Tag Archives: Image of the child



jessieThe following post is a guest post from Jessie Gill an Early Childhood professional who practices at Moss Rock Preschool.  Jessie has been an Early Childhood Educator since 2007. She studied at Vanier College in Montreal. She then went on to get her BA in Education and Cultural Anthropology.  She has strong image of the child, educator and Family and we were so happy to have her join our team at Moss Rock Preschool.

A Preschool is a cultural community; one that includes children, families, teachers, and community members. In beginning my new position as Educator at Moss Rock Preschool, my main objectives during the initial weeks was to observe the culture of the group and begin the relationship building process. In my observations of the children and how the group navigates through their morning, I have begun to notice daily patterns occurring, that the children, parents and educators move through with confidence.


I was recently reading a blog written by a particularly reflective Educator that brought to light the distinct difference between routines and rituals within an Early Childhood Environment. We all have routines in our lives that are repetitive and perhaps we go through the motions without giving much thought to what we’re doing. However, Danielle, Morgan and the children of Moss Rock have established some routines that hold significant importance for the group. Despite their apparent simplicity, I argue that they are more than routines, but in actuality special rituals. Coming from a cultural anthropology background, I studied rituals of all kinds but had never really taken the time to notice the incognito rituals that enrich Early Childhood Environments.


Cracker Time at Porter Park

It’s 10am and the group is dispersed around Porter Park, some children play in the spacious sand area, others groupings of children are tucked away in the trees, others stand or crouch a top the mossy rocks. The children appear deeply engaged in their work, their play. Wendy approaches Morgan in the sandpit area and asks, “Is it cracker time? Cuz I’m hungry!” Morgan replies with enthusiasm, “Yes yes yes!” The two of them head over to the coniferous tree that is our gathering place at various times throughout the morning. Wendy announces “CRACKER TIME” with gusto. The message of cracker time is passed amongst the group and children flock to the big tree. Circling around the educator, eager anticipation can be seen on the children’s faces. Morgan retrieves the crackers from the backpack and hands out crackers to the children, acknowledging each child as they are crowshanded a cracker “one for Rory, one for Polly, one for Gerta” and so on. Our park cohabitants, the crows, swoop to lower branches in anticipation of fallen crackers. The children munch on their snack and some notice and comment on the crows behaviour. As crackers are finished, the group naturally returns to play.


Rituals don’t have to be complex, but they must offer a sense of belonging and predictability to the children. Cracker Time can be initiated by any group member, however all participants have active and important roles. I wonder if Cracker Time would exhibit the same message of care and group belonging if the children didn’t gather all together under the same tree each day, or if the Educator didn’t acknowledge the children as the snack was handed out. From my point of view, this ritual provides children with more than a daily snack. It is a ritual that the group collectively looks forward to, where the children willingly break from their play to spend a moment gathered together with other members of their community. It is more than a routine; it is a daily ritual that holds value for the children and Educators of Moss Rock Preschool.



The Good, The Bad, The Mindful and The Self-Regulated

IMG_7269Sometimes when I have a few minutes free to myself I like to peruse the parenting or education section of bookstores to see what is being shared. My last visit to the bookstore the shelves were inundated with books with mindful, present, self-regulated in their titles. I was bothered.

I was at a professional lunch not long after when a colleague said “I just want the children to be more mindful.” As the word mindful slipped out of her lips I felt an inner cringe occurring deep within me. I was rejecting this word.

A week later I found myself facilitating a professional group discussion on practice. The word mindful came up several times in our conversations.  As the word came up again and again I could feel my body rejecting the word, cringing at its use. I wanted to interject into their conversation and ask “What does it mean to be mindful?” I knew though I may use a judgemental tone in that moment that wouldn’t convey a desire to understand but more a desire to reject that word. So I listened to their thoughts on it, as well as my own body and thoughts. What was it about this word that upset me?

What does mindful mean?  When I looked it up Mindful was defined as being conscious or aware of something. I have watched children consciously kick or bite someone. Would people label that behaviour as mindful? Probably not. To me it feels like mindful is another way to label a child. Being a mindful or self-regulated child is just another way of telling them they are a good child.  Telling parents they are not mindful or present parents is just another way of saying they are bad parents. Who decides who is mindful and who is not? Who decides how much being present makes you a good parent?

We as educators know it is wrong to label people as good or bad. We know that we internalize these labels and no longer see our choices as good or bad choices but ourselves as good or bad people. We know this but yet we still struggle not to label a child or parent. These words mindful, present, self-regulated, etc… are still labels no matter how enlightened they are.

I think all children are mindful. I think they are very aware of the choices they make good or bad. I also think parents are some of the most mindful people I know revisiting and examining  every choice they make as parents. I also think all children have the ability to self-regulate, I think we as a society just don’t like it when their way of regulating feels like chaos. I believe language has power, it’s probably one of the most powerful things I have as an educator. Words like mindful and self-regulated are not used in my practice because it requires me to make a judgement about someone and that is not my job.


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The Spirit of Research

A doll house on a low table. A common sight in a child care setting, so common we take it in with a glance.Standard equipment.

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 A small boy approaches the doll house, grabs it with both hands and pulls. Clearly he wants this house on the floor to play with at his level. An adult helps and the house is moved to the floor. But contrary to our expectation, the boy doesn’t crouch down to play with the house. Instead he goes back to the table and grabs the table cloth and pulls it off. Underneath is a water table, empty of water.

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The boy lifts  the lid and climbs inside.  He uses his body, his hands, feet, head and torso to feel the contours and hollows of the table. Abruptly he climbs out and runs across the room to gather pom poms and rocks.  Again he climbs into the water table and fills the hollows with his found materials.

 As the boy moves the rocks and pom poms around learning more about the shapes within the table, another idea emerges. The pom poms and rocks are discarded. Quickly he tucks his body into a ball and fits himself into the contours of the table.

Then the boy says: Put the lid on.

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The adults in the room saw only a table and a dollhouse. The boy saw, well, we will never know exactly what he saw, but it was certainly more than a table and a house.

 We have all had moments like this, surprised by what children do with materials…. the unexpected way a sock can turn into an elephant nose, or a sanitary napkin can be Santa’s beard (yup, I’ve seen it done!)

 Which begs the question…..how do we provide opportunities for these multiple ways of seeing? How do we provide materials and environments that spark inquiry?  How do we create a culture where climbing into the water table is embraced?

 I offer you the words of Carlina Rinaldi:  I would like, …to propose the concept of “the normality of research,” which defines research as an attitude and an approach in everyday living, in schools and in life . . . as a way of thinking for ourselves and thinking with others, a way of relating with others, with the world around us and with life.

 So there, beautifully put is our challenge. What if everything we offered to children, the materials, the environment, the culture, the relationships were offered in a spirit of research?  What if we kept the refrain “children as researchers” in our minds every time we put stuff on a table? What if we considered ourselves co-researchers by the side of children?

 Adapting research as an attitude and an approach can transform our thinking and our classrooms. It can transform our lives with children.

Just watch them.



Danielle and I and Danielle’s colleague Ashlee with Lella Gandini

Danielle and I spent two full days with Lella (OK, we weren’t exactly alone with her, we shared her with 123 other people….but still….)

Lella Gandini has been integral to introducing the Reggio approach in North America, accompanying the Wonder Of Learning Exhibit and introducing the ideas and the stories to rapt audiences. Lella doesn’t simply give lectures, she embraces her audience with her humour, her grace and her passion. And so we spent two days talking, listening, wondering, laughing…..entering into her beautiful vision of what education can be.

She spoke of creating joyful problems for children. A joyful problem, what a lovely image. An image that respects children as curious and intelligent and seeking research and investigation. An image that believes teachers are strong, capable of thinking and listening to children.

If we were to think about joyful problems, how would we set up a room?

How would we approach a child as they investigated the problem?

How would it shift the questions we asked? Or the expectations we had?

I see this invitation to create a joyful problem as a provocation to think differently about learning.  To embrace the joy and the complexities.

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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.