Sorry, Ma, gotta go to work!


“Play is the work of the child.” -Maria Montessori(1)

A child’s play, from the earliest days of interaction with their parent or caregiver, is supporting the child’s brain development and function. Play is the fundamental manner by which children gather and process information, learn new skills, and practice old skills(2). Imaginative play has free rein to create scenarios, imitate others or made-up characters, and transform a stick into a magic wand.

Perhaps even more importantly, play allows a child to express taboo emotions, release tension, and explore anxieties, all in the guise of pretending it isn’t the child doing any of it. Only in play may a child legitimately discover his or her capabilities in certain spheres: jumping from a tall building (off the bed); screaming at full tilt (calling for help); defending the home (from marauders).

Lev Vygotsky was one of the most influential child educators of the 20th century. Regarding the pretending (above), Vygotsky believed that in play, “The child is always behaving beyond his age, above his usual everyday behavior; in play he is, as it were, a head above himself. Play contains in a concentrated form, as in the focus of a magnifying glass, all developmental tendencies; it is as if the child tries to jump above his usual level.”(4)

He wrote at length about how teachers must support the next step for a child learning a skill, especially when playing(3). He said, “The teacher must adopt the role of facilitator, not content maker.”(4)

Let’s do just that; allowing the child’s natural desire to play — and thus to explore, to create, to develop — be his way to grow into all he can be.

Gotta go to work, Ma!



(2) Kostelnick, Soderman, & Whiren. (2011). Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum, 5th ed. New Jersey: Pearson.



Ready to Read?


Young children range widely in their reading acquisition. Some teach themselves to read at two years old by mimicking the person reading to them. Some love hearing the stories read to them but don’t even think of mimicking. Some notice that everything read to them has squiggles on a page and wonder what they mean. Some children are verbally articulate at a young age and yet can’t identify alphabet letters until they’re considerably older.

It can be unnerving or demoralizing for a parent to see their child not keeping pace with classmates or friends in learning to read. My oldest read at five years old; my second read at four years old because she wanted to do everything her big brother did; and my third read at eight years old … I never learned why, but I know how worried I was about him!

All three children are adults now — and terrific readers, high in skills and comprehension. Did I need to worry about any of them? Probably not. Reading is one of those skills for which developmentally appropriate practice is crucial. Just like building a house, building a reader depends on a solid foundation followed by the right floors put in place at the right time(1, 2).

Be intentionally verbal with your child. Ask questions and wait patiently for the answer. Enjoy the language games that are so important to babies and little children: peek-a-boo, nursery rhymes, silly words and sounds. Oral language is a predictor of reading readiness, and listening is as important as speaking, so make the most of reading their favorite book for the hundredth time.

Ready to read? Ready if you are!



Is It True that You Are What You Eat?

IMG_8219 2.JPGIf so, what do you want to be?

A processed “food product” with artificial ingredients and chemical preservatives, or a fresh peach?

Starting from birth, parents have choices to make in what they feed their children. Although breast milk has been proven to be superior to infant formula(1), there are a variety of reasons why mothers cannot (or will not) breastfeed.

Baby food manufacturing started in the late 19th century, but was aggressively marketed to consumers in the early 20th century. Before this time, of course, babies were fed milder forms of the food the family ate and grew to tolerate more complex foods. Touted as a convenience item, prepared baby food’s popularity has grown as less households have a stay-at-home parent to prepare food for baby(2).

Increasing reliance on convenient, prepared foods has led to an increase in consumption of high fat, high sugar, and high sodium items(3). Inexpensive and low-quality take-out foods contribute to this consumption, to the point that our society has an epidemic of overweight and obese adults and children(4).

We are not without hope, however! Cultivating your child’s appetite to appreciate real foods is not impossible, although it may take more effort than hitting the McDonald’s drive-thru. Educating yourself and your child about nutritious foods and their benefits is a good place to start. The Kids’ Health website(5, 6) will give parents and children lots to look at and learn about — and maybe get you started on the road to looking like a fresh peach, and not a cardboard box.  : )