Forest Building

We spent the morning in the woods on Friday. After a summer of heavy rains, our fort was certainly worse for wear. After removing all of the fallen logs and sorting them by size, we were ready to rebuild.

I put up the first few large logs, building the base, but after that, the children took charge of collecting sticks and deciding on placement. A few of the larger logs were farther from our construction. Team work was required to move these behemoths through the undergrowth.

One of the largest logs provided us with an addition, almost doubling the size of the design. While we built, the children used their forest journals for the first time. Many drew our new fort.

Once the children deemed the building complete, a few chose to add small details to decorate the inside. Flowers were added as well as a phone. Some of the leaves were swept away revealing a carpet of soft moss inside.

Our current forest fort:

Curiosity Breeds More Questions

One of our morning classes was canceled today, leaving us with an opportunity to head outside and enjoy the lovely fall weather. We took a short hike over to The Bear Track Trail, located on the back side of our playground. This was our first excursion to this section of our school grounds.

While exploring, odd spherical shapes fell from above, clunking along the ground. There was some discussion about whether these were coconuts or walnuts. Either way, everyone wanted to know what might be inside. Many experiments were attempted. They were thrown, stomped on, bounced, and even squeezed. One sure-fire way was eventually found.

So now that we had them open, what were we to think of the squiggly mess we found inside? More and more curious we became. Squeamish my students are not. They quickly began picking the “worms” off of the seeds to examine them. The children spent the better part of twenty minutes inspecting these new finds. Many theories came forward.

Concrete and Abstract Thinking

Early each year I set out the dragon tears (flat glass rocks) and some simple line drawings. They are wonderful for fine-motor practice, but more importantly they are lovely, special things to play with. I added them to the art studio last week after observing many of the children placing a variety of toys in rows and lines.

On purpose, I didn’t explain how they might be used. I wanted to see the ideas that the children bring with them.

This year, a few children decided to use them to line the simple drawings. One child used the lines as boundaries and created their own design within the marks. As I walked around the room observing others, some of children took their exploration further.

Moving from concrete materials to abstract representations of those materials is a perfect example of the developmental growth we see in Pre-k. For younger children, it wouldn’t occur to them to re-make the activity on paper. Their learning focus is on the tangible, the feel of the rocks, the swoops and straight lines, the act of moving the stones. While the older children also found this enjoyable, they were driven to represent their experience in another medium.

We will see this in all areas of development throughout the year. Children will move from activities that involve direct manipulation to those that can represent their experiences. We hope to capture as much of this growth as we can to share with you.

Friendship and being little

Friendship can be messy. As grown-ups, we can easily forget how murky the “friendship” lines can be when we are little. Here are a few of the comments I overheard recently and a break-down of what was actually happening:

“I don’t want to play with you. You always play with me.”

Four and five-year-olds are naturally egocentric. They are designed this way on purpose. It helps them adapt to a strange world as they encounter new things every moment of their young life. One must learn to have their own perspective before they can understand that of another. When two children find that they have similar interests at the beginning of the year, they often gravitate to either each other or at least the same sets of spaces and materials. At first, it feels like a comfortable connection. As time goes on, one might decide that they would like to try something new with a different friend. This can cause confusion. The child left behind follows the new pair trying to join in, just like every other day. The child who wanted to play with someone else can’t see the perspective of the other and thinks they are just “copying” or “following them everywhere.” As grown-ups, it’s our job to recognize the feelings of both children. Children have a right to play with a variety of classmates AND they have a right to want to continue to play with the one friend they’ve made a connection with so far.

So, how do we solve this dilemma? Today I spoke to this pair to help them communicate more meaning than just, “I don’t want to play with you.” We found out that the follower simply likes the other child, that’s why they were following them. We also found out that the child who didn’t want to play would be happy to play with the other later. He just wanted to play with someone else right now. Once we had more information and language that explained our feelings better, both parties agreed to move off to other groups.

Fast-forward to later in the afternoon: The “I don’t want to play with you” child was holding the hand of the other, gently tugging and saying, “You are on my team!”

“I want to play alone right now.”

Sometimes, people just want to be alone. This is very hard to understand when you are in Pre-K. If you want to play with someone, it is obvious that they would want to play with you. If someone says they want to be alone, you often jump to the conclusion that they don’t like you anymore. We guide the children through these experiences by having both children talk together about what they want at the moment. Realizing that your classmate wants to be alone for a little while instead of forever helps both parties gain understanding.

“No one wants to play with me.”

We hear this comment very often in the beginning of the year. Digging a bit deeper, we find that the child who is alone is either unsure of how to join another group already in play or they want to play a different story or game. In the case of the latter, usually they have not actually asked anyone to play their game, instead just asking, “Will you play with me?” We teach the children two different strategies in the instances above.

If you see a group you’d like to join, we suggest asking, “How can I play?” This will give the group and the child a way to blend a new person into the game. It is also a question that cannot be answered with a single affirmative or negative response.

When you have an idea of what you’d like to play, we suggest telling others your idea. “Mandy, I want to play cats. Do you want to be a cat?” This opens up the dialogue if your classmate has a different idea or is fully interested in your idea.


Relationships in early childhood can be fraught with ups and downs. The good news is vacillating friendships help build the skills we need as adults to both empathize with others and speak up for our own needs. Everything that happens in childhood is learning. Our job as adults is to create a safe space for mistakes and growth to occur.

A New Year of Wonder

We are almost two weeks into our latest adventure at WT North Pre-K. This class of small scientists has been flowing right into the new routines. We’ve been slowly introducing materials and tools, allowing the children to become comfortable with the use and care of each before adding something new. As they play in this novel setting, we’ve had many opportunities to observe and wonder along with them.

A wandering spider

Open exploration of loose parts

Chalk on the outside

Ramps and cars

Water table science

The Pre-K Movie Premiere

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Last night, we held our seventh annual Movie Premiere where we debuted the masterpiece: The Pre-K Movie. Our stars arrived in their fancy garb, walked the red carpet, had their picture taken by the paparazzi, ate pizza and popcorn, and even received their very own 3D printed Oscars. We could not be more proud of all of the creativity and hard work this class put into this movie!

If you’d like to see the script for this four month long project, you can check it out here.

Thank you to all who were able to join us last night and to all those that made this fabulous evening possible!