Cute or Quality

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Developmentally appropriate practice and early learning activities are popular and important discussions among early childhood educators.  These professional conversations can become passionate debates about best practices for young children.

Books and magazines; search engines and social media sites provide an array of ideas for a multitude of holidays, themes, or studies.  Activities abound for infants and toddlers; preschoolers and kindergarteners; and every other age and grade level.

At first sight, we might think… “aww, that’s cute.” But let’s take a few minutes to pause and take a closer look at the activity, not by looking at the final product but by reflecting on the process the children and teacher took to get there.

  • Was the activity child initiated or teacher directed?
  • What choices did the child make?
  • What skills did the child strengthen or learn?
  • What materials were the child able to explore?
  • Was the process open-ended?
  • Was individual expression encouraged?
  • Was the child forced, coerced, or rushed?

Was the final product just cute or was it a quality early learning experience?


Teaching the Butterfly Life Cycle

‘Tis the season for caterpillars & butterflies.

Which is the best activity to teach the life cycle of a butterfly?


Which activity is more hands-on?


Which activity is more real? Authentic? Meaningful?


Which activity teaches to more learning styles? …more children?

Which activity will produce the most memories and in turn the most learning?

Nature does not hurry…


A child’s first word, first step, each milestone and skill develops in a natural progression.

We know that certain primary skills need to be learned before a secondary skill can be mastered. Babies coo and babble first then words begin to develop.  They usually roll over first, then begin to crawl, then pull themselves up to stand and then walk.

We don’t rush an egg to hatch, a butterfly to emerge, a seed to sprout, or a flower to bloom.  Why do we rush children to develop?


“The Worksheet Dilemma”

A few favorite quotes for reflection from “The Worksheet Dilemma: Benefits of Play Based Curricula” by Dr. Sue Grossman

“While children may have the ability to perform a task, that does not mean that the task is appropriate and should be performed.”

“The mere accomplishment of the worksheet task does not signify the child’s ability to read or comprehend.”

“When we insist that children sit still and do what for them may be a meaningless task, such as completing a workbook page, we force children into a situation incompatible with their developmental needs and abilities.”

Nurture not Speed or Force

When reading Caroline Arnold’s book, Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Change Your Life Permanently, I was thrilled to find a quote that related so well to children’s growth and development.

“Transformation is a process,  not an event. And why would you want to skip the process? Consciously nurturing change makes us smarter, more self-aware, and builds a powerful foundation for continued growth.  Being able to repeat steps A and B is the magic formula for making our achievements permanent.

The key to lasting transformation is not speed or force but nurture.” (xxii)