Tulip Tree Preschool https://tuliptreepreschool.com Wed, 16 Jan 2019 22:47:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 Thoughts on Being Big https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/thoughts-on-being-big/ https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/thoughts-on-being-big/#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2019 22:47:51 +0000 https://tuliptreepreschool.com/?p=21062 Read More]]> By Bee

The children have been talking a lot about being big or grown up, versus being the little babies that they were a week ago. 😉 It seems like this is being echoed at home, as several of you mentioned it in your responses to my “What’s New?” email.

Here are some unfiltered thoughts from the children! I hope you enjoy them!


Bee: I heard you guys talking about being big. What makes you big?

Child1: My self makes me big. But I am little too.

Child2: Yeah! I’m big! But maybe I am small.

Bee: You are feeling big and small. You said your self makes you big? What makes you little?

Child1: Seveah makes me little. She’s my sister.

Bee: I see. Your sister keeps you little. How do you feel about your little sister?

Child1: I feel. I feel… I feel Seveah. I sit by her and Mama.

Bee: You sit with her and Mama. Being a big brother is hard work. Sometimes it can be fun, and sometimes it can be frustrating. Sometimes it is very exciting!

Child1: I feel excited about lights. About Christmas lights!

Bee: Do you think your sister liked the lights?

Child1: Maybe yes. Maybe six times. But she is little.


Child1: I’m a big person.

Child2: I’m a big person too.

Child1: I’m a big person because I can talk.

Child2: Yeah. And me too.


A group of children are coming down the stairs. Child1 gets down first, after which she turns and says

Child1: “I am going to wait for all these people. Sometimes big people wait.”


Child1: “This is my penis. It’s because I am big.”

Bee: “Yup! That is your penis. You said you have it because you are big now. Was it there when you were little?”

Child1: “It’s good. It’s a good penis.”

Bee: “You sound really happy with it!”

Child1: “Yeah! It’s AMAZING!!!”

Bee attempts to hold her composure, but begins to laugh

Child1: “I’m cute.”

Bee guffaws


Child1: I like coffee. When I am big, I like coffee. When I was little, I didn’t like coffee. But now I am big and I like coffee. But I’m little too.


Child1: Where is this baby’s diaper??

Bee: I don’t know where that baby’s diaper is.

Child1: That baby needs a diaper.

Child2: That baby doesn’t need a diaper! She is getting bigger! She has a penis now!

Child1: Oh yeah! She has a penis now. She is bigger! Lets put her on the potty!


Child1: Bee, do you have underwears?

Bee: Yes, I own some underwear.

Child1: And you wear it because you are big?

Bee: Well, anyone can wear underwear, big or small.

Child1: And you pee in your underwear?

Bee: I mostly pee in the toilet. Sometimes if I laugh too much I might have an accident though. My body has to pee a lot, so I try not to hold it. That’s why I go to the bathroom many times a day, to take care of my body!

Child1: Yeah, cause you are big!!!


I didn’t realize the connecting themes until I had these all typed out, but from a cursory glance it seems like many of our friends are exploring the idea of being both big and small. The children are aware that they were once smaller than they are now, but they still aren’t as big as all the adults around them. They are wrestling with a feeling of personal growth that hasn’t fully come to fruition yet. For perhaps the first time in their lives, they are aware that they are a work in progress. That is a lot to explore!

It also seems like quite a few of our friends equate having a penis with being grown up! I’m curious about the root of this idea, and think it is interesting that several of the children share this idea, even though I haven’t heard them talking about it as a collective group.

The final commonality is that the children associate being big with using the toilet. This one I expected, but the other two were interesting surprises to me!


As always, please feel free to share any wonderings, comments, questions, or quotes about being big in the comments below!





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Let Me Tell You ‘Bout My Friends https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/let-me-tell-you-bout-my-friends/ https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/let-me-tell-you-bout-my-friends/#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2019 21:38:29 +0000 https://tuliptreepreschool.com/?p=21055

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Why We Practice Documentation https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/why-we-practice-documentation/ https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/why-we-practice-documentation/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 18:56:23 +0000 https://tuliptreepreschool.com/?p=21008 Read More]]> by Katee

Documentation is an important part of our learning environment at Tulip Tree.  Recently, when hanging up some photos in our art studio, ST asked me, “What are you doing?”.  I replied, “Well, I’m hanging up some photos of you all with your hands in the clay. Do you remember doing that last week?” ST said, “Yeah, but why are you doing that?”

Well, ‘why’, is a very different question. A big question. A question I sometimes steer away from with the children because it is a question of cause and effect, a question of higher thinking.  I tried to answer in my best simplified preschool teacher answer, “Well, I want you to see them. And for everyone to see them! It can be nice to visit with things we are thinking about and exploring.”  He shrugged and ran off, apparently satisfied enough with my answer, or over the conversation.

But I wanted to extend this conversation to the community, because ST asked an important question.  We spend a lot of time and energy in documenting the children throughout the year.  We put large displays on the walls of many rooms that include drawings, questions, stories, photos, and words.  We also photograph and organize all photos, take videos, voice record, make books, transcribe stories and conversations, blog almost daily, post happenings on Instagram, host parent nights, write monthly newsletters, send photos through Brightwheel, write connective questions on our little chalkboard, and so much more. Teachers spend so many hours each week dedicated to documentation, so why we do it, is a great question.

First of all, we want families to know what their child is doing at school.  Documentation is a simple way to connect with your child’s life and learning at school. When parents come in and spend a moment looking around, they are participating in our learning environment.  They are gaining knowledge of their own child’s ideas, explorations, and discoveries.  They are also gaining an awareness of their child’s peers and teachers that are included in the documentation. So documentation is certainly partly for parents, but it is also for the children, the teachers, and others outside the community too.

Having the documentation on our walls is a beautiful way to show the children that they matter, their learning matters, and the work they do is important to us and their community.  Documentation often reflects the process of the activity, and not just the product. We want children to know that the act of wondering, doing, trying, exploring, is so important and not just what ends up in their art file.

Making learning visible is very important for the children for assessment as well. When researching the most productive forms of assessments, we find that self-assessment is actually best. By having their work directly displayed on the wall, children are naturally somewhat assessing themselves. The children recall, compare, and get inspired from the work of the walls.

Furthermore, a language rich environment is conducive to learning to read and write. Just having words around, in any form, will support the children’s learning written words.  Typed words are crisp and clean and can feel formal, grown-up, and important. Hand written words, whether by student or teacher, have character and style and can show a connectedness to the work by giving a sense of that person’s presence.  However we do it, even if they cannot actually read it, the words are there for the children as well.

The documentation is there for the teachers too. Why? Because we are, admittedly, all learning. At the Opal School symposium we attended this summer, we met some amazing folks from Harvard’s Project Zero who referred to the children as “our young colleagues”. I love the respect this term holds for the children.  The students are our “young colleagues” and we are all learning different things, but all together.  Documentation, like this blog, is an amazing time for teachers to be reflective in their work and to check-in and see where we should take it next in following our young colleagues. Our curriculum doesn’t come with a set map. We are a child-led school because we are always trying to listen to their 100 languages, and build a school together that reflects their curiosities and nurtures their growth.

And beyond this, we also want others to know what we do at our school. We get inspired by other schools and we like to think we inspire others too. Alisha has, for the past couple of years, spoken during seminars to teach teachers about some of the amazing work she has done around gender with preschoolers. We also make our blog public, and I have been managing a public Instagram account for us for the past couple years.  We are connecting on social media with other schools all over the world and sharing ideas across language barriers and oceans.  We want to document to give parents connection, to give the children a sense of their importance, the teachers reflection, and the world inspiration.





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What does this say? https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/what-does-this-say/ https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/what-does-this-say/#respond Sat, 12 Jan 2019 02:30:39 +0000 https://tuliptreepreschool.com/?p=21035 Read More]]> By Kerry

It is a natural progression for the children to start getting excited about letters and wanting to create words with the letters they know. First they try their own names and later their family and friends’ names. Lately, teachers have been asked how to spell certain words so the children can make notes to take home.  The link between writing and reading is the understanding that the letters they are learning represent sounds and when you put the sounds together in a certain way you create words!

Today at the art table, LS, HE and EB were practicing all the letters they know. HE asked me, “What does this say?”. I get excited when the kids ask me this because I love reading what sounds and words they create.  I did my best to read out the words she had created with her letters. We laughed a lot and then the table went into a flurry of letter writing. After every few letters they’d ask, “What does this say?” I’d read their secret language back to them and we’d laugh. After many pages of writing we had to take a break for snack but I’m sure we’ll get to play this game again soon.

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Whoooooo’s Missing?! https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/whoooooos-missing/ https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/whoooooos-missing/#respond Thu, 10 Jan 2019 22:15:46 +0000 https://tuliptreepreschool.com/?p=21022 Read More]]> by Katee

Today we played one of our favorite games at circle time- “Who’s Missing”.  One child leaves the room while we choose another to hide, usually under a blanket, in the middle of the circle.  The rest of the circle has the difficult task of being “the secret keepers” as the first child returns and has to guess “Whoooooo’s Missing?!”.  When the guesser is stumped the secret keepers also get to give clues, which can be tricky and fun as well.  Its an exciting exercise that tests the children’s memory and while we always enjoy it, today we mixed it up a little. Instead of using a blanket to hide the secret child, we used one of our new tunnels! Here are a few videos from today:

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Noticing, Wondering, Hypothesizing https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/noticing-wondering-hypothesizing/ https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/noticing-wondering-hypothesizing/#respond Wed, 09 Jan 2019 22:33:56 +0000 https://tuliptreepreschool.com/?p=21010 Read More]]> Katee: I got this interesting gift from my dad to bring to school. What do you notice about it??

Unknown: There’s a bush in there.

DB: There’s magic in there that it can get smaller when it goes through the middle and then turn bigger at the other end!

Katee: It does look pretty big.

EB: I think it could fall apart.

Katee: EB said that it looks big but that it can fall apart to go through that tiny spot.

CL: I’m guessing it’s a timer.

EP: Yeah, it’s really a timer.

HE: Maybe the glass is half made as a top and then they put that sand in there?

Katee: Oh yeah, how did they get it in there?

ZP: Make sure you do not break it!

Katee: Does it look fragile?

LG: Yeah, that outside looks like glass, so that’s fragile.

DB: Can I tell you something? I think they first put the bush thing on this side and then they set it on the square thing with the bottom glass and then they built the rest of the parts of the glass. But they first used glue to glue that thing to it.

ER: I think that it goes really tall and touches the ceiling and then it could turn into a type of animal that is a dinosaur.

SM: When I was going to paint my nails with my mama, before we goed to lunch, we saw people blowing up glass.

Katee: Has anyone else ever seen people blow glass?

DB: I have a book about  lots of stories and one picture is about someone who has a giant thing that he used to make the shape and its super hot and then it cools down.

Katee: Interesting.. They got it really hot. Is that what you saw too, SM?

SM: Yeah, it was a very hot stove.

DB: And then when it cools they call people to give it to other people.

SM: They put it on the shelf…

Katee: Does anyone else have other ideas about this interesting gift that we got?

EB: I think if you flip it over, it will fall apart.

Katee: Should we try it?

Kids: YEAH!!!!

(Pulls it off it’s base)

SM: Is it sand???

DB: What?? It comes off? It wasn’t glued!! And now it came apart like that.

HE: Now let’s see…. It’s sand!

Katee: We have to be very quiet when i flip it so we can watch it!

(flips it over and sets it down on it’s magnetic base)

DB: It’s makin shapes when it falls!

Kids: Wowwww… Woah…. OOOooo….

BS: Makin shapes when it falls!

LG: Now it’s makin that thing that it built first.

ER: It looks like a plant.

EB: It’s making it bigger!

BS: It’s getting bigger and bigger.

(It is done falling down)

DB: Now can you please keep it like that and please pass it around?? I have an idea! Do it..

Katee: I’m wondering what that stuff is made of on the inside?

ER: Do it again!!!!

SM: It’s metal!!!

DB: Metal and magnets! I think this stuff is metal and this is a magnet.

FC: I think I had an idea for you to do something. Maybe this thing is metal and that’s why it unsticks to this because magnets unstick. If the magnet unsticks to sand… Great!

Katee: You guys are really wondering about things, making ideas, testing things out and figuring it out! 


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Who Is Joey? https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/who-is-joey/ https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/who-is-joey/#respond Mon, 07 Jan 2019 23:36:11 +0000 https://tuliptreepreschool.com/?p=20923 Read More]]> An Autobiographical Blog by Joey Kirsten Voxnaes

Hi, friends!  You know me as Joey, but I go by many names  in other places.  My family calls me Tamara (which rhymes with camera), which is my given first name.  My friends call me Kirsten, which is my given middle name.  I always wished that Kirsten were my given first name, so I started going by it about 5 years ago.  (Adults get to change their names whenever they want!  It’s really cool!)  You can still call me Joey!  It’s a fun name that is easy to say.  =)

I have a lot of hobbies, and I love animals, food, and people!  Below are some pictures to share with your friends and family so that you can learn more about who I am when I’m not at school.

I used to have a dog that I named Chali.  I adopted him in Arizona two years ago while I was on vacation.  Sadly, Chali died just before Halloween of 2018 (a few short months ago).  I miss him dearly because he was an amazing best friend!  I hope to adopt another dog later this year.  Best friends are important to have nearby!

This is a picture of my hometown, Savannah, Georgia.  Savannah is surrounded by ocean and swamps, and this is a picture of a river that leads from the swamps to the ocean.  I love going crabbing and also swimming in the many rivers in my hometown.  I love that the Atlantic Ocean is calm enough to body surf on its waves!  I miss swimming in the ocean.

This is a pair of shoes that I painted with my friends.  I have a couple of friends that are really good at painting.  I am not very good at painting but I still think it is a lot of fun.  I like to paint with bright colors.

I did not paint this, but I found it outside when I was walking around a city called Atlanta, Georgia.  I went to college in Atlanta to study the Spanish language and also psychology, a science about people.  I still have friends that live in Atlanta and I like to visit them.  I took this picture after eating at a restaurant with my friends.  Can you see what the words say?  “You Are The Universe”


I really love climbing trees and teaching other people how to climb trees safely and responsibly.  This is a picture I took of my friend, Sapphire, after I taught her how to safely climb this tree using ropes and carrabiners.  We had a lot of fun!  We also went camping near Roseburg, Oregon, and climbed lots of trees there.


This is a picture of my parents from this past Christmas.  They live in Savannah, Georgia.  My mother also grew up in Savannah, Georgia but my father is from Denmark, in Europe.  I flew on an airplane to go visit them in Georgia for Christmas.  When I got there, we cooked a big meal together.  Then, my sister, her husband, their child, and the husband’s parents all came over for a big Christmas Eve dinner.  The next day, Christmas Day, we went to my sister’s house to eat breakfast and open presents.

This is a picture of my nephew, Jaxon.  My nephew is my sister’s child.  Jaxon is 11 months old in this picture!  His birthday is January 19, so he will be 1 year old this year.  Jaxon loves his book that makes farm animal noises.  We read it twice!  I will send Jaxon more books as gifts for his birthday.

My parents and I ate a lot of delicious food around Christmas time so we decided to all work out together.  We are standing on pilates chairs after doing a pilates style work out at the local YMCA near my parents’ house.  Pilates is not hard and we had a lot of fun.  I love exercising!  I like to do yoga at home and ride my bicycle around Portland.  I also love dancing!

This is my friend Charlotte.  She is 4 years old and lives in a city nearby called Eugene.  I am friends with Charlotte’s mom, too.  I like to visit Charlotte and her mom on the weekends when I have extra time and money.  Charlotte, her mom, and I like to eat ice cream and go to the park together.  We also like to watch movies.


This picture was taken at the Elm House Holiday Party that happened a month ago here in Portland.  All of the teachers got dressed up and ate fancy food together.  We had so much fun that we took a picture all laughing together after dinner.  I love working at Elm House!

Thanks for reading this short story about my life.  I hope you enjoyed it!

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Hands in the Clay https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/hands-can-2/ https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/hands-can-2/#comments Fri, 04 Jan 2019 22:24:33 +0000 https://tuliptreepreschool.com/?p=20973 Read More]]> by Katee

When getting out the playdough, or goo-gak, or clay, the children always ask for more tools. We have rollers, and wire, and knives and the children just love them all. Certainly learning to manipulate a variety of tools is interesting and valuable in so many ways, but I wanted to back it up and start at the beginning.  This week, as we are introducing clay we have asked the children to start with one tool- their hands.  The children can be disappointed when they ask for tools and I reply, “Oh, we’re only going to use our hands today.” So today I wanted to remind them that our hands are actually our best clay tools.

We laid down canvas drop cloths over our circle rug and I asked the children if they had brought their tools today.  There was a confused, “no” muttered among most of them. And then CL said, “Yes! It’s our hands!” Yes, someone had evidently already had this “no tools today, except our hands” conversation with me.

So while I cut small pieces of clay to pass around the children looked at their hands and named parts-

“we have fingers and palms”-AB

“And knuckles”- DB

“and finger nails!” – FC

And they talked about what their hands can do-

“Play with toys!”- ST

“And scratch and tickle!”- HE

“And I see ST holding up his head with his hands, and someone picking their nose right now”, I said, “Our hands can do so many, many things.  Now I’m going to pass around clay to everyone and let your hands work on it. Raise your silent candle if you want to share with us something our hands can do with clay.”

They excitedly discovered so many things. We were all pressing, pounding, punching, pinching, rolling, twisting, slapping, indenting, and tearing. We couldn’t think of any other tool that could do all those amazing things!


And another exciting thing happened- when one child discovered something new, other children would try it as well without one complaint of, “they copied me”.  We praised their inspiring one another and reminded them that copying and inspiration is how we learn.  Come and see our documentation soon in the art studio!

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Lights, Camera, Action…. https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/lights-camera-action-3/ https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/lights-camera-action-3/#comments Thu, 03 Jan 2019 22:31:41 +0000 https://tuliptreepreschool.com/?p=20958 Read More]]> by Alisha


Once upon a time there lived two princesses. One named Goldie and one named Lilly. And there lived a prince and the prince lived with the princesses and there lived a dragon. But it wasn’t just any dragon… It was an everything dragon! and he loved with both of the princesses too! They all walked through the woods and then they found their baby princesses resting on a log with their stroller. And it was a snowy day. So they took their babies home and the prince made a fire. And the princesses made a stew. And they all worked together to make a delicious meal and then some other everything dragons came and they all ate the delicious meal. The end. -CL

Once upon a time there was a frog who lived in a pond and it walked through some leaves and it’s on a lilly pad. And it jumped to the edge of the water. And then princess Tiana came and said, “Hello, my frog.” It jumped to the middle of the pond. And the frog hided under water because a monster was coming! But then saw some flowers underwater and lilly pads under water- which was probably just the reflection of the lillypads. The frog saw the monster under water. The frog looked over and saw his mom and dad! Then it saw it’s brother and Tiana kissed the frog. and then it got out but jumped back in, swam to his family and had a very good dinner. Then they went to bed. The end. -MH, SM, HE

Once upon a time there was a little bear. Then there was a mama bear. Then the baby bear wondered off without his mama in the forest by himself! Then the baby found his sister bears house! Then the sister let him in the house! Then the little baby bear, when he was ready to leave, his sister let him out the door. then there was a fox and the fox was scary. Then there was a little bunny who was very nice and asked, “Where’s your mommy?” The bear said, “I lost her!” Then the bear found his mama bear and said, “Mommy!!” The end. -FC

Once upon a time there was a little baby baby fox that was not nice with his mama and his mama was not nice too and there was a nice little bear and his saw a fox. And the fox said, “Mmmmm, that little bear looks tasty.” And then they maked birthday cake all together and then they make a real gingerbread man. And then the gingerbread man talked! and then they all went home and made that birthday cake for grandma! The end –AB

Once upon a time there was a little baby kitty cat that was not nice and then a lion came out and said, “Fee, Fi, Fo! I like eating kitties, so can I eat you up for dinner?” “No!” said the kitty. Then the lion forgot about the kitty. Then along comes a big moose that says,”Fee, Fi, Fo! I like eating kitties, so can I eat you up for breakfast?” “No!” said the kitty.  The moose forgot about eating the kitty for breakfast and then along came a mountain goat and says,”Fee, Fi, Fo! I like eating kitties, so can I eat you up for lunch?” “No!Fee, Fi, Fo!” said the kitty. Then all of the animals brushed their teeth, jumped into bed and went to sleep. The end. -EB

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If you give a toddler a choice… https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/if-you-give-a-toddler-a-choice/ https://tuliptreepreschool.com/tuliptree/if-you-give-a-toddler-a-choice/#comments Wed, 12 Dec 2018 21:31:30 +0000 https://tuliptreepreschool.com/?p=20895 Read More]]> By Bee

If you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want a glass of milk. Most of us know the slippery slope that follows the opening line to Laura Numeroff’s beloved books. You give a little, annnnnnnnnddd before you know it a mouse has the run of your house and is making all sorts of demands.

I was curious about the end to this statement, “If you give a toddler a choice…”

I find at work that I am often careful about the number of choices I offer the children. Children can be overwhelmed by choices, especially if we are trying to bargain with them, and often respond by digging in their heels. For example, if I have a child who is in underwear and doesn’t want to sit down to pee, I stick firm to the choices. You can pee now, or in two minutes.  I don’t offer up a bunch of extra choices. “Would you like a different staff member? Who? Would you like a friend to join you? This friend? That friend? Do you want us to go? Stay?” I have learned over time that the more choices I offer, the more likely I am to witness a child crumble under the weight of all that pressure. Sometimes less is more.

However, the human experience is nothing if not contradictory, and these past two weeks I found myself  looking for ways that I could add choice into the children’s lives.

I felt inspired to do this because most often, children do not have a choice. Period. They don’t get to choose what they wear. They don’t get to choose if they come to school. They don’t get to choose when they get out of bed. They don’t get to choose their classroom or teacher. They don’t get to choose what we have for lunch. They don’t get to choose our schedule. They don’t get to choose whether or not to get into their car seat. They don’t get to choose to eat while running around. They don’t get to choose when we lay down for nap. I could spend all day listing things the children have no say in. Most of their lives happen without a lot of input from them. This feels both necessary, and very sad. I wanted to reclaim some choices for the children.

I started simple at afternoon snack in the nest.

“Would you like your napkin folded, or unfolded?”









The children were elated! A choice! They quickly clamored to tell me their preference, voices joyfully ringing out against one another. I have continued to ask at every snack. “Folded or unfolded?” There hasn’t been a single child whose choice is consistent. This tells me several things:

  1. Children enjoy having choices simply for the freedom it affords them.
  2. Children enjoy -and have a right to- experimentation.
  3. Our choices are a reflection of our self. They can even act as a social calling card.

Offering this choice costs me nothing. It doesn’t add extra time or work to my day in any way, shape, or form. However, the return is huge! Lets look a little closer:

  1. Children enjoy having choices simply for the freedom it affords them. Children are often told all the things they don’t know or can’t do. We strip away their power in an attempt to keep them safe. “That’s hot, it is only for grown ups.” “Gates are for teachers.” “Outlets are tricky, and not safe for children.” When we give children choices we say to them. YOU know about yourself. YOU know about the world. YOU are capable. YOU are strong, and smart, and wise and I TRUST YOU! How affirming is that? How critical to one’s sense of self?
  2. Children enjoy -and have a right to- experimentation. There is no way to truly learn about our world, and our life, without experimenting. We have to try things. We need the room to make choices that don’t suit us. We need PRACTICE!!! Our entire lives we will try something, reflect, integrate that information, and then try again in a slightly different way. Offering children choices that have no consequences is incredibly fertile ground for developing a scientific mindset. With a folded/unfolded napkin, there is no consequence. If a children doesn’t like what they chose, they get a sense that things didn’t go how they wanted them to, but maybe they can choose differently another time. Choices with consequences are a bit more loaded. If you choose not to wear your coat out when it’s freezing, you will feel miserable, and then may not trust yourself to choose correctly in the future. This is why I want to give the children lots of opportunities to choose things without consequence, that way when they do make a choice that truly affects them and doesn’t go well, they will already have lots of positive experiences with choice to reflect back on. I want to teach the children to trust themselves, because I think trust in oneself is the most basic foundation of self-love.
  3. Our choices are a reflection of our self. Children deserve to be seen and heard. They have a right to their own experience and their own sense of self. As children age, social activities get trickier, and are much more susceptible to peer pressure. I believe it is invaluable for children to make choices in a social setting while young, so that they have practice both going with the flow, and standing their own ground. In regards to the napkins, I observed the children purposefully picking the same choice as dear friends, as if to say, “I’m with you!” and conversely I have seen the children pick the opposite of what their friends have chosen, as if asserting, “Today, I am my own person!” I cannot imagine how different my middle school experience might have felt, if as I toddler I had gotten comfortable saying, “Sorry about that group, today I am my own person!”

I was outside with my camera last week, and another choice opportunity presented itself. While I was snapping a photo, CW started talking to me to get my attention. Usually he is a pretty independent guy, so I was curious about what he wanted to share with me. He was showing me a truck, and was using body language to concisely tell me that he wanted me to photograph it. I smiled and nodded my consent, waiting for further instructions. He carefully placed the vehicles where I had been staging the children, and let me know when they were ready to photograph.












From an artistic perspective, I found the images fascinating, and began to wonder all sorts of things.

Then I showed CW his work.

















LOOK AT HIS FACE!!!! He is literally radiating joy and power. He KNEW that he had constructed those images. His pictures were on my camera! They had been captured in an adult way that felt valuable and real to him. He was jumping up and down, waving his arms, and yelling with pure excitement. I had let CW make a choice about what was worthy of being photographed, and in doing so I had invited him to be seen by me, and himself. It felt so intense and powerful in the moment, our actions almost saying,

“Hey dude, you have a great eye!”


“I think you already are.”










We built off this experience a couple days later. CW was the first to arrive in the nest, and I invited him to partake in some water colors with me.  He was very happy with the experience, but I wanted him to see the value in his work. I pointed out the Ikea painting on our wall. “CW do you see that painting? It decorates our classroom and brings in a lot of color. I noticed your painting also brings in a lot of color. I would like to hang it on the wall. Would that be okay with you?” CW began to do a lot of excited babbling and pointing. He ran over and touched the wall, confirming his understanding of my proposition.

“Yes. I would like to put your painting on the wall, but I’m not quite sure where it would go best. Will you help me decide?”

CW nodded enthusiastically.

I wish I had a video of this next portion. I held several water color paintings ALL OVER our classroom while CW directed me.


“No.” *babbling and pointing*

“Oh, I’m sorry. I misunderstood you. You wanted it more over here?”

*shakes head* “No!” *more babbling and emphatic pointing.*

CW rejected about 20-30 placements for each painting that he wanted up high, before nodding excitedly when I finally found the sweet spot. He had very serious ideas about how and where things should be hung. I took the second half of the pictures we had made and handed them to him.

“CW, I put up the high ones, and I think you had better hang up the ones down low. I don’t have the same finesse when it comes to decorating that you do. I’m not feeling confident that I know where they should go, but I trust that you will know the perfect place for each one.

CW nodded once firmly, we both knew I wasn’t qualified to finish the task.









And off he went, to place each of the paintings on the wall. It was interesting to observe, because CW adjusted every piece several times. He was really thinking about it. Some of the pieces he moved 3 or 4 times, and some he changed the orientation on.

We all know children are thinking and feeling beings, but how often do we take time to explore their preferences? How much can their choices teach us about them? I feel as if I am seeing only the tiniest tip of the iceberg when it comes to the power of choice in regards to toddlers.

I look forward to continuing this work, and in doing so inviting the children to share facets of themselves that I am still unfamiliar with. For now, I would finish my original wondering like this:

“If you give a toddler a choice, you will empower him to trust in himself and his ideas.” 

I invite all of you to share any thoughts, wonderings, comments, or examples of choice that you offer your child in the space below.


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