Category Archives: Rules

baking soda

One Provocation, Two Ideas


When the children arrived at preschool this morning I had a provocation waiting for them. I had placed two pie plates lined with baking soda. Beside each plate I had placed a jar of coloured water with an eye dropper and a bottle of coloured vinager with an eye dropper. It was my idea that the children would explore the different reactions each liquid produced when combined with the baking soda. Julian and Beth gravitated instantly to this project, as did Asha and Eunice. Each bottle had different colours. This invited the children to negotiate which colour they wanted. Some coaching was needed in the beginning but then we were hearing a lot of “please can I have the red”  “Oh Asha can I have the blue please” ‘yes can I have the green” 

The collaborative investigating went on for some time.

 Then Taya joined the group to watch what they were doing.  I watched as she noticed the bubbling of the vinegar when added to the baking soda and I saw her eyes light up. She then went and grabbed a jar and started to undo the lid. When she undid the lid she removed the eyedropper and dumped the whole bottle into the pie plate. There was no reaction from the liquid, it just made a big wet puddle in the centre of the plate. So she dumped the next bottle in, it fizzed a little and then stopped. So she dumped the next one in, soon she had dumped all of the bottles into the pie plate.

 Taya then started to swirl her fingers through the baking soda and liquid.

 “It’s a swirly rainbow.” She said

 Once all the bottles were dumped the other children lost interest in the provocation. Taya saw this as an opportunity and moved the other pie plate over and started mixing the liquids from her pie plate into it. She swirled her fingers in the plate, leaned down and gave it a smell.

 “Oh it’s a delicious apple pie.” She said


 She smoothed out the goop that was in the plates and announced “I need to put these in the freezer.” She went and created a freezer on the counter by the sink by moving the the dish rack over and then placing some materials parallel to the dish rack. She placed the pie plates between. “Okay they are in the freezer now.”

 Taya continued to play with the pies for some time. Here is the thing I find interesting about this. I had an idea for the children and how they would use it. Taya had an idea too. Both ideas were about transformation and reaction. Each idea approached it differently though. There was a time in my career where I might of shut down Taya’s exploration because I wanted to ensure each child got a turn and had some liquid. I might of shut down the play for fear of conflict. Here is the thing the children weren’t upset that Taya took a different approach. Not all the children wanted to play with the provocation either. They were happy to move on and play something else. I am glad I didn’t shut it down because Taya was clearly invested in her idea and she thought outside my thinking.


Of Lunch and Leisure and Socks

I’m sitting with two girls at the picnic table eating lunch.  One said she felt sore in her tummy and went inside, I thought to go to the bathroom. But in a moment she returned with an orange sock on each of her hands. Without explanation she continued eating her lunch. She used her sock covered hands to open her applesauce container, then, carefully manipulating her plastic spoon, she ate it.  She and her companion continued chatting, slowly, slowly eating. It takes a lot of time to eat your lunch when your hands are covered in orange socks.

Now here’s the thing: no adult said a word about the socks. No one told her to take them off, and no one told her to hurry up and finish eating.

This centre has been rethinking routines, slowing everything down, so there are fewer transitions and longer blocks of time.  Which meant that these two girls could chat amiably over a leisurely lunch and enjoy sock covered hands.

Don’t you think we could all use a leisurely lunch? Got any orange socks?


Can I Get a Hallelujah!


Sometimes you just know that some practice that has been handed down from generation to generation just has to go. You know it in your heart of hearts….. but some still hold dear to that practice. So not having the words yet to articulate why it needs to go you begrudgingly put up with it.

Then a rock star in your field says something at a conference that gives you the courage and conviction to finally confront that practice.

Like Bev Bos who once said at a conference “Rip those alphabets off of your walls.” That is all I needed to broach the subject with my colleagues at the centre.

I had one of those moments today. I was at the amazing “Journeys of Possibilities Conference”. Lillian Katz was at the podium delivering her keynote address. She said “Do you know the calendar ritual? Do you do that here in Canada?”  Some moans came from the audience and knowing nods.

She spoke of visiting a class where the children sat around a commercial large print calendar and counted out the days, counted and clapped out the syllables in the word calendar and sang the calendar songs. Lillian spoke of quietly sitting there listening to this ritual. At the end of the ritual Lillian asked if she could ask a question. The teacher said of course. “Can anybody tell me what a week is?”

A little girl piped up “it’s short for weekend”.

Then Lillian said it:

“Look unless you are paying the bills or worrying about getting pregnant you don’t need it.”

Once we stopped laughing she continued. “Look Children will learn when they learn. You don’t need to take up 25 minutes of their day with this.”

All I could think at that time was “Can I get a Hallelujah!”

Thank you Lillian!


Bears, Broken Glass, and the Obvious Question

What do you remember from your childhood about playing outside?

Some educators and I have been talking about this and we’ve been writing down our stories;

As a child we would break glass bottles and then use the pieces as ‘covers’ for our flower and leaf arrangements…

There was a weeping willow tree that we used as a fort, we played in it for hours, we all knew we just needed to be home for dinner….

My brothers and I would use left over construction materials to build forts in the forest. We were told to make a lot of noise while we played there to keep the bears away…..

We used a rope to swing over a stream, but if you fell in you stayed wet all day, no matter what the season…..

We played hide and seek with all the neighbourhood kids and designated nine back yards as the game territory….

This leads me to think about discussions Danielle and I have with educators around rules, specifically the “slide rule”, you know the one I mean: no going up the slide, feet first coming down the slide, come down on your bottom please!

Danielle and I use this rule as a starting point for discussion, and boy, do we get discussion! Educators want to keep kids safe, they want to help avoid conflict, they want little kids to feel safe among big kids so they have the slide rule.  All with the very best of intentions.

But it seems to me that we might be missing something when we create these rules, we miss that fact that kids can negotiate, that they they can take care of little kids, that falling off the slide might be worth the benefits of the great fun of climbing up it.

Reflecting back on our own childhoods might be a way begin to rethink some of the rules we have. Relative to broken glass and bears a slide is pretty tame!

Let me ask the obvious question…..did anyone ever tell you how to use the slide when you were a kid?


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Who are we doing it for?

Maybe if we approach each child, each group of children, as an unknown entity, we will be inspired to discover the infinite possibilities that exist for the temporal organization of early childhood spaces.  Kathleen Kummen

A group of 3 year olds sit on the carpet happily wiggling. There is joy in the movement and, as if they were all puppets connected by one string, they bounce and toss and shake. One shouts with the beauty of this connected communal dance and everyone joins in. Now all are shouting and bouncing, all are smiling and yelling and jumping. It is a happy mess of chaos.

The difficulty is that this is supposed to be circle time, where songs are sung, books are read, rhymes are chanted. The educator and I look at one another, and shake our head. Neither of us can bring order to this.

So here’s the obvious question; who is circle time for? It’s a question that keeps raising it’s controversial head with ECEs I talk with. Who are the routines for? Why do we have this regular schedule that dictates our day with children?

Educators I’ve been talking with are conflicted: the idea of particular routines and practices are so embedded that we can hardly conceive of doing things differently even when all evidence in front of us tells us that change is warranted. Do we really want to wrestle kids down so that we can tell a story? Do we really need to interrupt a fantastic dramatic play because the clock says it is time to tidy up? Do we want to shut down  a big outdoor game of ‘trucks going to work’ because it’s time to play inside?

Who are doing it for?