Help Needed: What Would You Want Kids Doing in a “Free-Range” Day Care?

Hi ebaazerreb
Folks! Let’s give this lady some great ideas besides the one I’ll start with: I’d want my kids hanging out with a bunch of other kids and some balls, crayons, chalk and boxes! – L

Dear Free-Range Kids: We’re opening a “Free-Range” daycare center this winter (fingers crossed that we’re ready) on 2.5 acres a ways east of Vancouver, BC.

While I have a lot of great ideas for the kids, I’m stumped on how to meet my “obligations” (as defined by our very modern city) and my own goals for kids (mine and any others here).  And I get it, I do – if you pay someone to watch your kids and care for them so you can go to the city and earn a good living, then you expect that person to be more than merely attentive. You expect him or her to provide enrichment in your child’s life, to be there the entire time providing educational activities that are scheduled and directed.

The idea that I might sit on a bench and knit while the kids run the visible yard goes against the teachings of the classes I’ve taken.  They expect Mon-Fri to be scheduled with cultural diversity programs, book readings, music hour, dance lessons, you name it.  My method for my own kids is more like…”Everybody has eaten, is washed, okay shoes on…let’s go find some bugs/get dirty/run around for a few hours!” And to let the kids get dirty and invent their own games and their own activities.  I truly believe that independence fosters better learning than hand-holding.

So – I would love, love, love to hear the ideas of other parents who have braved leaving their children at daycare: What they would want in an ideal world after they kissed their darlings good bye for the day?

Take care, and thank you!

Jen Johasz


This looks good to me! (And not just because I could use a cup of tea.)

92 Responses to Help Needed: What Would You Want Kids Doing in a “Free-Range” Day Care?

  1. Trisha D August 16, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    It sounds like a great place for kids to learn and play!

  2. Rose August 16, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    I wish I could find a daycare that was like a forest kindergarten —

    Sitting and knitting while the kids run the visible yard is basically what a Waldorf forest-school teacher does. The teacher does her own important space-creating work within sight of the kids, so the kids can engage in helping her/practicing being a grown up, or choose to explore and play while she loosely has enough awareness of what they’re doing to step in if that seems beneficial.

  3. Louise August 16, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    I’d love it if there was more of the Forest School time made available. its offered in some schools but it would be great if it was a regular thing for all childcare settings.

  4. Angela August 16, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    Well, the number and ages of children you plan on watching should be taken into consideration. If it’s just your children and a few of the same ages, it should be pretty easy. If it’s 20+ kids of all ages, there would need to be a little more structure.

    First, watching the kids play while you knit is perfectly acceptable as long as it happens for limited amounts of time. If all of the kids are old enough I’d suggest you participate in their free-rangeness. Become part of their group. If they’re trying to play/make up a game, take part in it, adult input presented at their level and with their interests in mind will do more to teach them socially acceptable actions than dictating what will happen and when. For mealtimes, have a variety of options available (a couple meat choices, a couple veggie choices, etc.) and help the kids plan and make the meal.

    These are just a few ideas. I did daycare for a short time, but I realized the house was too small and I never did have more than two children, so it didn’t last long.

  5. Karen August 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Lots and lots of free play. This can be “structured” free play in that perhaps you have centers like dress up, blocks, a play kitchen, tools. Yes, tools. My son’s nursery school had blocks of wood with nails and the 3 and 4 year olds could hammer nails into wood. At his school circle time for books and songs was minimal and free play was plenty. They also did tons of outdoor activities, most of which centered around collecting things in nature for rubbings, collages, and classroom collections. He loved it and so did we.

  6. Pophouse August 16, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    My kids went to a great in-home daycare from about 18 mos to 4 1/2 years old. The best thing she did was (I think it started before they were two) take them on lots of field trips. They went all over town on the bus to various places. Sometimes they just went to parks, but lots of times the Daycare scheduled visits with fire stations, airports, museums, the college, etc. She seemed willing to ask anyone if they would be okay with a group of toddlers visiting and many were. Of course they were chaperoned, but I think getting out in the world and not acting like it was an insurmountable problem helped to give them a can-do attitude (which still needs some fine-tuning now and again). She also lived on the edge of town next to one of the trails leading up a mountain and took them on plenty of hikes. Again, the hikes were chaperoned, but for the kids it becomes normal to be out doing things, and at that age it is the best one can hope for.

  7. Laura Sauter August 16, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    Mud pies, tree-climbing (as high as you can go), sliding down grassy hills on cardboard, bike riding, fort-building, creek-splashing, berry-picking.

    Learning to use a pocket knife, skip rocks, jump rope, play hide n seek, steal the flag, hopscotch,sardines.

  8. Cheryl August 16, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Our son is much older now. But a good suggestion for day care might be a mirror of our experiences with our “born free range” boy when we took him to Gymboree. The room is filled with great things for small kids to climb, mess with and throw around. Regardless of organized activity…he was off exploring what he wanted to explore. And we let him. You can’t imagine the dirty looks.
    How about naps? How about that same room has pillows all over the place…like we had at home? Need a nap…plop down as you choose.

  9. Jessica August 16, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Yet another reason I’d love it if my family relocated from NY to be closer to my in-laws in Vancouver!

    I have a one-word answer: play.

    I’d want my children to just be able to play. Play outside, play with balls, play with blocks, play in the dirt, play with water. Quiet time listening to music and books. Reading. Messing around with art and craft supplies. Helping cook. Helping clean up what they’ve played with. Make some noise. Make music, make theater, make art.

  10. Matthew E August 16, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    “Your lunches have been hidden in a secret cache somewhere on the school grounds. To find them, you will have to solve a series of clues, each more fiendish than the last.”

  11. Rachel August 16, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    Show toddlers the cool things in life and how to explore them safely–how to make simple snacks, an intro on how to cross a street safely, fun things to do outside and inside.

    Then give the kids some unstructured play time–but of course supervised because they are presumably still toddlers in day care. Give them access to toys inside and out, and let them choose who to play with and what to do.

    Also, little kids need to feel loved and cared for–so they should feel free to talk to the grownups about whatever, and grown-ups should feel free to give hugs without the kids parents feeling like they are pedophiles.

  12. melanie August 16, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    My favorite daycares have fostered wonderful independence. The children were in charge of their world and the teacher had fostered the skills and provided the tools of play that made that not scary. It was multi age so the oldest children had the most responsibility. Family style meals (kids serve themselves), lots of independent play, and yes the teacher engaged in her own independent work (reading, knitting) during that free play. Doesnt mean free for all. Quiet time, meal time were structured and discipline was key

  13. Captain America August 16, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    To some extent, I believe that some of us old regulars here, believe the free-range philosophy because we believe there is a good psychological process that takes place as children, in steps, move toward independence. Self-reliance under stress or in new circumstances is a very good thing.

    The helicoptering thing, though, is not so much about “safety” as it is about doing Better Child Development. . . by this I mean raising a child who can be successful in life.

    We, most Americans, have a Great Unspoken Fear that our economy is not strong and open and free and opportunity-filled as it used to be. This economic fear turns us to want to ensure a better future for our children by making them good students, good this and good that. . . in a word, this all takes lotsa hands-on.

    Helicoptering can be a sign of wanting good things for your kids; not a sign of fear for their safety.

  14. Captain America August 16, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    Darn but I wish the Current Occupant worked on improving the economy!

  15. Rachel August 16, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Just to clarify before I start a controversy…I don’t think toddlers should cross the street alone! But I’d hold their hands and start showing them how to look both ways so it is a natural and gradual progression to someday crossing safely on their own as older kids. When my kids were 3 or 4, I let them run ahead of me, and they’d wait for me at the corner.

  16. katie August 16, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    I would have sent my kids somewhere just to run around with other kids and play.

    Structured activities are ok — as long as the kids actually want to do them! In the daycare my kids went to, it was supposed to be optional, but really it wasn’t. It was just 10 minutes of this, then kids forced to go to the next activity for 10 minutes… and so forth, It was horrible.

    So for me, free range would just be a safe yard to play in — maybe sand, some toys, etc. Inside would have toys, paper and crayons… snack time. Someone to change them. Etc. 😀

    Like dropping them off with grandma or an aunt or something. Nothing like “school”. (But then, I turned into a homeschooler, and I don’t even think school should look like school… teehee.)

  17. Emily August 16, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    Most under-fives are at their most alert and receptive in the mornings, so if I was running a day care that was both Free Range, and fit all the criteria that Jen listed, I’d do structured programming in the mornings, and free time in the afternoons, with adults supervising indoors and out, and the kids roaming from one space to another at will. The outdoor area would consist of a fenced-but-not-oppressive area, with playground equipment (the good kind, made of wood, metal, chains, and tires), different-sized logs and tires embedded in the ground for kids to climb/play on, a forested area, a garden area, a fort/tree house of some kind, and a paved area for bike riding and sidewalk chalk activities. Inside, there’d be a craft table, dress-up, “house” station, painting easels, a sensory table, books, and all the other standard preschool stuff, including a class pet of some sort, to teach the kids responsibility.

    Morning programming would usually be something like, music/drama/dance on Mondays, art projects on Tuesdays, science experiments on Wednesdays, nature walks on Thursdays, and cultural activities on Fridays, but it could change, depending on what was going on–for example, the week or two running up to the Christmas (sorry, “holiday”) play would be devoted to rehearsals. It would also be somewhat tailored according to the students’ interests–for example, a more outdoorsy bunch would get more nature walks, while a more “artsy” group would get more creative stuff. The end of each day (after the morning activity, lunch, and free time) would be closing circle and story time, after the kids are good and worn out after running around outside.

  18. Elizabeth August 16, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    I recently read the book French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen Le Billon, and have been wishing ever since that I had someplace like this woman’s daycare that deliberately taught children to taste and appreciate a wide variety of foods, while fostering such healthy eating habits. That might be something to consider.

  19. Rachel August 16, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    Especially if it’s just you, I would have SOME sort of structure, just so you can supervise everything. Like, 10-11 is outdoors time, and there’s balls and jump ropes and stuff, then maybe reading time, then crafts time, with options for kids that don’t want to participate. Plus, the weekday themes like someone said above. Really, this is just to help you organize/plan activities. Plus, it’s a good way to balance variety and routine. Kids (and adults) love variety, but kids particularly really like routine.

  20. Gina August 16, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    PLEASE let me know how this works out! I have struggled to have a FR classroom whenever I worked in Daycare, (twos) but the laws and Daycare Licensing regulations were impossible to work with. Every moment had to be accounted for on a Weekly AND Monthly written schedule, In Arizona, even infant rooms (6 weeks and up) must have this. And children over one year are expected to SIT and participate. Ridiculous. I am now nannying one baby whose parents think like I do. It was just too frustrating to work within the system and there is no changing it.

  21. Bronte August 16, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    My son’s preschool has a nominal structure,

    he’s 17 months and we live in the North of New Zealand where it’s warm enough year round to only need a jumper to be outside.

    7-8 Free Play in the big kids room.
    8-8.45 Free play In the little kids room
    8.45-9 mat time
    9-9.15 snack time
    9.15-11 free play outdoors
    11- 11.30 lunch
    11.30-2 free play indoors ( to get away from the very strong UV rays in summer, outdoor/outdoor the rest of the year)
    2-2.15 snack time
    2.15-4 outdoor play
    4-4.15 late snack
    4.15-5.30 free play and settling down for home.
    5.30 close fir the day.

    The kids do whatever interests them, and when they show an interest in something the centre pursues it. Some things are there all the time, like books and playdough and a bunch of toys, and they bring out other stuff from time to time. Sometimes they bake! Our centre provides meals and has a full kitchen. I love love love that I don’t have to pack him a lunch every day

    The big kids room has even more to choose from like paints and jigsaws and a cash register.

    The indoor area flows into the outdoor so once the doors are open they run back and forth. There are separate spaces for under 2 kids and 2-5 year olds, by the Littles spend time in the big kids space each day (often in their sandpit) and they are together early morning and late afternoon.

    We chose it for the family feel and relaxed vibe. The boy gets cuddles when he needs or wants them, and stories read when he gives someone a book. All the staff know him, there’s about 9 staff, for 40 kids.

    Our priority was for him to be happy and feel secure. I bet there’s a lot of parents like us who don’t like the heavy scheduling that you are trying to get away from.

    I would be happy for you to sit on a bench and knit, but I would be concerned at you dropping stitches when you are needed for cuddles to fix owies,

  22. Heather August 16, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    I’d want to know that they would be outside a minimum of 3-4 hours a day, I’d want a safe area to play in with stuff to climb, trees if possible. You might want to take a look at the book Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready, or Teaching Montessori in the home for good ideas of life skills you could teach.

  23. thinkbannedthoughts August 16, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    When my husband and I were looking for day cares for our girlgoyels our criteria were:
    large open play area.
    plenty of hidey holes where kids could get away from watchful eyes and make up their own games.
    Lots of open-ended toys and equipment that could be used by the kids to create things.
    Rooms that looked like they could handle a mess.
    An adult who could respond to emergencies and feed the kids from time to time.
    We settled on one that had the kids help in the kitchen, had stumps and other rustic “equipment” in the yard for the kids to play with as well as two forts.
    When we moved we found one with a merry-go-round and a super tall slide that the state said was too dangerous for kids that age. The preschool fought to keep it and won. We knew they were our kind of place.
    Preschool/daycare to us was always about getting our kids to be active, adventurous, and exploring the world, taking risks with the safety net of a responsible adult close enough to dial 911 if they needed it.
    They never needed it.

  24. Bronte August 16, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    The have outings and guests too. One kids dad is a paramedic so he brought the ambulance in, they went to the gymnastics academy, they have chickens come too visit. And in summer I have to send in 3 changes of clothes ’cause there’s so much water play.

    I love my kids preschool, and so does he.

  25. anonymous this time August 16, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    I’m getting all misty remembering the daycare my son attended when he was a toddler. It was a home-based daycare, run by a couple of middle-aged sisters whose kids were grown. It was grungy, arty, loose, loving, hippie-ish and hope-inspiring. And yes, I imagine you could call it “free range.”

    There was a definite rhythm to each day, the centre of which was a meal, shared by all at the big table, and usually the little ones had played some part in preparing it. There was nap time, there was “jumping room” time (there was an enclosed porch festooned with mattresses and cushions, and the kids could go nuts in there. I’m amazed it was “kosher” for the licensing board, but I was thrilled for my kid, who LOVED it).

    I recall trips to the park being a feature, in fact, that’s where I encountered the group the first time, at a playground. I recall seeing the kids doing their thing, I don’t know where the adults were until I hunted one down.

    They had a fabulous “kid cart” that was kind of like a giant stroller that held, oh, maybe 8 toddlers? And then the older kids walked alongside.

    Every day, they would watch an episode of either “Reading Rainbow” or “Mister Rogers.” I was hugely anti-TV but I was delighted with their choices, and I think it helped plant a taste for empathy and compassion into my kid.

    Okay, have to go have a good cry now. I never found anything remotely like that again, and when I moved away from that city where those sisters were running their magical daycare, it was the only thing I felt sad about leaving behind, since my son was only 3, and could have had nearly two more years there.

  26. mystic_eye_cda August 16, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    I don’t think it unreasonable, per se, to have a schedule, and be free range. Having painting, playdough, lego, mudpies, snacks, inside, outside, all going on at the same time is enough to make most adults insane (and an unholy mess), not to mention “nontoxic” or not most of us would rather snacks not get painted!

    So I have no problem with “painting time” and “Dress up time”. But don’t tell them what to paint. Or lead the dressup. Let them do it alone. Also have activities that any of the kids can do if they don’t want to join in – like maybe you can read books, play with dolls, etc, but during say story time you can’t use the musical instruments or build with the giant blocks

  27. Maggie August 16, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    I would want open-ended, imaginative hands-on activities available for indoor play- wooden blocks, play-doh, sand(rice?) and water tables. For toddlers and preschoolers, I would want them to learn responsibility for the space they used, so things like child-sized brooms and dusters, small trash cans they could lift and dump, and an expectation that the kids will pitch in at clean-up time would be good.

  28. Hilary August 16, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    A big sandpit for digging and creating play, with a couple of large logs to climb on. A big pile of materials for creating play: fabric, cardboard, pie plates, containers,etc. opportunity to jump in the puddles, roll in the snow, pick the daisies, and investigate nature. Let’s read: a book about puddles, and forests, and bugs. Then we can imagine from there! Fewer snacks and sitting and talking at kids: more doing, jumping, hooting & hollering, running and laughing. Less sanitizing, more dirt. Sounds like a marvelous adventure.

  29. Shawn August 16, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    Sounds like everyone has covered a lot already. Reiterating, semi-structured play (outdoors if possible). Adding no pampering. If there has to be a winner and a loser. Then there’s a winner and a loser. The only way to know and appreciate success, to learn from it, and improve yourself, is to fail.

    This suggestion may not be geared for kids under 7. But when I was around 7, my school went to a camp of sorts (Boyne River in Ontario). We stayed for 3 days, 2 nights. During winter. Other than the camp staff and a couple of our school’s teachers, it was just us grade 2 students. No parents. No kid called home. No one wanted to. lol But one of the games we played was Herbivores, Carnivores and Omnivores. We were randomly given one of the designations by way of a necklace tag. The camp had a big field with trees, bushes, boulders, rocks, etc… And through the field/woods were other tags placed on trees, bushes, by rocks, even close to a creek. Tags would have written on them different types of berries, different types of insects. So the object of the game was, we would all run off. The herbivores would look for tags that herbivores would eat, and collect as much as they could. The carnivores would hunt down the herbivores, and if the caught one, they would take their tag, and the captured would go back (with the tags they’ve collected) back to base. The omnivores would collect everything. I was an omnivore. lol This taught us team work, knowledge of wildlife, strategy of avoiding “predators”, and most of all it was a hole lot of fun, running around in snow that was waste high. It also taught us the meaning of losing, and winning. Those there were some disappointments, everyone still had a great time. All of this with little supervision from the adults. They were referees. And if a child had a question in regards to what they can “eat” they would assist. But they always made the kids do most of the thinking and work. Basically they would assist us with clues so that we answered our own questions. And apart from some minor scrapes, everyone was fine the whole trip. We even got to do obstacle courses. Traversing on ropes, wooden beams, zip lines. Even some rock climbing. Rock collecting, and polishing them (yes, we polished them ourselves). Cooking, baking, milking the farm animals. Even making our own animation on film strips (stop animation drawings). I miss those days.

  30. Lauren August 16, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    You could put a small obstacle course outdoors. Things like a swing rope, a 2′ high balance beam, etc.

    And I’ve always loved paper mache for inside work.

  31. Katie August 16, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    I’d just market it as your unique in that your not structured. It won’t appeal to some parents, but it will to others. Emphasize what makes you unique.

  32. KT August 16, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    This is a couple of blogs that seem to run a bit free range with the childcare. One is a daycare and one is centre.
    They might have some ideas for you.

  33. Erin August 16, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

  34. Gina August 16, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    So much of this sounds wonderful.

    Some of the above-mentioned that would be forbidden in AZ:

    –Hidey holes where adults can’t see kids

    –In/out flow

    –Small kids in big kids’ room (toys are not age-appropriate)

    –Shared meals (Heaven forbid a child TOUCH another child’s food or even sippy cup!)

    –Three or four clothing changes a day (Water play on specific days ONLY and bring a swim suit)

    Sadly, I think that a lot of this comes from the parents….They want clean kids, no colds/flu/, constant supervision. That’s why the rules don’t change.

  35. oliviacw August 16, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    My 2.5 year old is starting in a preschool this fall that has a lot of outdoor time – even in the winter. It adds up to about 3 hours over the day (full day). We’re in Oregon, so there’s a lot of rain in the winter but it’s not horribly cold most of the time.

    Some specific features: there are about 45 preschoolers, and they are grouped in two smaller classes and one larger one (partly by age and potty-training status). There’s also one kindergarten class. But there is a lot of mixing up of groups for different activities (including shared lunchtimes), plus overlaps in outdoor play time. They have a garden and chickens, and are also next to a large park, and they go there regularly for outdoor activities.

    Within the classrooms, each has a small loft that kids can climb up in, and both the upper and lower levels offer smaller spaces to read or play in.

    A rough outline of the daily schedule is here:

  36. Gina August 16, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    Anything that promotes creativity and free thinking. ALWAYS have magnifying glasses around. Learn about nature, space and the planet. Challenge them to invent new games. Lots and lots of exercise. Small animals and pets to learn about life, compassion, responsibility and death. (Intentionally keep some with short life spans so everyone will experience an animal dying). Lots of musical instruments. Electronics that can be taken apart to figure out how they work. And at my kids school, for career day, parents do not come in. The kids dress up as what they want to be and explain it to the class. Park an old fire truck that they can play on! (my camp growing up had one of these and we LOVED it!)

  37. Margaret August 16, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    I am a SAHM, so I can’t speak to the question about what I would like in a day care. However, in my travels with my own kids, I encounter all sorts of day care providers. One in particular comes to mind. I see her at the playground sometimes. She has 6 grown kids of her own and has 6 toddlers in her care. She carts them around in her minivan (fitted with 6 car seats) to the playground and even on little errands like the pet store. While at the playground she gives hugs, wipes noses and makes conversation in an adult voice. Beyond that, she lets them play. Sometimes I hear her say something like, “be a good friend” if the kids are squabbling. I would define her as a Free Range child care provider.

  38. amy August 16, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    I agree with Elizabeth re “French Kids Eat Everything”; wish I’d read it years ago. And they could help prep meals, using knives and stirring things if they have the manual dexterity. My three-year-old daughter does. Also, climbing, rope swings, mud, sand areas etc.

  39. SusanOR August 16, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    Watch this video:

    Outdoor kindergarten in Northern Norway. All year round. Yep!
    My husband’s favorite line: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”

    Totally inspiring!

  40. Tsu Dho Nimh August 16, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    Assuming you have the staff … have schedules that depend on weather more than the clock. No one’s child will die if they don’t get Art class 3 times a week.

    And expect children to have suitable clothing to play outdoors in most of your weather. No melting snowflakes!

    If your city gets snarky, call most of the day “self directed creative play” and let the children pick based on interest.

    Quiet time to wind down for lunch: being read to, listening to different music.

    As much as your city will allow, let the children take care of things like serving snacks and lunch, cleaning up, tidying the room

    Teach them the “plan it, get materials, do it, put stuff away for next time” rhythm for activity.

  41. Jenn August 16, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    I think it’s a good idea that you knit while the kids play because some of them may become curious and want to learn how to knit as well! I think role modelling is a great way for kids to become interested in something and to learn from. You could often be `caught’ doing your normal hobbies or jobs and have little ones join in. It’s great because you can see what the kids are interested in (and how much they are interested in) and let the learning go from there. Read a book that you are curious about and the kids may ask questions. Make muffins and I’m sure someone will want to help lick the batter after they helped cracked an egg. Hang a picture and someone will want to bang in a nail. One of the reasons I choose home daycare for my children was that they would be exposed to a regular `home’ life all day. I didn’t mind if our day care provider did household errands and jobs because that is what would happen if they were at home with me. Part of becoming an independent adult is watching others do a task. Talk about what you are doing as you go along and the kids will get involved. Best of luck!

  42. Carol August 16, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    I worked at a center that was pretty free range and it was amazing! Where I worked, The Child Educational Center in La Canada, CA, also has a program called The Outdoor Classroom which is a great way to let the kid’s involve themselves in self directed play in the great outdoors while also providing plenty of opportunities for learning. Check both out – they’re fabulous. And a congrats on the center!! I hope to open my own someday too.

  43. Kenny Felder August 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    I would encourage you to look at the methods used by Waldorf schools in their kindergartens and preschools. I’m not suggesting you formally open a Waldorf school, but they have a lot of great insights and ideas that you could borrow. It’s very structured in the sense that every day has a predictable rhythm to it, which they believe (and they’ve convinced me) provides security for the children. But they are not teaching them reading, writing, and arithmetic. They have them outside running around, inside baking, and always playing creatively.

  44. Jen August 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Do research on Waldorf Outdoor Kindergartens…and go to your local LifeWays course next spring

    You’ll learn everything you need to know.
    Cynthia Aldinger has written a book on this subject…also, find the video on Nokken for more ideas


  45. Bernard Poulin August 16, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

    If we spent less time obsessing about our children – left them to become themselves, shaping their lives through discovery and experience – (as it was possible 60+ years ago). . . I we watched from the sidelines – available when required rather than hovering. . . our kids would survive us better than they have been doing in the past 50 years. . . Day care, shmay care. . . Leave the kids alone to play! PLEASE!!!

  46. fred schueler August 16, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    I’d echo what “Jenn” says about opportunities for imitation – there’s so much to see done if you’re going to grow up knowing what to do – I was worrying today that my free range girl had maybe never seen me crush Squash Bugs, and wouldn’t have the benefit of my experience in dealing with them.

    Be that as it may, I have a report on her management of a free-range 14 month -old, which might serve as a model for a day-care – “…today, when we were doing/redoing/undoing chick housing. After sitting pretty patiently strapped into his stroller during the parts of the operation where he might have gotten cut or trampled, he looked in on the chicks, and played with the flowing hose for a long while, and then, while his mother was in the henhouse settling the chicks in, he walked all around the lawn, picking and eating Red Currants, rocking on a Black Locust trunk I’d cut, and finally sitting down by the box of tools, and handling pliers, nails, hammer, and crowbar, everything except the saw, which he’d been initially interested in, but I’d told him, from several metres away, not to handle it, so he worked carefully around it in extracting the other tools from the box. Similarly, when he’d been playing with the hose, he’d been interested in the wading pool of wood shavings and chick food & manure that the Goats were investigating nearby, but when I told him it would be better not to get into it, he just went back to the hose.”

  47. Steve August 16, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    Remember Scrapstore Playpods?

  48. Kim August 16, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    Check out the blog for this preschool. It’s amazing how much learning goes on when these children are given materials and space to make their own decisions.

  49. Jocelyne August 16, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    I always find that Teacher Tom has interesting and thought-provoking things to say on the topic of childcare and children and learning.

    He has made me a different sort of teacher, even within the confines of my traditional school classroom.

  50. Daniel August 16, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

    An outdoor daycare such as this:

    Teach them to walk on uneven surfaces so that they get stronger ankles.

  51. Casie August 16, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    What you call free range daycare sounds a lot like we call Montessori school. You give kids activity centers and the. Allow them to explore and choose things to do on their own. I’d want to see stations of activities for my toddler.

  52. Daniel August 16, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    Another example of outdoor daycare in the cold:

  53. Daniel August 16, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    Another great example of outdoor, pretty much Free Range, daycare:

  54. rhodykat August 16, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    I would want to leave my kids with you. I avoided centers like the plague and did my best to keep my kids in home-based day care with a loving provider who was generous in hugs and outdoor time, and not so good with the pen and paper. I even let her take them in her pool. My big things were that there was some type of schedule for meals and nap and that there was LOTS of outdoor time….

  55. Mark Swan August 16, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    Read to them.

    I agree with some of the others about some schedule for eating and napping, but free range 5 out of 8 hours is great. Have some cool stuff for them to work with on the play ground and inside.

    But as far as structure educational activities, reading to my kids did the most. Certainly explore any questions they ask.

  56. Daniel August 16, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

    An interesting 47 minute documentary on a Japanese daycare that has no building. The children spend all day outside, even in the rain, even in the snow. Extremely Free Range with the children learning to settle fights on their own, learning to care for one another and help each other out.

    This is mostly dubbed in English, but some parts are subtitled. But whomever transferred it to Youtube did some weird image stabilization which keeps the picture steady, but the subtitles wander and jump off-screen.

    Nevertheless, this is a good documentary that is worth watching if you have an interest in running an outdoor daycare. (Warning – Japanese culture is different and there is some complete nudity in this video.)

  57. Jenny Islander August 17, 2013 at 2:30 am #

    I would aim, not for a schedule, but for a rhythm. IOW, watch for signs in the children–not the clock–that the present activity should be wrapped up and the next one begun, but do things in the same order every day.

    I favor as much outdoor time as is safe, with opportunities as needed to warm up/dry off/cool down/de-mud. This requires parents to send along proper outdoor gear. Also carefully examine the property for nests of biting insects, pretty but poisonous berries, plants with venomous spines, and other genuine outdoor hazards.

    I live in a similar countryside. Do you have some rotten logs or tree stumps on the property? They are awesome toys for young children, especially if infested with harmless wood ants or covered in a miniature forest of different mosses. An earthen bank to dig in–very low, so they can’t accidentally bury themselves–and maybe a dense stand of young conifers that keep off most of the rain or snow would also be good. Are there patches of edible berries or spring greens? A large puddle, for rock throwing and stomping? All of these can be connected by paths marked with stones or graveled against mud. Add if you can some play equipment, some open space for running, a sledding slope, a vegetable garden, an outdoor fireplace, some picnic tables with wooden roofs, and maybe access to a creek–a bridge for playing Pooh-Sticks, or a path down to a very small creek where kids can mess around at the water’s edge. Make sure your indoor space is set up to provide hearty meals and a place to warm up and cool down (and clean up!). Also consider that some children will be runny, shouty, throwy, grapply, bouncy types and others will be meandering, looking, carefully sorting, quietly attentive, non-yay-let’s-play types. We can’t all be Teddy Roosevelt.

    Now. Here’s how you might label things:

    Running around outdoors: gross motor activity
    Picking apart a rotten log: fine motor activity
    Getting hands dirty: sensory play
    Learning names of birds, trees, and flowers: science
    Singing campfire songs: music hour
    Quiet time on a blanket with a book: literature
    Playing house in the spruce grove: social skills
    Gardening, berry picking, and making s’mores: life skills

    A final note: It isn’t being cold that’s the problem, so much. It’s being cold and wet. If their noses start to run, bring them back to the fire for a while or see if they want a hot snack. And make sure they have wool socks!

  58. Rich Wilson August 17, 2013 at 2:35 am #

    Multiple play areas. Inside there are tons of books, various tables with art supplies, magnets, rocks, magnifying glasses, puzzles, a giant swing.

    Outside play areas like a giant pirate ship, huge mound of sand, several hoses, vinegar/baking soda/dye station, workshop with hand tools (drills, hammers, saws), a garden,

    and I’m sure a ton more I’m forgetting.

  59. staceyjw August 17, 2013 at 4:42 am #

    I LOVE the outdoor schools, like that Japanese one. Waldorf might be good, but its more per month than we make in a month.

    I would love to run a small co-op like this.

  60. Nicole August 17, 2013 at 5:30 am #

    I’ve observed in a play based lab preschool where the children were basically allowed to move amongst the toys and choose things to do. The teachers were on their feet, engaging the children, asking what they were doing, settling concepts, helping with self care skills, etc, etc.

    I think this is a highly idealized scenario- you sitting and knitting while the kids play. I don’t see it working. You’ll have kids hitting and you’ll have kid destroying objects. Children DO need free play. But they also need structure and instruction, and when you have a group of 6 or more children it can be highly demanding.

    Also, we live in a very language based society- children need to develop those language skills by conversing with adults. Free play is great, but there still needs to be that engagement.

  61. KarenElissa August 17, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    Jocelyne beat me to it, but reading Teacher Tom’s blog ( always makes me jealous as that is exactly the kind of place I’d like to work. They have lots of choices, have the freedom to explore and use things in creative ways, they spend lots of time outside, and are expected to get messy. Unfortunately I work in a typical center where I spend my time walking the fine line of pushing the boundaries as much as I can while still having a job.

  62. Ann August 17, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    My daughter’s preschool teacher took all the kids (ages 4-5) outside one day with a bunch of cardboard boxes and tape… threw it all on the ground and said, “So, what are you going to do?” I loved that! He gave no direction, no rules, just supplies. The kids quickly started discussing (and arguing) over what to build and how. Ideas were all over the map. They eventually decided to build a city. They got really into it, so the teacher asked parents to bring in boxes, toilet paper rolls, bottles, etc. over the next week. The kids spent every day working on their city. They had popcorn factories, hospitals, refineries. He really left it completely up to their imaginations though… just kept the supplies coming as long as they were interested. This was a very typical “scheduled activities” type daycare, but we had a really exceptional teacher that year who was always thinking outside the box!

  63. SKL August 17, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    Lots of free play, not too many toys. Some of the toys should be kid-friendly construction materials that they can use to build whatever structure they want to be playing in, etc. on a given day.

    Teaching self-help skills such as tying shoes, fastening their own coats, handling their own bathroom needs, serving and cleaning up after their own snacks, making a phone call, etc.

    Buffet style lunch with choices.

    Following a recipe to make a no-cook treat, modeling clay, etc.

    Teaching health and safety skills that can be practiced during free play and other activities. Maybe bring in an outside karate coach.

    Mixed age classes where older kids can teach and look out for the youngers.

    Scavenger hunts using simple maps, compass, 20 questions, etc.

    Periodically have the kids talk about what they have been doing so they can develop the skills needed to explain themselves, advocate for themselves, and get needed info.

  64. Christie August 17, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    Free play is good. But provide them with toys that do not have a definitive purpose and allow them to use their imagination (e.g. pieces of wood, plastic tubes, rope, cardboard boxes, etc). They can make forts, race tracks……

    Encourage them to explore their surroundings. Do experiments. Visit local ponds in the spring – count the baby ducks. Explore what might have happened to the missing baby ducks.

    Everyday is an outside day. You need parents to realize that there is no bad weather just bad clothes. This is especially true in Vancouver area. Rain pants, rain jackets, boots, and change of clothes are needed.

    Allow them to play in their natural setting. If it snows go tobogganing, if it rains build boats for the ponds, run up hills, roll down hills.

    Take public transit. Walk to your destinations. Visit parks that have playgrounds that stretch their limitations. Go to the library. Pick out books – read them outside.

  65. Really Bad Mum August 17, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    @ Mystic_eyed, I understand and agree with your point about structure, what I think is that when ever you have more then one child with you, there needs to be some sort of structure, Free range is not carte blanche for the child to do anything they want but the freedom to have/learn new experiences within a supervised environment. It also, to me means letting the child explore boundaries, with supervision, and to learn from the consequences of pushing those boundaries. But to do this the carer/ parent should not forget that the experiences must suit the child’s age/maturity level… Glad I’m not trying to start one of these day cares even though I love the idea.

  66. Jennifer L.W. Fink (@jlwf) August 17, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    I would want the adults in charge to observe my sons’ and feed their interests. For instance, when they notice that Boy #4 is into tractors and farm equipment, it’d be great to provide some farm toys and “fields” he can plow up (sandbox, dirt, rice box, playdough, etc.) Have some books around the might interest him. Maybe even some seeds and dirt. Use the kids’ interests as jumping off points, and i think you’ll find you have plenty to do!

  67. gap.runner August 17, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    My son went to a standard German preschool for three years. The teacher started off the morning with a story or a few minutes of quiet time. Then the kids could play anywhere in the classroom. There were different “stations” with all sorts of toys: a quiet corner with books, a Lego area, a playhouse, hammocks, kid-sized tools, dolls, crayons and paper, blocks, and other toys that require using imagination. The kids also spend a good portion of the day in free play outside. Outside there was a sandbox with a variety of toys (bulldozers, pails, shovels), kid-sized bikes and tricycles, balls, a playhouse, and lots of grass. Kids went outside in all weather conditions except for pouring rain or hail. On rainy days the kids played in the school’s gym, which had mats and all sorts of play equipment. The classrooms had a mix of ages (from 3 to 6) and the older kids helped the new younger kids find the bathroom, library, etc. The kids also went on small hikes with their class every few weeks or walked to a local playground for their free play.

  68. Really Bad Mum August 17, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    Jennifer I think it would have to depend on the number of children there.. If your son wants tractors and say there are another 10 kids there, who don’t then I would say too bad for your son ( no trying to be rude or mean) I would prefer the teacher stay away from my son so he and his mates can build/imagine their own tractor, house, land whatever…day care isn’t school so I prefer the carer be there for safety, referee duties, feeding them and simple guidance.. That’s why we need different sorts of schools etc for everyone’s different wants and needs

  69. SKL August 17, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    I would just say I don’t necessarily think “get dirty” is an absolute essential for every kid. Some kids would just rather not, and I don’t find anything wrong with that.

    When my daughters were wee tots, one would go mess up stuff and the other would follow behind her and clean it up. LOL.

    On their first day of preschool at age 2.5, they were asked to smear one color of finger paint around a paper using the palm of their hands. They both looked at the teacher like, “seriously?” Then they looked at each other and proceeded to comply, all the while acting like they couldn’t wait to go wash their hands. I have been skeptical of the “smearing” part of tot curriculum ever since. 😉 I understand why it’s good for some kids, but I wouldn’t give negative marks to a daycare that didn’t have “smearing time.” 😛

  70. Jeff August 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    I like the Montessori idea of freedom within a prepared environment. For children to retain their natural development, they of course need freedom. But they do not need blind freedom, as this can be as much a hindrance as too little or no freedom. Adapt the environment to their developmental needs, while allowing them the freedom to be productive within this environment, and they will be well-developed, self-sufficient individuals. Of course, home life should not be exactly like school, so a day care, as opposed to a school, will not have the same kind of prepared environment. The age and development of the child will of course determine what activities they will freely want to choose in this prepared environment; some may want more “free-range” outdoor time than others.

    A specific Montessori idea that would seem to comport well with your Free Range idea is the Going Out. It is essentially a child-determined field trip that they typically undertake in the Elementary years in order to find out more about a topic of interest (ie. go outside to research bugs and find an entomologist). I’m sure you can imagine the many ways a Free Range child could utilize such an opportunity.

  71. Papilio August 17, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Haha, what gap.runner describes sounds normal to me too 🙂

    Whoever said ‘read to them’: agreed! It’s always a treat, yet so beneficial, especially the ‘active’ type, asking the kids questions like ‘what do you think will happen now’, ‘why do you think X did that’, ‘what would you do’, etc.

  72. ggg August 17, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    Every single activity shouldn’t be directed, but some loose structure or rhythm to the day is good for kids, I think.

    For example, my daughter’s Montessori has a morning free “work” time, a snack, a short circle time, a short directed activity (usually physical, like yoga, outdoor games, or dance), lunch, outdoor free play, nap (or quiet time, for those that don’t nap), afternoon “work” time, another snack and free/outdoor play time until pickup.

    When I type it out, it seems like a lot of structure, but there is plenty of freedom and flexibility in it, and lots of physical activity.

  73. Abby August 17, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    Preschool teacher/a parent here:
    Good for you! First off, I think that to go “free range” and still keep it as a “school,” you do need to have some structured activities. I think this would be about rethinking what an “activity” is. Check out the Reggio Emilia approach to education. Their methods involve not “lesson plans” or “activities,” but rather “provocations,” basically to provoke learning by encouraging the children to explore, paint, write, collaborate, etc. in ways that the teacher sees as beneficial, but if the children go in another direction, that’s fine, too, and the teachers go to great lengths to document these emergent learning experiences. It’s still not hands-off for the teachers, though. They are teachers, not glorified babysitters 🙂

    I don’t know if anyone mentioned her, but Lisa Murphy, aka the Ooey Gooey Lady, is awesome and I think she even follows this blog. She has TONS of ideas for making the classroom more age appropriate by respecting the messy, crazy nature of children. Her facebook is here:!/pages/Ooey-Gooey-Inc/187504722553?hc_location=stream

    (Now I’m going to just rant and rave for a minute)

    I don’t know how it is in Canada, but going free range at a school is so tough in the US. We’re crazed with liability. I had a boss who was really involved in learning how to encourage freedom and creativity in children, and there was this one day that some lady from some special local government agency office thing (I didn’t have much respect for her title) came in to talk about the grave dangers of the playground, which include *gasp* children wearing hoodies, and slides that can be climbed. She told us that 1 in 5 children a year WILL DIE on a preschool playground. Not even that 1 in 5 childhood deaths are on preschool playgrounds, which is still a VERY wrong statistic out of nowhere. No, 1 in 5 children WILL DIE. So stop letting them play pirate ship on the slide, because slides are only for sliding!!!! I raised my hand and asked her if it really is statistically true that our preschool, which has been open for half a century, schools 100 children at a time and has zero deaths on file, WILL lose 20 of its children (pretty much an entire pre-k class and then some) to playground death this year. Or, if it’s true that ALL of the preschools in the area experience kids dying on the playground all the time, like it’s as normal as breathing? She said no, but the statistic is true. (facepalm) Unfortunately, most people accept this as the norm, and we had no choice but to tell our rambunctious, developing, imaginative little pirates that we go “up the stairs and down the slide,” and station a teacher at the slide to enforce this rule, because some local government agency lady said that we should only use equipment for its intended purpose. So much for teaching kids creativity. (Likeminded teachers, along with myself, only acted like slide nazis when our boss was around).

    So, just keep in mind that you may (or hopefully may not) have to work within the parameters of your licensing agency, or local laws. If climbing a slide is not going to be ok, look for equipment that is “intended” for climbing, and follow its safety protocol.

  74. Jeff August 18, 2013 at 10:03 am #


    To add onto your rant, enforcing all these ticky tack playground rules was one of the least favorite parts of my job when I was working in a private preschool classroom. What’s worse was that there were parents across the street who had nothing better to do than watch my kids the entire time they were outside like creepers, and then report any little infraction to their buddy at the licensing agency. Because of that and other issues, I was always so pensive while I worked there. Not a conducive atmosphere for a teacher to say the least.

  75. Katie August 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm #


    That’s really crazy. That’s what I always find annoying about helicopter parents…they always say they are so busy…but never too busy to helicopter.

    Helicopter parents also love to run off good teachers…and then complain about the lack of them.

  76. Katie August 18, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    @Really bad mom,
    I totally agree. Day care isn’t school. It’s babysitting and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s a very valuable skill for kids to learn how to enjoy unscheduled time and time to relax into their day…something which today’s parents, particularly the helicopter parents don’t seem to understand. It’s why by the time today’s kids are teens or even preteens they all seem so burned out.

  77. Katie August 18, 2013 at 5:37 pm #


    Great advice. I particularly like the last part. What is sad is that I’ve actually heard people (aka helicopter parents) give counter advice to this saying things like it’s horrible to take kids out in rain (yes just put them in rain gear), it’s bad to take them on public transit (not even sure what they are afraid of on this one, it’s much safer than a giant gas guzzler), and it’s bad for them to walk (it’s actually healthy for them to walk).

  78. Katie August 18, 2013 at 5:38 pm #


    Boxes=the best toy ever!

  79. Katie August 18, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    @Bernard Poulin

    I completely agree. Just let the kids be. It’s sad and scary how controlled kids are these days. It’s also sad how out of control they can be because they are just dying to escape the never ending structure that their parents and care takers impose on them.

  80. Hels August 19, 2013 at 1:17 am #

    Here is the approximate schedule, very similar to what I remember from my own childhood. I think we were serving each other – four or six kids out of 20 were the “meal team” for the day since were were three-ish?

    7-8:00 – kids arrive, free play
    8-8:30 – structured physical activity (i.e. gymnastics)
    8:30 – 9 breakfast
    9-10 – structured activity (drawing or music or teacher telling a story about something)
    10-11:30 – outside, mix of structured and unstructured
    11:30-noon – unstructured play indoors
    noon – 1pm – serving and eating lunch, cleaning up
    1pm – 3pm – nap
    3pm – 3:30 – shower
    3:30 – 4 pm – mid-afternoon snack
    4 – 4:30 – unstructured quiet play
    4:30 – until pick up time – unstructured outdoor play

  81. Really Bad Mum August 19, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    @ Katie, exactly, kids in Australia end up doing 14 years of school, then usually 3-4 years of uni or tafe, my son started his formally schooling at 3 and 1/2 years old. The school year starts in February and ends in mid December, it is broken into 4 terms. If your child is born between January 1 and June 30 they start the year they turn 4 if they are born between July 1 and December 31 they start the year they turn 5. It suck. Kindy is not compulsory, not sure about pre primary but if you don’t send them they are then behind the other kids, socially and educationally. So if the day care is too structured, and I know you don’t have to send them, some people have no choice, they are never given the opportunity to learn free play.

  82. Brenna August 19, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    This is very time appropriate, since I just this morning dropped my son off at his first day at his new daycare, which I think of as being very free-range. His older sister went there as well, so I’m quite familiar with the place. It’s an old house, with a huge back yard, and they consider themselves a play-care, and were very specific when I was looking at places to emphasize that they were NOT a preschool. They take 2-6 year olds, and everything is child driven. The kids are allowed to wander from room to room and indoors and out as they see fit (weather permitting, and they are pretty lax on non-permitting weather). The backyard is full of toys for climbing, bouncing, running, exploring. All sorts of dangerous looking things that the kids LOVE, up to and including a rope lattice and a giant inner-tube. Rooms are filled with stuff, each rooming having something of a theme. Books in one, cars and vehicles in one, house and dress-up play in one, etc. Pickup actually takes a while because you have to wander through the whole place to find your kid. Aside from two two directors, all of the staff are college kids (University town) and their main role is facilitator. Play with the kids, read to them, etc. I LOVE the place. My daughter did as well, and considering the fact that my son happily waved bye on the first day, I’m pretty sure he’s going to fit in just fine.

  83. Katie August 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    @Really bad mum

    That’s sad, although only slightly worse than the United States. I think here too many parents feel the pressure to put their kids in preschool. Preschool also has started earlier than when I was a kid. At age 2 when I was a kid, you’d go to daycare. Now it’s preschool. Kids just need to be allowed to be kids. It’s natural for kids to play and to learn that way. You see it in animals in nature too.

  84. MIha August 19, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    Here a link to a trailer for a german movie about the wald-kindergaerten. I have friends who send their kids to on of those and these kids sharp as a pencil and so much fun to hang around. Being here in NYC nature is harder to find….we go on adventures in-between.

  85. Really Bad Mum August 19, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    @katie, The worst was my daughter was really really bright ( she was smarter then me by the time she was 3 lol) but because she was born in October she couldn’t start school, even though she was more then ready, she was reciting the periodical table by 3 and 1/2, my son who started early is dyslexic and has asked to be held back a grade, he is 9 now. The schools have stopped holding kids back a yr because it can apparently ruin their self esteem, but when ur child sees everyone being able to do something and they can’t it is worse, also in Australia only one state classifies dyslexia as a learning disability, it is disgusting and so many kids are being pushed through school only to fail coz they can’t read or write.

  86. Jenny Islander August 19, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

    @Hels: That’s about what I remember from day care. Sometimes the grown-ups gathered us around the table and showed us things, and sometimes we were off doing our own thing. Every kid in the place had their own little chore. I think at one point I was the shoe hunter, meaning that kids had a tendency to take off their shoes wherever and somebody had to go find them. There was a block picker-upper, a crayon finder, etc.

  87. KarenElissa August 19, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    I think a lot of the problem is we all have different ideas of what is educational for young children. I’m a teacher in a two year old class and I do consider myself a teacher, not just a baby sitter. I’m teaching the kids all kinds of things, but I’ve never sat them all down and said we are going to learn the abcs or to count or whatever. So much of what young children learn happens in the midst of every day life. We can count as we set the table, learn colors as we read books or play outside. It all happens naturally if you have a loving adult that interacts with the kids.

    I know when I was growing up my mom stayed at home and both of my parents spent plenty of time reading to us, interacting with us, and just making us help out around the house (as well as just letting us do our own thing). So many kids don’t have that though. Many parents are single parents or have two parents working, and many parents don’t have the knowledge/desire/whatever to spend that time with their kids. So kids need to learn those everyday things somewhere.

    I’ve spent some time looking at the standards, what I’m supposed to be teaching “my” kids and they really are pretty reasonable. For two year olds there is a lot of focus on developing relationships with adults and other kids and learning to do things on their own. The “school” type things they are supposed to be learning is being able to talk and express themselves, listening to and following stories, and just exploring the world around them. The problem is so many directors/teachers/parents seem to think that the earlier kids are learning something the better, even if their brains aren’t ready. So you have people pushing things on kids before they are ready.

    And you also have people who seem to think learning letters and numbers is the most important thing, never mind things like science (exploring the world and asking questions), are (expressing yourself) and just how to get along with those around us. I think teaching the kids these kinds of things are just as (maybe even more) important as learning to read and write.

    Sorry, that was a bit long and a bit disjointed, but I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about these things as I’m trying to walk the fine line of doing what I think is best for young kids and keeping my director happy so I still have a job.

  88. Really Bad Mum August 20, 2013 at 1:55 am #

    @ KarenElisaa, that’s pretty much what we’re saying 2 year olds need guidance from a carer rather then a teacher, not that I mean to devalue your position, I don’t envy day care workers or teachers and think most do a great job, but everyone needs to just chill out a bit and let kids be kids, everything is so over analysed these days that real problems are getting missed. If I was you I would start trying to convince your boss to start doing small free range activities try getting some parents on board,

  89. Jeff August 20, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    For the people who say that kids start school too early, I think that the emphasis is in the wrong place in this statement. Early education isn’t the bad part, but the school that is. It’s broke for kindergarteners, so it’s not going to be any better for 4, 3, or 2 year olds.

    There’s two layers of developmental inappropriateness at school. On the one hand, they are trying to push on five year olds topics that are too advanced for them (ie. telling and understanding time), but at the same time waiting far too long to introduce other topics (ie. writing and foreign languages). Additionally, the manner in which five year olds are taught both sets of topics is usually developmentally inappropriate.

    This is why I like Montessori education. It doesn’t force topics like writing or number sense on children, but recognizes that children want to learn these things earlier than we force them to learn them in traditional education. By the time traditional education forces them to learn to write, their sensitive period for it has largely passed, saying nothing about the developmentally inappropriate way it is presented.

  90. Chenell August 20, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    I went to the YMCA in Miami in the seventies. I know I was reading by age three, and I have to assume they taught me that there, along with writing my name and knowing my colors, shapes and numbers, because I know I started kindergarten knowing these things…but I don’t remember being taught these things. What I remember clearly was playing on this amazing indoor jungle gym they had there. It seemed massive to me at the time. I remember my little friends, and this dress-up area where I would try on hats and pretend to talk on the telephone. I think if you go ahead and schedule lessons about the basics, and then just have plenty of great play centers and free time, the kids will be thrilled. I think the diversity comes from having different types of kids together, not taught in any class. Once a week, schedule something “cultural” like a guitarist to come in and play, or a small puppet show, and you should satisfy expectation on that front, I should think.

  91. bmommyx2 August 21, 2013 at 2:31 am #

    Play based learning. Messy stuff I don’t want to do at home. Lots of sensory tables. Building. climbing, running. Field trips. Visit some local preschools & see what they do. Also Check out Outside the Box they do lots of sensory stuff. Lots of art that’s not cookie cutter.

  92. Rachel August 21, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    Blocks, hammers, nails, dirt, things with wheels, garden, dirt, water painting suplies, books, and dirt.