Danish Kindergarten’s: Nurturing Childhood Wonder Through Exploratory Play

In Denmark, the kindergarten experience looks quite different from many other countries. Rather than an emphasis on formal academic instruction, Danish kindergartens prioritize a play-based, exploratory approach that supports the holistic development of young children.

Let’s take a closer look at what makes the Danish kindergarten model so unique and enriching for little learners.

A Focus on Play-Based Discovery

At the heart of Danish kindergartens lies the belief that children learn best through joyful, self-directed play and first-hand experiences.

You won’t find worksheets, deskwork or an overemphasis on rote skills here. Instead, these kindergartens cultivate a vibrant environment of open-ended play activities, sensory exploration, storytelling, art, music and abundant opportunities for physical activity.

Through free play, guided play, creative play and more, children organically develop a wide range of cognitive abilities like problem-solving, critical thinking and language skills.

But play nurtures far more than just academics – it allows children to build social-emotional intelligence, self-regulation, imagination and a zest for learning itself.

Nurturing the Whole Child

More than just education centers, Danish kindergartens serve as spaces for holistic growth and well-being. There is a profound appreciation for childhood as a unique life stage, not merely preparation for the future.

Great care is taken to respect children’s inherent interests, perspectives and rhythms of development.

Enhancing children’s independence, self-esteem and personal agency are core goals. A low child-to-teacher ratio allows for attunement to each child’s needs. Rather than top-down instruction, teachers act as supportive guides, encouraging children to explore, experiment and discover at their own pace fueled by curiosity.

Democratic Values in Action

Danish society places a strong emphasis on democratic principles from the youngest ages. In kindergartens, you’ll see this democratic spirit alive through daily practices.

Children actively participate in discussions around the establishment of classroom rules and routines through daily circle times. Their voices and choices are centered.

This participation nurtures critical thinking and an understanding of democratic citizenship from an early age.

Children gain skills in respectful dialogue, negotiation and recognizing diverse perspectives. It’s an inspiring model of mutual respect between children and adults.

The Great Outdoors

While the indoor classrooms buzz with engaging activity corners, Danish kindergartens place a special focus on connecting children with the natural world. All kindergartens have dedicated outdoor play areas and garden spaces.

More notably, there is a strong tradition of regular outings and forest days where children can roam, explore and engage in unstructured outdoor play.

This immersion in nature fosters environmental awareness, physical skills, risk management and a sense of wonder towards the living world around them from an impressionable age.

Continuity through Family Partnerships

Danish kindergartens actively partner with parents through regular communication, classroom participation and aligned practices at home.

This collaboration ensures consistency and continuity in supporting each child’s growth and well-being. It allows the nurturing philosophies to extend beyond the classroom walls.

By involving families as active stakeholders, the child’s holistic needs can be better understood and met.

At its core, Denmark’s progressive approach to early childhood education is centered around respect for childhood – its joys, its spontaneous curiosity and its unbridled potential.

My experience with child-centered early education

From 2010 – 2019 I had the privilege of teaching in a similar hands-on, child-centered kindergarten approach, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power of this child-centered, play-based pedagogy.

I understand intimately how creating an environment brimming with open-ended exploration, joyful discovery and respect for the innate curiosity of young minds can kindle an enduring love of learning.

My classroom was a holistic haven where every child’s unique strengths, interests and developmental needs were nurtured through carefully facilitated play, outdoor adventures and democratic participation.

Under my guidance, children organically build vital skills – cognitive, physical, social and emotional – while their sense of wonder, independence and self-belief blossomed. With a deft blend of intentionality and a deep appreciation for the magic of childhood, I exemplified how prioritizing play, freedom and trust lays the firmest foundation for lifelong learning and growth.

Pretend play lies at the heart of quality early childhood education, providing a vital outlet for young children to actively construct their understanding of the world.
When children engage in imaginative role-play, they aren't just entertaining themselves - they are processing experiences, experimenting with language, sparking creativity, and developing critical social-emotional skills

Rather than pushing academics from the earliest ages, Danish kindergartens honor the human drive for exploratory, self-directed learning.

Through play, wonder and strong bonds of trust, these little ones are granted the invaluable gifts of confidence, passion for discovery and a firm foundation for lifelong learning. This is what holistic, child-centered education looks like in action.

What to know more about active learning check out this blog post. Click here Nurturing Essential Skills in Early Learners: A Play Based, Child-Led Approach

Naomi Drew’s Mission: Conflict Resolution Skills for Every Child

There are so many parenting experts, authors, educational leaders, curricula developers and speakers out there many of us can learn so much from.

Meet Naomi Drew M.A.

Naomi Drew M.A.
Naomi Drew M.A.

Naomi Drew M.A.,is an internationally recognized expert in the field of conflict resolution education for children.

She is well-known around the world for her work in conflict resolution, peacemaking, and anti-bullying.

She has developed acclaimed curricula for teaching peacemaking and social-emotional skills from an early age. Her pioneering “QUEST” model provides a step-by-step framework for guiding kids to resolve conflicts constructively.

Q – Questioning

U – Understanding perspectives

E – Exploring solutions

S – Setting terms

T – Trying it out

Drew’s books like “Learning the Skills of Peacemaking” and “Peaceful Kids” are used by educators and parents worldwide to equip children with vital conflict resolution abilities.

Her engaging, age-appropriate activities draw from evidence-based practices in children’s social-emotional learning. Drew’s decades of work have made her a leading voice in promoting peaceful conflict resolution as a core life skill for all ages.

Her work has been featured in newspapers, magazines, and on radio and national TV, including NBC, The New York Times, Time magazine, and Parents magazine.

Her work enables parents, educators, and people of all ages to apply these skills in their daily lives.

Naomi Drew

Here is a list of 8 books authored by Naomi Drew M.A.

Her books include resources for parents and educators. They provide activities, stories, games, and lessons to teach.

Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids: Practical Ways to Create a Calm and Happy Home

Naomi Drew offers the first proven action plan for conflict resolution by parents at home. The strategies in “Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids” are based on the revolutionary program Drew developed for the classroom. She uses concrete situations, hands-on examples and testimonials from real mothers and fathers to guide parents

Naomi Drew

Hope and Healing: Peaceful Parenting in an Uncertain World

Offers advice for parents of families dealing with stress, fear, or anxiety, and presents strategies for creating a peaceful, secure, and nurturing home.

Naomi Drew M.A.

Learning the Skills of Peacemaking : An Activity Guide for Kids

This highly regarded work shows K-6 teachers and counselors shows how to promote peacemaking and problem-solving skills across the curriculum. It includes an effective peer mediation program with forms, a training guide, scripts, and group role plays. Additional information on parent involvement and leading parent workshops is included and so much more. It was one of the first books to introduce peacemaking to public education.

Naomi Drew M.A.

The Kids' Guide to Working Out Conflicts: How to Keep Cool, Stay Safe, and Get Along

From taunts and teasing to physical assault, kids can learn how to avoid conflict and diffuse tough situations A complete and practical toolkit to help teens navigate a sometimes hostile world The kids’ guide to working out conflicts.

Naomi Drew M.A.

Create a Culture of Kindness in Elementary School

Increase empathy in the elementary classroom with ready-to-use lessons that teach students positive skills and attitudes. Kids learn better and feel better about themselves in an atmosphere of safety and respect. This book shows you how to help students in grades three through six.

Naomi Drew M.A.

The peaceful Classroom in Action

This inspiring, practical and highly usable activity book shows how to create peaceful, productive classrooms from the first day of school. Teach students respect, acceptance and conflict resolution skills while also improving writing and language skills-important with today’s emphasis on academics and accountability. The Peaceful Classroom in Action will show you how.

Naomi Drew

Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School

Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School focuses on positive and prosocial attitudes and behaviors that build a respectful and compassionate school environment, while also addressing the tough issues of prejudice, anger, exclusion, and bullying.

Naomi Drew M.A.

No Kidding About Bullying: 125 Ready-to-Use Activities to Help Kids Manage Anger, Resolve Conflicts, Build Empathy, and Get Along: Grades 3-6

Prevent bullying behaviors, help students become “upstanders” for themselves and others, and foster respectful, welcoming classroom communities with this flexible resource. Featuring lessons that may be completed in 20 minutes or less, the book can be used as a stand-alone curriculum or as a complement to other anti-bullying and character education programs.

Naomi Drew M.A.

While geared towards educators, the principles and activities Drew promotes have applications far beyond just the classroom.

By learning constructive conflict resolution approaches as children, these critical life skills can shape how they navigate relationships, disagreements, and challenges throughout their lives.

All of us – parents, family members, community leaders – can benefit from the wisdom in Drew’s publications. Implementing the peacemaking models in our own spheres can ripple out in positive ways.

Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional, as the saying goes. Naomi Drew shows us that by fostering these skills from childhood, we can all take the higher road when differences arise.

Her books are not just resources for teachers, but guidelines for anyone wishing to cultivate more understanding in our world.

Please go visit her blog

Best Conflict Resolution Strategies for Children: STEP Method & Shared Concern

Along with the awareness of themselves, children develop a growing awareness and appreciation for others too.

A great deal of early learning takes place in the context of social interactions with adults and peers.

Conflicts are inevitable as kids navigate friendships, sibling dynamics, and social situations. Rather than avoiding disagreements, we can equip children with the tools to resolve conflicts constructively.

A child’s earliest social and emotional experiences set the stage for his or her well-being throughout life.

The STEP Approach to Conflict Resolution

This simple yet powerful approach provides children with a step-by-step process for working through conflicts in a peaceful manner.

Many education organizations, parenting resources, and child psychologists recommend some variation of these basic steps.

It seems to be a commonly used framework for teaching conflict resolution skills to children, drawing from principles of emotional intelligence, mediation, and problem-solving techniques.

S - Stop and calm down:

Take a deep breath, count to ten, or take a break to regain composure.

T - Think about the problem:

Think about the problem: Encourage both parties to share their perspectives without blaming or accusing.

E - Explore solutions:

Brainstorm potential solutions that address everyone’s needs and concerns.

P - Pick the best solution:

Agree on a resolution that’s fair and acceptable to all involved.

Role-playing and modeling these steps can help children internalize this process and apply it in real-life situations.

By taking a pause, considering both viewpoints, generating options, and agreeing on a resolution, kids learn crucial skills like emotional regulation, empathy, and compromise.

The Shared Concern Method

This method focuses on finding common ground and shared interests between conflicting parties.

Similar to the STEP approach this process involves:

1. Letting each child express their perspective and feelings without interruption.

2. Identifying the shared concern or problem they want to solve.

3. Brainstorming possible solutions that address everyone’s interests.

4.Negotiating and agreeing on a mutually acceptable solution

This cooperative approach fosters active listening, validates each child’s needs, and teaches them to find creative solutions that work for all involved.

Both of these methods empower kids to take ownership and responsibility in resolving conflicts, developing invaluable social-emotional skills.

What other conflict resolution approaches do you know?

What to know more about conflict resolution for your young ones?

Teaching Your Kids Conflict Resolution: Building Blocks for Healthy Relationships

From home to the playground to the classroom, conflict is an inevitable part of a child’s social world. While disagreements and clashes are normal, it’s crucial to equip children with the skills to navigate conflicts constructively.

By learning effective conflict resolution strategies early on, children can build strong, healthy relationships that last them well throughout their lives.

The Basics of Healthy Relationships

Relationships, whether with friends, family, or peers, thrive on a foundation of mutual understanding, respect, and empathy.

When children learn to appreciate different perspectives and communicate their needs clearly, they’re better equipped to resolve conflicts positively.

Encourage children to:

Practice Active Listening

Teach them to listen attentively without interrupting, paraphrasing what they’ve heard to ensure understanding.

Listening games like:

The Telephone Game This classic game helps reinforce the importance of careful listening.

Simon Says In this game, children have to listen carefully and follow instructions that begin with “Simon says…

Listening Scavenger Hunt Give children a list of sounds or objects to listen for (e.g., a bird chirping, a car honking).This game keeps them tuned in to their auditory surroundings.

Express Feelings

Help them identify and articulate their emotions using “I” statements, like “I feel frustrated when…”

Activates like:

Emotion Charades Write different emotions (happy, sad, angry, scared, etc.) on slips of paper. Have children take turns acting out the emotion without using words while others guess what they’re expressing.

Emotion Sculptures Have children use play-dough, clay, or their bodies to sculpt different emotional expressions or scenarios that represent various feelings.

Musical Emotions Play music with different emotional tones (happy, sad, angry, etc.). Children move and dance to express the emotion they think the music conveys.

Show Empathy

Guide them to consider how the other person might be feeling and validate those emotions.

Story books that provide valuable lessons for our early years young readers

The Wheel on the School (Written by Meindert DeJong , Illustrated by Maurice Sendak )

A heartwarming story about a group of schoolchildren who work together to bring storks back to their village. Teaches cooperation, problem-solving, and community building1.

Enemy Pie (Written by Derek Munson , Illustrated by Tara Calahan King )

A delightful tale of a boy who learns an unexpected lesson about friendship and understanding. Demonstrates how to turn an “enemy” into a friend through empathy and shared experiences

Max and Bird (Written and Illustrated by Ed Vere)

Max, a kitten, befriends Bird, who is not what Max expected. Encourages acceptance, understanding, and finding common ground

The Story of Ferdinand (Written by Munro Leaf, Illustrated by Robert Lawson)

The gentle bull Ferdinand prefers smelling flowers over fighting. Celebrates individuality and nonviolent choices

Pig War : How a Porcine Tragedy Taught England and America to Share (Written by Emma Bland Smith, Illustrated by Alison Jay)

Based on a true historical event, this book explores conflict resolution between two nations over a pig. Highlights negotiation, compromise, and peaceful solutions

Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type (Written by Doreen Cronin, Illustrated by Betsy Lewin)

Farm animals use negotiation skills to improve their working conditions. Playfully introduces the concept of collective bargaining and compromise

The Wall in the Middle of the Book (Written and Illustrated by Jon Agee)

A humorous story about a knight who believes a wall protects him from danger. Encourages questioning assumptions and bridging divides

The Hueys in It Wasn’t Me (Written and Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers)

A quirky tale of blame-shifting among a group of egg-shaped characters. Promotes honesty, responsibility, and conflict resolution

That’s Not How You Do It! (Written and Illustrated by Ariane Hofmann-Maniyar)

Two friends, a cat and a squirrel, learn to appreciate each other’s unique approaches. Celebrates diversity and finding common ground

Jinx and the Doom Fight Crime! (Written by Lisa Mantchev, Illustrated by Samantha Cotterill)

Jinx the cat and Doom the dog team up to solve neighborhood mysteries. Emphasizes teamwork, communication, and problem-solving

The Power of Compromise

Compromise is often the key to resolving conflicts amicably. Teach kids that finding a middle ground, where both parties’ needs are partially met, is better than insisting on getting their way entirely.

Celebrate small victories, and remind them that good relationships involve give and take.

Do you have methods and tips on problem-solving and conflict resolution for children?

The Benefits of Social-Emotional Books for Early Learning Development

As children develop, they learn to identify and gradually regulate their feelings. With the help of language, they can talk about their emotions instead of just acting on them.

With adult support and their own growing awareness, children also develop an understanding of other people’s feelings and emotions and how they defer from theirs.

The social-emotional aspect of child development plays a crucial role in a child’s overall growth and well-being. It encompasses the ability to understand and manage emotions, develop healthy relationships, and navigate social situations effectively.


Social-emotional books can be a powerful tool in supporting the early years foundation of a child's social-emotional development.

These books often feature relatable characters and scenarios that children can connect with, helping them to understand and process their own emotions and experiences.

By exposing children to stories that explore themes such as friendship, empathy, self-awareness, and conflict resolution, social-emotional books can provide valuable lessons and strategies for navigating the complexities of social interactions and emotional regulation. You can also incorporate literacy activities based on a specific book and expand the learning experience.

For example – using the book “When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry ” by Molly Bang:

when Sophie Gets Angry- Really really Angry

Activity : Exploring Emotions and Coping Strategies.

Objectives : Identify and name different emotions

Understand the importance of expressing emotions in a healthy way

Explore coping strategies for managing strong emotions

Materials :

Book: “When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry” by Molly Bang

Emotion cards or pictures representing different feelings (e.g., happy, sad, angry, scared, surprised)

Paper and art supplies (crayons, markers, etc.)


Start by reading the book “When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry” to the class.

Discuss the different emotions Sophie experienced throughout the story and how her anger escalated.


Emotion Identification: Show the emotion cards or pictures to the children.

Ask them to name each emotion and share a time when they felt that way.

Sophie’s Emotions: Revisit the story and have the children identify the emotions Sophie experienced at different points in the narrative.

Coping Strategies: Discuss the coping strategies Sophie used to manage her anger, such as going for a walk, kicking a tree, and eventually calming down.

Art Expression: Provide each child with paper and art supplies. Ask them to draw or create a representation of a time when they felt really angry or upset, and illustrate how they coped with that emotion.


Have children share their artwork and discuss the coping strategies they depicted.

Emphasize the importance of expressing emotions healthily and safely, just like Sophie did.

Encourage children to use the strategies they learned from the book and the activity when they experience strong emotions in the future.

Extension Activities: In active learning, every subject matter can be connected and incorporated into the other learning areas.

So extensions can look like creating an art project that will last more than a week so, you can continue to discuss and reinforce the importance of Identifying emotions and coping with emotions healthily.

We once made a Big Sophie tree out of wood in art. It was placed on the wall of the library. Children used it as their claiming corner.

Create a classroom “Calm Corner” with books, stuffed animals, and other calming tools for children to use when they need to manage big emotions.

Introduce mindfulness and deep breathing exercises as additional coping strategies.

Invite children to share their own experiences and strategies for dealing with emotions like anger or frustration.

This activity promotes emotional literacy , self-awareness , and healthy coping mechanisms by using the relatable story and characters from a book.

Here is a list of Social-emotional books I personally like to read and/or incorporate into activities.

Grumpy bird

Grumpy Bird is a delightful children’s book written and illustrated by Jeremy Tankard . In this charming tale, Bird wakes up feeling grumpy—too grumpy to eat, play, or even fly.

It’s a heartwarming story that reminds us of the power of friendship and how even the grumpiest days can turn brighter when shared with loved ones. 🦜🌟

The feelings book

The Feelings Book by Todd Parr is a wonderful exploration of emotions for young children. In this vibrant and engaging board book, Parr celebrates the wide range of feelings we all experience.

From feeling silly to feeling brave, the book playfully captures the ever-changing and sometimes nonsensical emotions that make us human. The bold, bright colors and silly scenes make it accessible and relatable for kids.

My Many colored days

My Many Colored Days is a children’s book written by Theodor Geisel under the pen name Dr. Seuss . Accompanying a manuscript Geisel wrote in 1974 was a letter outlining his hopes of finding “a great color artist who will not be dominated by me.” Geisel saw his original text about feelings and moods as part of the “first book ever to be based on beautiful illustrations and sensational color.”

Over the years I have taught so many litercy and social-emotional activities using this book. In this rhyming story, each day is described in terms of a particular color, which is associated with a specific emotion. The vibrant illustrations and unique approach cover a range of moods and feelings, making it a wonderful way for parents and teachers to talk with children about their emotions.

I was so mad

I Was So Mad is another one written and illustrated by Mercer Mayer . In this classic, funny, and heartwarming story, Little Critter experiences quite a grumpy day. The Critter family keeps saying “no” to just about everything Little Critter wants to do. Whether it’s keeping frogs in the tub or helping paint the house, Little Critter’s frustration grows. But will his bad day be salvaged with a little help from a friend? ‘Little Critters series are all gems’ 📚🦔

I hate everything

I Hate Everything! A book about feeling angry is another awesome children’s book written by Sue Graves and illustrated by Desideria Guicciardini. In this engaging story, Sam is having a bad day, and nothing seems to be going right. His dad is too busy to play with him, he dislikes his lunch, and even Archie’s party doesn’t bring him joy. But can Aunt Jen help him manage his anger?

Be Kind

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller is a heartwarming picture book that beautifully illustrates the power of kindness. When Tanisha accidentally spills grape juice on her new dress, her classmate contemplates how to make her feel better and what it truly means to be kind. From inviting the new girl to play to standing up against bullying, this moving and thoughtful story explores the impact of small acts of kindness.

Each gesture, no matter how small, can make a difference in someone’s day—or at least help a friend.

Each gesture, no matter how small, can make a difference in someone’s day—or at least help a friend.

Lama lama Mad at Mama

Lama Lama Mad at Mama is a delightful and rhythmic phrase that captures the playful emotions of a child. It’s like a little poetic chant, expressing a child’s frustration or annoyance with their mother. The repetition of “Lama lama” adds a sing-song quality, making it memorable and endearing. ‘Love all Lama Lama book series by Anna D. ‘ 🦙💕

Grumpy Monkey says No!

Grumpy Monkey Says NO! is a fun children’s book written by Suzanne Lang and illustrated by Max Lang . In this original board book, Jim Panzee, the grumpy monkey, seems to have a penchant for saying “no” to everything. Whether it’s going for a walk, having a playdate, or even eating a banana, Jim’s default response is a resounding “no.” But can he ever decide to say “YES” instead?

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

A Sick Day for Amos McGee is a heartwarming children’s picture book written by Philip C . Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead. In this delightful tale, we meet Amos McGee, a friendly zookeeper who has formed deep bonds with the animals he cares for. Each day, Amos visits his good friends at the zoo, ensuring he meets their unique needs.

A heartwarming tale of friendship, compassion, and the joy of caring for others, all wrapped up in the cozy world of a zookeeper and his animal friends.

How Do Dinosaurs say I'm MAD?

How Do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad? is an intersting children’s book written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Mark Teague. In this playful and relatable story, dinosaurs exhibit various behaviors when they are angry. From sticking out their tongues to throwing tantrums, the dinosaurs’ antics capture the range of emotions associated with being mad.

But fear not! The book also teaches young readers how to handle their tempers—whether through counting to ten, taking a timeout, or practicing calm breathing. All of the ‘How Do Dinosaurs’ book series’ are my favorites.

Big Feelings

Big Feelings is a powerful and uplifting picture book written by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman . In this heartwarming story, a group of children navigate their neighborhood, experiencing a range of emotions—both big and small.

From anger and frustration to hope and inspiration, the children learn to see the world from different points of view. The book celebrates diversity, kindness, and the importance of acknowledging our feelings

The way I feel

The Way I Feel by Janan Cain is a wonderful children’s book that uses strong, colorful, and expressive images to help children connect words with emotions. In this beautifully illustrated book, kids learn useful words to name their feelings, just as they name all things in their world.

I Like myself

I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont is a delightful children’s book that celebrates self-acceptance and self-love. In this joyous rhyming tale, a little girl embraces everything about herself—inside and out. Whether she has messy hair or beaver breath, she knows what truly matters. The book’s sassy and soulful text, paired with David Catrow’s wild illustrations, encourages kids to appreciate their uniqueness and feel good about who they are.

Some Days

Some Days by Karen Kaufman Orloff is a moving and delightful exploration of a child’s shifting feelings. In this rhyming picture book, readers follow a year in the life of a young boy and girl as they experience a wide range of emotions—joy, fear, anger, jealousy, excitement, pride, disappointment, loneliness, and contentment.

From “angels in the snow days” to “need my mommy now days,” children learn how to cope with both positive and negative feelings. The book encourages open discussions about emotions and helps kids understand that it’s okay to feel different things at different times.

Love You Forever

Last but definitely not least, Love You Forever is a touching children’s picture book written by Robert Munsch and beautifully illustrated by Sheila McGraw . The story centers around the enduring love between a mother and her son.

When I first started teaching and I used to Read this Book to my Pre-K group, I used to bawl my eyes out. Teaching moment I suppose.

In the end as a parent or a teacher, reading stories/books that explore diverse experiences and perspectives can foster empathy and understanding your children.

Many social-emotional books present characters facing challenges or conflicts, providing opportunities for children to learn effective problem-solving strategies.

Books that model healthy coping mechanisms and emotional regulation can help children develop these important skills.

Stories that highlight positive social behaviors, such as sharing, cooperation, and conflict resolution, can encourage children to apply these skills in their own interactions.


Nurturing Essential Skills in Early Learners: A Play-Based, Child-Led Approach

Approaches to learning looks at how children acquire knowledge and skills. It includes the set of skills sometimes referred to as ‘critical thinking’ or ‘executive function’. Having a positive attitude towards learning is essential for children to engage with school and succeed in life as adults.

From infancy through the early primary grades, children approach learning in different ways. They bring unique temperaments, habits, and preferences to how they explore, discover, and draw conclusions about the world and the people in it.

Curiosity and initiative taking

Children from birth show their eagerness to learn by choosing to participate in activities that they find interesting and personally meaningful.

An innate drive to examine objects, ask questions, and experiment with cause and effect lays the foundation for scientific inquiry and problem-solving.

They explore their environments through their senses, movement, play, and social interactions. That is where active play-based learning comes in. Teachers facilitate and nurture that curiosity.

For example – Luke, age 4, was playing outdoors when he spotted an ant hill. He crouched down and watched the ants scurrying around for a few minutes. “They’re so busy!” he remarked. Luke then grabbed a stick and poked it into different areas of the anthill to see how the ants reacted. The ants swarmed around the stick, some crawling onto it. “Why are they crawling on my stick?” Luke asked the teacher. Not waiting for an answer, Luke then said “I’m going to move some over here and see what they do.”

He gently dragged the stick with clustering ants over a few feet away from the original spot. Luke observed the ants wander around seemingly disoriented for a bit, before forming a line to march back over to their anthill. “They know how to find their home!”

Persistence and attention span

Children differ in their ability to focus attention and persist on relevant tasks. Open-ended, engaging activities in line with interests and learning styles best promote focused investigation.

For example – Anna is a 4-year old girl with a lot of energy and curiosity. She easily loses interest when activities require sitting still for more than a few minutes at a time. When her teacher leads activities involving worksheets or listening to long stories, Anna starts fidgeting, looking around, or attempting to chat with peers.

Her teacher observes that Anna becomes deeply focused when playing in the block center. Over multiple days, Anna works diligently on an elaborate castle, carefully selecting the right-sized blocks, and building multiple towers.

In contrast to the paper-pencil tasks Anna abandoned within 5 minutes, self-directed and creative activities like block building help channel her curiosity, energy, and interests into focused investigation.

Her teacher then incorporates the Literacy or numeracy aspect of the teaching by sticking letters or numbers on the blocks she likes to work on, so she can absorb what she needs to learn in a fun way.

Having autonomy over the experience and using her hands seem to enable Anna’s persistence, attention span, and task completion abilities that emerge inconsistently otherwise.

By providing more time, space and materials for these absorbing activities tailored to Anna’s open-ended style of learning, her teacher nurtures investigation, self-direction and other learning to learn skills.

Confidence and willingness to take risks

Environments, where mistakes are embraced rather than punished, encourage healthy trial-and-error. At ages where self-concept emerges, positive reinforcement builds confidence to venture answers.

Positive reinforcement looks like:

Praising effort over outcomes “I see you worked so hard to build that tower even when it kept falling. Good work!”

Embrace mistakes warmly “Oh that didn’t work as planned! Why do you think it fell over this time? What could we try differently?”

Encourage peer support Build a collaborative classroom culture where children coach and help each other. “If you work together you can build a bigger tower.”

Be patient with thinking time Rather than expecting instant answers, give children ample processing time, ask open ended questions, and restate ideas to validate thinking.

Provide non-judgmental feedback Steer away from evaluative language – rather than “wrong approach”, reframe as “let’s test this another way!”

Spotlight risk taskers Occasionally highlight children who showcase persistence amid challenge – this shows all efforts, even those not immediately successful, get recognized.

Discover learning style inclinations early Children have unique needs – help tactile learners embrace manipulatives, and let highly social learners co-investigate.

The goal is to make the classroom a safe launchpad for venturing ideas, testing theories, and making adjustments. This encourages both autonomous pursuits as well as group cooperation and communication. This mindset fuels engagement, resilience, and accelerated learning.

Executive Function

Foundational cognitive self-regulation skills are needed to set goals, control impulses, retain and apply new information. Play and integrated learning activities exercise these “learning to learn” abilities.

You can facilitate "Learning To Learn" abilities by:

Talking through your own thinking process step-by-step as you complete tasks. Use think-aloud to externalize problem-solving, planning, and organizing thoughts.

Providing hands-on supports like visual schedules, checklists, and timers to guide children through the steps of exercising goal-setting, working memory, and self-control. Then gradually remove the supports.

Implementing learning centers – Areas for specific types of play promote focus, resisting distraction, and impulse control to follow designated rules. Rotate materials to sustain novelty.

Offering choices – Within defined parameters, choices boost goal-oriented behavior and decision-making skills. Adapt choices based on the child’s capabilities. Choosing boards in learning areas encourages independent and confident thinkers.

Encouraging self-talk – Foster verbal mediation skills through modeling and questioning – “What is your next step?” “How will you stay focused?

Recognizing diligence towards learning goals. The process is more important than outcomes when building executive function.

Revisit instructions, asking children to restate key info in their own words. Repeating back taps working memory & attention. Planning and recall time before and after activities will strengthen the memory of the learning that was done.

What I love about active learning is that it provides opportunities – directly and subtly embedded into activities and exercises mental flexibility and self-regulation skills and overall executive function skills which are essential in the foundation stage of any kinder learner.

play based learning , active learning

Cooperative Disposition

From parallel play to collaborative experiences, young children build skills in communication, compromise, and negotiations – laying the groundwork for cooperative inquiry.

Verbally work through conflicts, Setting expectations but allowing choices. Engineering natural opportunities for peer collaboration through activities needing multiple players. Use language emphasizing community over individual “Our classroom” “Let’s work together” “Our friends”

Facilitate peer discussions allowing children space to listen to each other respectfully. Praise not just outcomes but efforts towards teamwork. Provide opportunities for differentiation and interdependence.

children going through expectations and making choices

In conclusion cultivating positive approaches to learning across these dimensions is essential for success in any early learning stages as well as enabling lifelong learning and adaptive skills.

Approaches to learning sets the stage for future academic and lifelong success. An effective early childhood environment nurtures curiosity, persistence, cooperation, and other learning-how-to learn proficiencies via developmentally appropriate hands-on, integrated activities tailored to children’s innate hunger for exploration, discovery and collaborative inquiry. Assessment and instruction should focus not just on content objectives but also process goals that strengthen burgeoning work habits.

Equipping children with essential cognitive strategies and motivational mindsets ensures learning readiness now and learning agility for the future. I have always and will always believe in the impact and positive influence that active learning has on young children.

What learning method are you passionate about? I would love to hear from you.

The Benefits of STEAM Science for Your Children

STEAM science exploration

Do you find yourself thinking “What are some effective ways I can encourage my children to explore a variety of academic subjects and interests?” In today’s rapidly evolving world, children must be equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive in their future careers. One educational approach that has gained significant traction is STEAM science.

By integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics, STEAM education offers a holistic learning experience that nurtures critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and creativity in children.

STEAM science

Understanding STEAM Science

Understanding STEAM science and its benefits can help parents make informed decisions about their children’s education.

STEAM science is an interdisciplinary approach that combines different subject areas to provide a well-rounded education. It brings together the logical thinking of science and mathematics, the creative expression of arts, and the practicality of technology and engineering.

By merging these disciplines, children are encouraged to think beyond boundaries, explore innovative solutions, and develop a deep appreciation for the interconnectedness of the world.

The Five Components of STEAM


This component focuses on inquiry-based learning, scientific method, and the exploration of natural phenomena. Students are encouraged to ask questions, conduct experiments, and analyze data to deepen their understanding of the world around them.

From studying the life cycle of a butterfly to investigating the properties of matter, science in STEAM education allows children to develop critical thinking skills and a curiosity for the unknown.

STEAM science experimentation


Children are exposed to technological tools and learn how to leverage them for problem-solving and creative projects. From coding and programming to using digital tools for research and communication, technology in STEAM education equips students with the skills needed to thrive in the digital age.

They learn to navigate through various software and hardware, understand the ethical implications of technology, and harness its power to bring their ideas to life.

STEAM science technology


Engineering principles, such as design thinking and prototyping, are introduced to cultivate problem-solving skills. Students are challenged to identify problems, brainstorm solutions, and create prototypes to test their ideas.

Whether it’s building a bridge that can withstand weight or designing a sustainable energy system, engineering in STEAM education fosters creativity, critical thinking, and perseverance.

STEAM science engineering


Creative expression through various art forms, such as drawing, painting, and music, is intertwined with scientific concepts. Students explore the intersection of art and science, discovering how creativity can enhance their understanding of the world.

They learn to communicate ideas visually, use art as a medium for self-expression, and appreciate the beauty in both the natural and man-made world.

STEAM science art component
Art in STEAM science


Math is integrated into STEAM projects, enabling children to apply mathematical concepts in practical and meaningful ways. From measuring ingredients in a cooking experiment to calculating distances in a physics experiment, mathematics in STEAM education helps students see the relevance of math in their everyday lives.

They develop problem-solving skills, logical reasoning, and a deeper appreciation for the patterns and structures that underlie the world around them.

These five components work together to provide a holistic learning experience that prepares students for the challenges of the future.

By engaging in STEAM education, children develop a range of skills, including critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. They learn to approach problems from multiple perspectives, adapt to new situations, and think outside the box.

STEAM science Math

The Importance of STEAM in Today's Education

As technology continues to reshape the society, it is benfical for children to be prepared for a future that requires adaptability and innovation. Here are two key reasons why STEAM education is of utmost importance:

1. Preparing Children for the Future

By providing children with a solid foundation in STEAM subjects, they are better equipped to navigate the challenges of the future.

Moreover, STEAM education goes beyond simply teaching technical knowledge. It fosters a holistic approach to learning, encouraging students to explore the interconnectedness of different disciplines.

2. Fostering Creativity and Innovation

By incorporating artistic elements into science and technology projects, children are encouraged to approach problem-solving from multiple angles, leading to more innovative and imaginative solutions.

Scouts in STEAM science

Implementing STEAM Science at Home

STEAM education is not limited to the classroom. Parents can also play an active role in nurturing their children’s interest in these subjects. Here are two effective ways to implement STEAM science at home:

1. Fun and Educational STEAM Activities

Building a model volcano, conducting simple science experiments, or designing a bridge using everyday materials are just a few examples of activities that can spark their interest and ignite their curiosity.

Engaging children in hands-on activities that incorporate elements of STEAM can be both fun and educational.

For instance, building a model volcano not only allows children to explore the principles of chemistry and geology, but it also encourages critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

As they mix baking soda and vinegar to create a volcanic eruption, they learn about chemical reactions and the forces at work beneath the Earth’s surface. This hands-on experience not only makes science come alive but also fosters a sense of wonder and excitement.

STEAM science volcano experiment

2. Resources for Parents

There are numerous online resources available for parents to facilitate STEAM learning at home. Websites, mobile applications, and educational kits offer interactive materials and guided projects that can supplement classroom learning and provide opportunities for exploration and discovery.

One such resource is a popular website that offers a wide range of STEAM activities for children of all ages. From coding games to engineering challenges, this website provides step-by-step instructions and engaging content that make learning enjoyable and accessible.

In addition to online resources, educational kits are another valuable tool for parents. These kits often include materials and instructions for hands-on projects that cover various STEAM topics. By following the provided guidelines, children can learn about circuits, robotics, or even renewable energy.

STEAM science kits
STEAM science KIT

Here are some great websites and apps for children to explore STEAM

Websites(click on the highlights)

ScratchJr – a free introductory coding site for kids ages 5-7. Allows them to create interactive stories and games.

Tynker – a creative coding site and app for kids to learn programming and build games, apps, and more. Best for ages 7-15.

National Geographic Kids – games, videos, and activities to explore science, nature, wildlife, and more.

PBS Kids – educational games focused on science, math, creativity and more.

Smithsonian Learning Lab – explore artifacts and make your own creations combining history, art, and science.

Application's (click on the highlight's)

Toca Boca – open-ended creative play apps including lab experiments, city building, cooking and more. Ages 4-9.

Bloxels – kids can build their own video games with interactive pixel blocks. Ages 8-12.

Lightbot – program a robot to solve puzzles. Logic puzzles teach coding basics. Ages 4-10.

Lego Building Instructions – 3D guides and inspiration to build imaginative Lego creations. All ages.

Flipgrid – video discussion app for students to record and share STEAM projects or ideas with classmates.

Here are some websites where you can purchase science kits for kids to do experiments at home:

Scientificsonline.com – Sells kits focused on chemistry, forensics, physics as well as bundles for specific science topics. Quality kits for learning science concepts.

Pitsco Education – Hands-on project-based STEM kits covering robotics, green energy, flight and space, applied physics and more. Many kits utilize LEGO bricks.

SmartLabToys – Innovative science and craft kits focused on things like secret codes, spy gear, magic tricks, slime, and more “fun” science subjects kids find appealing. They sell on Amazon too.

Home Science Tools – Sells all kinds of lab materials, tools and science kits for hands-on STEM activities. Can shop by age or science subject.

Steve Spangler Science – A huge selection of kits for chemistry, earth science, biology experiments, packaged by age level or individual topics. Fun kits kids love.

Younger kids, subscription boxes like KiwiCo , Green Kids Crafts or Little Passports also deliver excellent STEM project ideas and supplies to your door each month.

Happy STEAM exploration! Let me know how it goes.

Unlocking Creativity and Learning through Project-Based Art

Unlocking Creativity and Learning through Project-Based Art

For young children, for whom so much knowledge is new and exciting and so many physical and mental skills have to be acquired, the need for exploration, experimentation, and play is even more important. That is a quote from one of my favorite Author and early years consultant Margaret Edgington

An important development occurs when children deliberately use and combine materials to create something they have seen or imagined. Project-based art is one of the strategies to help children achieve their learning journey.

Art projects aren’t just about decorating cut-out shapes or coloring within the lines. When facilitated thoughtfully, the process of creating art builds critical developmental skills in young children. 

This technique is called Negative Frottage. The children start with placing objects or materials with interesting shapes or forms on the canvas. Paint or drawing material is applied to the canvas/paper surface around and in between the objects. The objects are removed, leaving their contoured imprint behind as empty spaces with defined edges. The children then uses these negative space shapes as part of the imagery or composition.
This technique is called Negative Space Frottage. The children start with placing objects or materials with interesting shapes or forms on the canvas. Paint or drawing material is applied to the canvas/paper surface around and in between the objects.
Nurturing art means nurturing brains, hearts—and whole humans. More than painting skills or perfect shading, my students develop passion, responsibility, vision. And my job becomes less about instruction as the students flourish before my eyes. (2018)
Nurturing art means nurturing brains, hearts—and whole humans. More than painting skills or perfect shading, my students develop passion, responsibility, vision. And my job becomes less about instruction as the students flourish before my eyes. (2018)

What is Project-based Art

As I am passionate about holistic approaches to learning, over the years I have very much enjoyed implementing project-based art in my early-year teachings. And I am here to share some of my experiences with you.

Exploring with Salt-dough
In this photo, my students and I are exploring salt dough - a fundamental art medium for teaching young children. The versatility of this simple yet enriching dough makes it an ideal starting point for nurturing artistic expression and fine motor skills development in early art education. (2019)

A project-based art in early learning development refers to art activities or projects that are designed to promote learning and development in young children over a course of time.

The interesting part is that you incorporate curriculums like Reggio Emilia into it. My daughter has been doing project-based art since she was six months old.

The open-ended nature of art projects allows children to naturally direct the experience based on their developing interests and abilities

My inquisitive 3-year-old daughter, who attended the same early learning center where I taught, loved art exploration. In this photo, my young students/ daughter and I are joyfully experimenting with mixing paint colors. As an early childhood teacher, I believe hands-on creative play allows children to make exciting discoveries.

This approach is centered around the process of creating art, rather than the end product. The focus is on the experience, exploration, and experimentation with art materials.

What are the Benefits of Project-based Art?

Projects encourage creativity, self-expression, and problem-solving as children figure out how to use materials and try out their own ideas.

They incorporate open-ended art activities that allow children to work at their own level and ability. This includes activities like painting, drawing, sculpting with clay, and exploring other sensory materials.

Projects are designed to help children develop skills across domains including fine motor skills, cognitive skills, language/literacy, social-emotional skills, and general knowledge.

Collaborative rice canvas art.
In this photo, my young students are working with colored rice. Each child makes a distinctive mark on their collaborative canvas project. (2017)
In this photo, my young students are working with colored rice. Each child makes a distinctive mark on their collaborative canvas project. (2017)
By encouraging open-ended art exploration we can help children create beautiful art work.
By encouraging open-ended art exploration we can help children create beautiful art work.

Teachers/caregivers guide the process and facilitate learning, but allow children to take the lead and direct the experience based on their interests.

art project
In this photo, I was guiding an under-the-sea collaborative art canvas. Kids get ideas easily from books, music, and the interaction with the world around them.

Projects can be individual or collaborative, last for a single session or be expanded over days/weeks as the child pursues an idea. Documentation panels can capture the process.

This Under The Sea collaborative canvas work was done by 2 year old's, on wooden triangle canvas with acrylic paint (2017).
This Under The Sea collaborative canvas work was done by a class of 2 year old's, on a wooden triangle canvas with acrylic paint (2017).

Setting the Stage for Art Exploration

How do we help facilitate a project-based art?

The key is to start with designating an art area for open-ended exploration daily. Include a variety of tools and materials including paint, clay, collage scraps, markers, glue, tape, scissors, etc.

      Introduce children to 2-3 media/tools at a time. Demonstrate possibilities without prescribing outcomes to spark intrinsic motivation.

       Observe each child’s developing approach. Ask open-ended questions, make thought-provoking suggestions, and encourage persistence.

In this photo, I was introducing mixed media materials that can go on canvases.

      Document the process with photos, videos, written observations, and children’s own artwork. These will anchor reflective discussions.

      Keep finished pieces for a class exhibit or student portfolio highlighting the depth of learning. Display the documentation to showcase the process.

3D mixed media wood canvas is done by 4-year-old kindergarteners back in 2019. The art piece was named City Nights by my students.
3D mixed media wood canvas was done by my 4-year-old kindergarteners back in 2019. The art piece was named City Nights by my students.

       Return to the project over days or weeks as desired, expanding on emergent themes. Projects can spark related inquiries across subject areas.

     Support children’s role as peer mentors by encouraging collaboration and meaning-making together.

Growing artists develop both in and out of the classroom through nurturing their innate creativity.
Growing artists develop both in and out of the classroom through nurturing their innate creativity.

By facilitating project-based art explorations, we empower children to drive their own creative growth while developing skills critical for the 21st century. The journey is as meaningful as the destination!

Where To Draw Inspiration?

Active learning curriculums

I have always used The Reggio approach to provide access to a wide variety of materials for inquiry and expression and used open-ended art spaces to allow mix media.

Reggio learning is centered around long-term, collaborative investigations. Likewise, art projects can expand over days, weeks, and months as a child pursues an idea.

The Reggio model, projects emerge from the interests and initiatives of each child. Similarly, art projects allow children to actively construct their own learning.

The fulfillment emerges not just from the finished product but from observing the whole journey unfold.
The fulfillment emerges not just from the finished product but from observing the whole journey unfold. (21017)
This project driven by children's interests has gone through the introduction, planning, experimentation, exploring, and implementing stages.
As they began working on landscape paintings, the children recalled images of what they had just seen outside
This project driven by children's interests has gone through the introduction, planning, Experimentation, exploring, and implementing stages.
After a nature walk where 4 year olds observed the vibrant blue sky and green grassy meadows, they returned to filled with artistic inspiration.
As they began working on landscape paintings, the children recalled images of what they had just seen outside.
As they began working on landscape paintings, the children recalled images of what they had just seen outside
The children's finished landscape artworks depicting the wonder of nature they witnessed firsthand outside were as unique as their young imaginations.
The children's finished landscape artworks depicting the wonder of nature they witnessed firsthand outside were as unique as their young imaginations. (2017)

Nature and Our Environment as Inspiration

Using nature as inspiration for art comes naturally to young children. Providing opportunities for outdoor sensory exploration and bringing natural items into the classroom breathes life into their artistic endeavors.

They may use sticks, flowers, rocks, leaves, pinecones and other natural loose parts to print, paint, and even stick the material itself. Sometimes they may observe and replicate patterns from nature in their drawings. Other times nature inspires more symbolic representations or fuels their imagination.

My 2-year-old at the time and her class mates using nature as inspiration for art.
My 2-year-old at the time using nature as inspiration for art.
Leafy green forest-inspired work done on cotton fabric, the children painted and then printed real leaves in green acrylic.
Leafy green forest-inspired work was done on cotton fabric, the children painted and then printed real leaves in green acrylic.
Leafy green forest-inspired work done on triangular wood, painted in different shades of green acrylic paint.
Leafy green forest-inspired work done on triangular wood, painted in different shades of green acrylic paint.

Famous Art Works and Influential Artists

As children learn about influential artists that inspire emotion and imagination like Van Gogh, Monet, O’Keefe, Picasso and others, they assimilate new visual styles into their own expressions. Recreating famous artworks helps appreciate technique and fuels the genesis of new visions. Exploring varied artists nurtures original perspectives, cultural awareness, and timeless communication via art.

Yellow-Red-Blue, 1925 - Wassily Kandinsky-Abstract
Yellow-Red-Blue, 1925 - Wassily Kandinsky-Abstract

Kandinsky Inspired Collaborative Shapes Abstract Art By 4 Year- Old Students

This work was done by choosing Kandinsky as an inspiration. Just like the famous artist children used music as their inspiration. Listened to music during the process which took a couple of months to explore and accomplish. The black background paint was painted on thick wood(MDF). Other smaller and thinner triangular wood intricately painted abstract were placed by each child in art their chosen places.
This work was done by choosing Kandinsky as an inspiration. Just like the famous artist children used music as their inspiration. Listened to music during the process which took a couple of months to explore and accomplish. The black background paint was painted on thick wood(MDF). Other smaller and thinner triangular wood intricately painted abstract were placed by each child in their chosen places.

Pollock Inspired Drip Abstract Art Done by Children from Ages 2-5

Number 8-1949- Jackson Pollock. Drip Period
Number 8-1949- Jackson Pollock. Drip Period
Let's start with the background which is a wide wood palette, the children collaborated in dripping, splashing, and tapping. A large number of students participated in filling up this big and ambitious canvas with vibrant colors. (My daughter at one and a half going on 2 years old. (2016)
Let's start with the background which is a wide wood palette, the children collaborated in dripping, splashing, and tapping. A large number of students participated in filling up this big and ambitious canvas with vibrant colors. (My daughter at one and a half going on 2 years old. (2016)
Influential artists who inspire emotion and imagination can be a key learning resource and tool for little minds.
Influential artists who inspire emotion and imagination can be a key learning resource and tool for little minds.

Here are some examples of open-ended questions you can ask

Process/Technique Questions

What made you decide to use those colors/materials for this part of your art?

Another Ocean (Underwater) inspired Canvas done by children ages 2-5 (2019)
Another Ocean (Underwater) inspired Canvas done by children ages 2-5 (2019)

I noticed you chose a thicker paintbrush this time. How does that change the way the paint goes on compared to a thinner brush?

How does the clay/dough feel as you roll it between your hands? What changes as you add more water?

Thinking Skills Questions

What is your next step going to be with your art project? How did you decide?

What would happen if mixed different colors? different shades?

The printing technique is one of the most fun techniques for children to do and it includes lots of sensory and pattern-making.
The printing technique is one of the most fun techniques for children to do and it includes lots of sensory and pattern making,
Another printing art project done by 2-3 year old children. (2018)
Another printing art project done by 2-3 year old children. (2018)

Feelings/Reactions Questions

I can see you have been working hard adding lots of detail to your art – How do you feel about your work?

What do you think other children will find interesting about this part?

How does this color make you feel when you look at it? Do you think its a sad color or a happy color?

The String-pulling technique, with soft colors(Food Coloring) and strings, creates a calming artwork. (2019)
The String-pulling technique, with soft colors(Food Coloring) and strings, creates a calming artwork. (2019)
The children made art with sweets. I think it invoked so much joy. (2019)
The children made art with sweets. I think it invoked so much joy. (2019)

Socio-Emotional and Therapeutic Benefits

Promotes Self-Expression & Emotion Processing

Open-ended art allows children to freely express inner thoughts, feelings, experiences, and emotions through visual symbols and creative choice-making. This helps them process joy, frustration, fear, anger, etc healthily. The teacher facilitates discussion and validation of their emotions as depicted through the art.

With an array of materials creating mixed media that brings out different emotions to explore. That in turn builds emotional intelligence.
With an array of materials creating mixed media that brings out different emotions to explore. That in turn builds emotional intelligence. (2019)

Builds Confidence & Resilience

As children envision what they wish to create and persist through challenges to complete their project, they build creative confidence and resilience. Taking risks, problem-solving, and directing the outcome bolsters independence and self-esteem. Celebrating mistakes and iterations as part of the artistic process helps normalize failure.

With guidance, using diverse art media and techniques children create the most amazing work because unlike adults they concentrate on the process more than the end result. (2019)
With guidance, using diverse art media and techniques children create the most amazing work because unlike adults they concentrate on the process more than the end result. (2019)
With guidance, using diverse art media and techniques children create the most amazing work because unlike adults they concentrate on the process more than the end result. (2019)
Acrylic Pouring technique used to my student's favorite way to make art, They have made quite a lot. It's simple expressive and fun in the process and they end up being beautiful works. (2019)
Students need room to stretch their imaginations, learn from mistakes, build confidence through risk-taking. If I interject too much structure or redirection, those peer-to-peer epiphanies wouldn't unfurl the same way.(2019)
Students need room to stretch their imaginations, learn from mistakes, build confidence through risk-taking. If I interject too much structure or redirection, those peer-to-peer epiphanies wouldn't unfurl the same way.(2019)

Enhances Relationships & Social Skills

Collaborating on group art projects requires communication, compromise, and learning from diverse perspectives. Negotiating roles and responsibilities builds empathy and community. Even in individual projects, discussing work and giving feedback promotes active listening, expressing thoughts, and respecting others.

More Gallery of My Student Creativity Through the Years

Another printing art project done by 3- 4 year old children. (2019)
Dragging technique implemented by a class of 4-5-year-olds. Open-ended, child-led exploration allows assimilating techniques tailored to evolving talents and interests. (2019)
Dragging technique implemented by a class of 4-5-year-olds. Open-ended, child-led exploration allows assimilating techniques tailored to evolving talents and interests. (2019)

In summary, project-based art promotes creative self-directed learning through meaningful hands-on art experiences tailored to early childhood development and interests.

As a caregiver/educator, few joys compare to witnessing the awe-inspiring creativity and self-directed learning unfolding before you as children dive into an art activity. Stepping back as they independently problem-solve through conceptual, technical, and collaborative challenges allows them to build confidence in their developing abilities.

The Montessori Way: An Exploration Of Maria’s Child-Centered Educational Vision

The Montessori Way: An Exploration of Maria's Child-Centered Educational Vision

Maria Montessori could have lived comfortably as one of Italy’s first female physicians but instead, she revolutionized how the world views early childhood education.

When she founded the Casa dei Bambini in 1907, no one expected children from low-income families to become so enraptured by learning. Yet this humble Children’s House was the launchpad for Montessori’s educational vision that would soon circle the globe.

Maria Montessori

Montessori understood that true education goes beyond the intellect. That it must nurture the whole child.

Her classrooms shimmered with discovery and purpose. Children scatter across the room choosing mesmerizing activities that call to their inborn curiosity. Pink Tower blocks and ready little hands for mathematical insight. Beautifully lettered Sandpaper Letters awaken an intrinsic desire for reading. Children teach themselves, led by their own developmental path.

Maria Montessori Quotes

The Influences Behind Montessori's Revolutionary Vision

In the 18th century thinkers like Rousseau and Pestalozzi promoted “natural education” letting children learn by experiencing the world, rather than strict discipline and rote learning and this influenced Montessori’s focus on hands-on learning.

Italian physicians studied child development stages and argued children learned differently than adults. Montessori was inspired by their work.

Theories by Piaget, Vygotsky and others in the 1920s-30s reinforced Montessori’s views on cognitive development stages and social learning. These theories are now foundations of early childhood education as we know it.

Montessori carefully observed children to see how they naturally learned best. This scientific observation led to her educational approach driven by children’s natural development.

Maria Montessori

Because more women entered the workforce in the 1900s, it created a demand for preschool education. Montessori methods appealed as a scientific childcare approach.

In the 1960s many looked to alternatives like Montessori that were child-centered rather than teacher-driven. This aligned with cultural trends questioning authority.

Studies showing Montessori students performing well in later grades gained interest from parents and educators.

While controversial in some aspects, Montessori reflected several key trends in educational philosophy. Allowing children freedom with structure resonated with many parents and educators, leading to its worldwide popularity.

The Montessori Method: Blending Science, Observation, and a Nurturing Philosophy

This is education built around the sovereignty of childhood. “Respect all the reasonable forms of activity in which the child engages,” Montessori urged, “and try to understand them.”

Its key principles include children having an innate desire to learn and develop themselves through purposeful activity. Teachers should foster this natural inclination.

Children exploring in a Montessori classroom
Children exploring in a Montessori classroom

Since children go through sensitive periods for learning key skills during their development. Teachers should recognize these periods and focus lessons accordingly.

Learning environments should be carefully structured with materials appropriate for the children’s developmental level and interests. Materials are designed to be visually appealing, hands-on, and self-correcting.

Montessori classroom modern-day

Teachers are guides helping children learn at their own pace, rather than top-down instructors. Children individually choose activities rather than learning as a class.

Mixed-age classrooms with 3-year cycles allow older children to teach younger ones because this fosters peer learning and cooperation.

Montessori schools typically have mixed age classrooms, hands-on learning materials, child-sized furniture, and a high degree of student self-direction. Subjects like practical life skills, sensory stimulation, mathematics, language, science, and culture are integrated.

The Montessori method spread worldwide and influenced many educational approaches. It remains a popular early childhood education model today emphasizing learning through exploration, independence and following the child’s interests.

From Italy to the World

In the 1910s and 1920s, Montessori traveled widely giving lectures and training teachers in her methods across Europe, India, and the US. She also continued opening Montessori schools internationally.

By the 1930s, Montessori methods were well-established with over 1,000 schools worldwide. However, her schools were forced to close in countries including Germany and Italy due to political tensions leading up to WWII.

And after WWII, there was a resurgence in interest in Montessori methods, especially in North America. Maria and Mario Montessori contributed to rebuilding the movement.

The Montessori Mission Marches On

After WWII, many Montessori schools had been closed under fascist regimes. Montessori and her son Mario(Adopted) worked to reopen and establish new Montessori schools as interest in her methods was renewed.

Teacher training centers were reopened to train a new generation of teachers in Montessori methods to staff the growing number of schools.

And new Montessori learning materials were developed, expanding beyond the original materials to encompass new subjects.

Montessori classroom material

Mario Montessori oversaw teacher training and school establishment in India in the 1940s. This brought Montessori education to a massive new audience.

Techniques were updated based on new educational research and observations of children. But core tenets remained unchanged.

Grassroots interest drove rapid US expansion and over 200 schools opened between 1946 and 1960 as American parents embraced Montessori.

The Montessoris gave lectures on their educational philosophy across Europe and North America to spread awareness.

Books like Maria Montessori’s “The Absorbent Mind” detailed her approach and were translated into multiple languages for wide distribution.

In 1947, Maria Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her global work in early childhood education. She did not receive the prize but the nomination recognized her achievements.

Montessori has been described as determined and single-minded in pursuing her educational philosophy. She was tireless in lecturing, writing, and establishing schools globally.

Despite not having children of her own, she was very maternal with her students and took great interest in each child’s progress.

Montessori died in 1952 in the Netherlands at age 81. After her death, her son Mario continued promoting and developing Montessori education across the world.

Influential books written by Maria Montessori and other authors about her educational philosophy

 The Montessori Method (1909) – Her first book introducing her methods and experiences at Casa dei Bambini.

The Advanced Montessori Method (1917) – Details the expanded curriculum for elementary levels.

 The Secret of Childhood (1936) – Discusses children’s physical, psychological and spiritual development.

The Absorbent Mind (1949) – Describes the mental powers of infants and young children.

 Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work by E.M. Standing (1957) – An early biography of Montessori.

Montessori: A Modern Approach and Montessori in the Classroom by Paula Polk Lillard (1972) – Clear overview of the method with examples.

The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies (2019) – Applies Montessori principles to children under 3.

The Montessori Way written by Tim Seldin and Paul Epstein, Ph.D.. It is a comprehensive guide to Montessori education, from the early years through to secondary school.

Maria Montessori: The Italian Doctor Who Revolutionized Education for Children by Margeurite Cootware (2017) – Biography for a young audience.

Today there are over 20,000 Montessori schools worldwide. Montessori left a lasting legacy as a reformer of education centered around the natural development of children with student-directed learning and carefully designed environments. She is considered a pioneer in progressive education.

On other posts we can explore more on setting up Montessori classrooms, setting up a Montessori home, finding books and resources, and exploring the approach.

Check out my other related post by clicking here ‘On Top Curriculum For Homeschooler: A Guide’

Top curriculums for homeschoolers: A Guide

Top Curriculums for Homeschoolers: A Guide

First off I know I am not the only one who is thinking, can you even homeschool your child these days? “Homeschooling is like cooking a meal with whatever random ingredients happen to be in the pantry – it takes creativity and imagination, but you can whip up something pretty delicious if you’re motivated.” I know I am saying it lightly, but it is a monumental responsibility!

According to the UK GOV’s Department of Education parents have a right to educate their children at home, and the government wants the many parents who do it well to be supported. They devote time, financial resources and dedication to the education of their children.

Most parents who take up the weighty responsibility of home education do a great job, and many children benefit from home education. Choosing to educate children at home can represent a resolute and well-informed decision that holds the potential for a remarkably positive impact on their development.

This choice embodies a dedication to fostering an environment tailored to their unique needs and learning styles. By embracing the responsibility of home education, parents are empowered to shape a personalized and holistic learning journey, ingrained with the values and aspirations they hold dear.

This deliberate commitment allows for the cultivation of a strong educational foundation intertwined with the nurturing care that only a home environment can provide. It’s a choice that not only emphasizes academic growth but also underscores the significance of emotional well-being and character development. As parents dedicate themselves to this path, they embark on a remarkable adventure where creativity, curiosity, and close bonds flourish to shape well-rounded individuals ready to thrive and take the world.

However, the past few years have seen a very significant increase in the number of children being educated at home, and evidence suggests many of these children are not receiving a suitable education.


In the United Kingdom

While homeschooling is legal in the UK, parents must register with their local authority. The child will be subject to annual visits.

It is estimated that around 75,000 children are homeschooled in the UK.

Common reasons for homeschooling include religious beliefs, dissatisfaction with the school system, health/medical issues, and children with special learning needs.

Home-educated students can take exams as private candidates and apply to universities using the same procedures as school students.

There are many local and national organizations that provide resources and support for homeschooling families.

In the United States

Approximately 2.5 million students (about twice the population of Hawaii) (3-4% of school-aged children) are homeschooled in the US. The numbers have steadily grown since the 1990s.

Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but regulations vary significantly between states. Some require no notification; others require curriculum approval.

Common motivations include customizing curriculum, moral/religious instruction, academic excellence, special needs accommodation, and objection to the school environment.

Homeschooled students have access to online classes, co-ops, extracurricular activities, standardized testing, and college prep resources to supplement their education.

Studies show homeschoolers often outperform public school students in testing, graduation rates, college admissions, and more. However, critics argue the data is limited.

Exploring the Different Types of Curriculums and Teaching Methods Available at Home

  Traditional textbooks and workbooks – These are standard textbooks, worksheets, and educational materials from major curriculum publishers. They mimic traditional classroom teaching.

Online programs – Complete online curriculums with video lessons, assignments, testing, and record-keeping. Some examples are Time4Learning, Connections Academy, K12.

Unschooling or free-range – Child-led learning based on interests and natural life experiences, without a set curriculum. Learning is self-directed.

Unit studies – Focused study on one topic or concept at a time, integrating multiple subjects. For example, a unit on medieval history could include reading, writing, arts, and science lessons.

Eclectic – Mixing and matching curriculum based on the child’s needs and interests. Using bits from textbooks, online programs, hands-on activities, etc.

Charlotte Mason – Focus on nature study, classic literature, fine arts, and hands-on learning. Less emphasis on worksheets and textbooks.

Montessori – Child-directed learning with specialized Montessori educational materials tailored to developmental stages.

Classical – Emphasis on history, math, logic, science, language, and arts. Includes study of Greek and Latin.

A Beginner's Guide to Free-Range or Unschooling

Free-range or unschooling represents one end of the homeschooling spectrum – a more unstructured approach that gives children autonomy over their learning. With this style, there is no set curriculum. Instead, children follow their interests and learn through everyday life experiences. The child takes the lead in deciding what and how they want to learn.

However, many homeschooling families prefer more structured and traditional curriculums. These may involve textbooks, workbooks, online classes, or unit studies tailored to specific topics.

So while unschooling offers complete freedom, other homeschoolers choose to implement more formal lesson plans using predesigned educational materials and resources.

free range education method

The homeschooling world encompasses a diverse array of teaching styles and philosophies. But what they share is a desire to take education out of the confines of the typical classroom.

Within this framework, families can choose anything from fully unstructured unschooling to a highly structured curriculum like conventional schooling. There are many shades of gray in between.

What is a Free-Range education

Free Range education is an alternative education movement that emphasizes freedom, creativity, and learning through life experiences rather than traditional classroom settings. It falls under the umbrella of “unschooling“.

The term was coined by British writer John Holt in the 1970s, who believed that formal schooling was restrictive and that children learn better when following their own interests and curiosities.

While not as widespread as in the United States, Free Range education has been growing in England over the past couple of decades. It is legal to homeschool children using informal methods like this.

Families pursue free-range education for reasons like wanting more family time, allowing their child’s specific talents/interests to flourish, and dissatisfaction with the public school system.

Common practices include interest-led learning, travel, household responsibilities, internships, apprenticeships, and learning with other homeschooling families. Rather than a set curriculum, the child’s passions guide activities.

Critics argue it lacks structure and content coverage compared to traditional schooling. Supporters say it allows more personalized, real-world learning that promotes independent and creative thinkers.

There are no firm numbers, but one estimate put about 20,000 homeschooled children in England around 2010, a number that has likely increased. Of those, a portion use Free Range methods.

As an alternative to homeschooling using the Free-range method, there are schools out there that implement it fully or incorporate it into their curriculum.

Here are some examples of schools that incorporate elements of the free-range or unschooling approach:

 Summerhill School (Suffolk, England) – Founded in 1921, this pioneering democratic school allows students tremendous freedom to direct their own education. There are few required classes and students collectively self-govern.

Sudbury Valley School (Massachusetts, USA) – Opened in 1968, this non-coercive school gives students complete responsibility for their use of time. There is no required curriculum and students help run the school.

Albany Free School (Albany, New York) – Founded in 1969, this school has no classes, schedules, or grades. Students decide what activities they pursue each day and are responsible for their own learning.

 Fairhaven School (Maryland, USA) – Students ages 6-19 actively manage the daily operations of the school. There are no classes or curriculum requirements. Learning is driven by self-motivation.

Leo Libertaire (Manitoba, Canada) – This secular school provides an unstructured environment where students take ownership of their education. There are no classes or grades.

The Circle School (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) – Students have full autonomy over class attendance, activities, and educational direction. The school serves preschool through 8th grade.

While not exclusively free-range, these schools exemplify key principles of student freedom, self-direction, and learning through intrinsic motivation that define the unschooling philosophy. This allows for customized, interest-driven education.

Summer Hill the Legacy of A.S. Neill

Alexander Sutherland Neill was a Scottish educator and author who radically reimagined schooling by founding Summerhill in 1921. Located in Suffolk, England, it became known as the first modern democratic school centered on freedom rather than control. Neill strongly opposed authoritarian styles of teaching, believing they crushed children’s natural curiosity and stifled self-motivation.

At Summerhill, classes were optional, the curriculum unstructured, and students democratically self-governed through school meetings where everyone had an equal vote. Neill trusted in children’s intrinsic will to learn when given freedom.

His approach encouraged them to take charge of their own education, following their interests and talents at their own pace rather than being forced.

While controversial, Summerhill fostered independent learning and creativity. Neill shared his vision in bestselling books like The Problem Child.

His innovative model inspired educational reformers worldwide and helped pioneer the free school movement. Neill aimed to cultivate happy, self-directed students who embraced learning as a joy rather than a chore.

Alexander Sutherland Neill
Alexander Sutherland Neill
Summer Hill School
Summer Hill School

Freedom not Licence “It must be emphasized again and again that freedom does not involve spoiling the child. If a baby of three wants to walk over the table, you simply tell him he must not. He must obey, that’s true. But on the other hand, you must obey when necessary. I get out of small children’s rooms if they tell me to get out” — A.S.Neill

Summerhill School is still operating today nearly 100 years after its founding. Please visit their website https://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/ for more information.

The school continues to operate out of its original location in Leiston, Suffolk England. It utilizes the same campus that was established by Alexander Sutherland Neill in 1921.

It remains committed to Neill’s original philosophy of democratic education. Students retain freedom over their time and studies, with classes and activities voluntary. There is an emphasis on learning through intrinsic motivation rather than coercion.

Twice weekly meetings, open to all staff and students, are held to democratically self-govern the school. Students and staff have an equal vote on rules and policies. This governance model remains a key pillar.

After Neill passed away in 1973, his daughter Zoë Readhead took over as principal for many years. Today, Neill’s great-granddaughter is the head teacher, keeping it a family-run school.

Please comment below if you would like in-depth information on Free Range Educational structure or if you would like a post about the other home-schooling methods written above.

Till next time, Cheerio