Tag Archives: choice


I wonder why?

WP_20130402_017Watching children’s creative processes always amazes me. You really get to know children through the way they create. Their work tells you something, even random paint splotches tell you something.  You get to know the children through their art and the process in which they engage with the materials. I know that Eunice is about to get serious about her painting if she kneels to paint. I know that Lily is going to start planning if she asks for a really large paper. I know that Brendan will create city plans if he grabs the masking tape.  Sometimes though something happens at the easel or art table that makes me wonder why?

 This morning when I was prepping the easels I was short one metal cup for paint. So one easel had only two choices of paint instead of three, I didn’t think much of it beyond being annoyed that I couldn’t locate the third cup. I went about my morning with the children engaging in dialogue, listening and documenting our learning.

 I would change the paper at the easel from time to time, as one does in a preschool.  The more I removed the children’s work from the easels the more I noticed a pattern emerging.  At the easels that had three cups of paint I was seeing very representational paintings; trees, suns, flowers, crosses, roads, etc. I was noticing in these images the colours were not mixing. If an object was painted in green it didn’t have any other colour on it.

A painting from an easel with three colours.
A painting from an easel with three colours.

On the other hand what I was noticing at the easel with two colours was experimenting with mixing colours and paper being covered in colour. I noticed children experimenting with painting with two brushes at once, using circular motions to mix the colours and large strokes of paint.

A painting from an easel with two colours.
A painting from an easel with two colours.

I started to watch the children painting.  Why? I kept asking myself, I contemplated all the possibilities. Could it be the colour choices at the easels? Was it the way I presented them? Was the other provocation I had set up in the room with the rainforest book and drawing influencing the children’s use of the colour green? Do pink and yellow just beckon to be mixed? Was it the brushes?

 Wanting to explore this further and see what was causing this pattern, I set up the easels the exact same way, right down to the brushes I provided. You know what it didn’t happen again and again I ask why?

 What are your thoughts? Why do you think this pattern emerged?



We Never Really Know


I know this amazing family who when they heard a baby needed adopting because his young parents were not able to care for him said “We will love him.”

It took almost a year before the foster system would allow them to bring him home due to cross province adoption policy. When they brought him home he was diagnosed with sensory processing and attachment disorders. He screamed at the parents and his new sister twenty four hours a day. It was challenging, weaker people would have buckled under the pressure but they said “we love him.”

The day before the adoption was to be put before the judge to be finalized, they were informed the adoption was being challenged.  For two and half years they agonized over the possibility of losing their son in private. Their son’s needs became more challenging as they agonized. Weaker people would have thrown in the towel but they said “He is our son and we love him.”

During the final months of their agony they had to attend a trial in which they heard testimony of their son’s tragic beginning. They heard stories of addiction, neglect and violence.  At the end of a trial that drained them emotionally, they found out they would have to agonize just a little bit longer as the judge wrote his ruling. The judge informed them at the beginning of December that he would have his ruling to them by January. The agony grew.

January came and went with no ruling. February came and went with no ruling. In the third week of March they received a call. “The judge will deliver his decision by 10:30 a.m. the next morning.”  At 11:37 the following morning they received an email informing them that he was their son.  I had the honour of being there when they found out he would be staying in their family. I knew this family was in agony. Living in fear every day of being torn apart but I did not know the depth of their agony until I saw the mother finally break down in tears. Tears that released the private agony she had been suffering for the last two and half years of her life.

It is an emotional story. Every time I think of that family I am filled with emotion and gratitude.  This is not the point of my story though.  This mother privately agonized. The whole family agonized in private. They took their children to preschool and didn’t utter a word. The parents stayed strong for their children and suffered privately. As Early Care and Learning professionals we never know what a family struggles with in private. 

I believe with that knowledge we are given choices. We can choose to connect with each and every person who walks through our doors.  We can choose to put our judgements aside. We can choose to care for the parents as well as the child.


When Children Choose

Let me describe a typical snack time. The table is beautifully set by the children. Each child brings their own snack that their  parents have lovingly supplied for them. Some children have many choices and some just have one treasured item for snack.

The children sit and talk for sometime but a lot of the snack choices end up back in their lunch kits or packs. Snack is never the focus. Most of the time as well one child is done before everyone else and returns to playing.

This morning the children and I decided to walk to a local market and pick up snack first this morning. We had discussed it on Wednesday at snack. I had suggested that maybe we could make a salad. The children wholeheartedly said “no” We talked about other things we could pick up. By the end of snack on Wednesday it was decided we could pick up cheese and crackers.

When we got to the market we first looked at the local vegetables they had outside. The first thing we saw was a cucumber. I asked if the children wanted cucumber some shouted yes some shouted no. So at that point I decided we needed a more democratic process. I rephrased my question “Who would like to have cucumber for snack? Please put up your hand.” Two thirds of the class put up their hands. I then asked “Who would not like cucumber for snack? Please put up your hand.” It was decided yes we would have cucumber for snack. We did this same process with apples. Then we walked into the store and looked at the dairy cooler. I started listing off what was available. Cheddar Cheese, goats cheese, yogurt……. The children all said yogurt. We invoked the democratic process again to decide on whether we wanted strawberry, peach or raspberry yogurt. Raspberry it was.

Then the children pointed out the cracker shelf and asked if they could get the bunny crackers. Again we had two choices cheddar bunny crackers or chocolate graham bunny crackers. They chose the chocolate. We paid for our groceries where the children all informed the shop keeper of their age and what their favourite thing to do at preschool was.

We returned to the preschool  I invited the children to play. While they played I happily cut apples and cucumbers and arranged them in a pleasing way on a bamboo cutting board.  Today our food was the centre piece. I set the table with an organza runner and the board of cucumbers and apples in the centre. I returned to the counter to get the bowl of crackers and yogurt. When I returned to the table three children were already sitting at the table. I said “Oh you can still play I am just getting ready for snack.”

“We want to eat snack now” they told me.

I asked the whole class if they wanted to have snack now and it was a resounding “yes”

The children washed their hands and we had snack. Now here is the thing. They ate everything. I mean everything. Apples, cucumbers, yogurt and of course the chocolate bunny crackers. Nothing was left on the table, save for a few apple peels. I asked them what was different about this snack. They said it was delicious.

I told the children we still had one apple, half a cucumber and half a box of bunny crackers left. That we could have another snack on Monday when we returned if they liked. They all thought that was a smashing idea.

“Can we do this again?” a child then asked.

I said “Well yes we are going to finish the leftovers on Monday.”

“no can we go to the store and pick our own snack again.” the child asked

“Can we get peach yogurt next time?” another child piped in.

I said of course.

Here is the thing not only did they eat everything but they all stayed sitting and talking for a long period of time. Half hour to forty-five minutes long. Decisions were made around that table. We were going start choosing our snack once in a while. It was also decided we would try a new yogurt each time. Peach next, strawberry after that and maybe raspberry again. This was a “working” snack. They all chose to start together and they all ended snack together. That never happens.

Snack today was  a good reminder  of how invested children are when they have choice and control over their experiences.

“It is the ability to choose which makes us human.”