m more concerned about the social-emotional toll this is taking on us than I am either the disease itself or the economy, so I’m keen to resume at least some of our normal activities sooner rather than later…


This is the gold standard of a play-based curriculum: creative, cooperative play.

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One of the things Seattle’s teachers won in their most recent strike was a commitment from the school district that elementary school students would receive a minimum of 30 minutes of recess per day. In fairness, some schools were already providing more than that, but there were several, apparently, that were limiting their youngest students to a meager 15 minutes. Even so, it was disheartening to this play-based educator to learn that a half hour is considered a victory.


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In Douglas Adams’ novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a computer is built specifically to answer the question, “What is the meaning of life?” The computer warns the people that it can, in fact, answer their question, but it’s a calculation that will take seven million years. They insist that it’s worth the wait. Seven million years later the computer provides the answer they’ve long awaited: it’s 42.

It’s a joke, of course, but 42 is actually the answer to many of our earthly questions, at least when we rely solely upon science to supply them. I don’t want…

Teacher Tom

Tom “Teacher Tom” Hobson is an early childhood educator, international speaker, education consultant, teacher of teachers, parent educator, and author.

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