Worksheets, never! Well, almost never….

402D6198-28FE-46FB-BB72-0E87F64F8887“As Peter Gray talks about, true play must always be voluntary, and the child must always be free to leave (Gray, 2013). But what happens when, as they grow older, their play looks more like classroom work? What if they get curious about worksheets? What if they want to challenge themselves to write down the answers to math questions? What if they want to read and follow the instructions?”

Do you have time for deep play?

Welcome to my first blog post follow up to our new Podcast –

Dirty Playologist! I will be blogging on the ideas we talked about more in depth, talking about aspects that I want to dig deeper into or related ideas to help you put the ideas in perspective in your classroom or homeschool. I look forward to Kisha adding in her voice sometimes as well!

Our first two episodes were on play schemas and how to support them in your play. I wanted to get a little into how to allow that play in your environment. We talked a lot about the schemas and the repetition and allowing kids to explore the schemas as well as allow the learning that branches out from schemas – math concepts, social concepts science concepts etc. 

As early childhood educators we need to provide materials but being in the forest there are days that they will request no materials or when they ignore materials that are provided. Yet everyday the children seek out and explore schemas to learn from. So materials are not essential for exploration of play schemas and learning that results from the play schemas. 

The one thing that I see as being essential is time. Having large chunks of time to really explore, repeat and learn. I am not talking about 30-40 minutes that free time in structured schools allow for. Why is that not enough?

It can take a significant amount of time to get deep into play, anywhere from 10-30 minutes. How long depends on 3 factors. 

1. Familiarity of a place – if a place is new or different it will take longer to get deep into play. The more familiar a place is, when they know where the materials are, where they remember a game, exploration or play scenario they have set up that they want to revisit the faster they will get into deep play.

2. Familiarity of others – in much the same a way place is a factor other children are a factor as well. Trying to negotiate with a child for the second or third time takes a lot more effort and concentration than negotiating with a child after knowing them for a year. Also familiar games and roles lessen the amount of set up time so they can get deeper in the play faster. 

3. Familiarity of yes environments – this means yes environments for exploration, for choices and for play with almost no rules or constraints. A child who is not used to having environment where they are in control of their play may check in with adults or other children to make sure their decisions are ok. This can be all the way from stopping to ask “can I do this?” to even just stopping their play to look at an adult. But the result is the same the play is stopped, interrupted and must begin again. Every new beginning means it takes longer to get back into the play. 

The longer kids are allowed to play the better and faster they get at getting deeper into play. Kids who are routinely given 30-40 minutes spend all of, or almost all of their time trying to get deep into learning play without ever really reaching it. To really reach that deep learning play children must be given large chucks of time of more than an hour to play with the schemas, to play with the concepts the schemas naturally transition to and to just be able to have fun.
If you would like to listen to the podcast you can listen to the first one 


Or the second one 


Or download from iTunes – just search dirty playologists!

For information on Schemas click here

Digging Deep!

We have one rare full time and one rare part time spot for our fall session. Message or email for details!

This last week at Barrie Forest Kindergarten….

We had such fun building bridges, exploring the creek, playing in our natural sandbox -covering ourselves, each other and building magical element piles. Climbing, running and splashing. Just don’t tell the kids they are learning!

We met 106 Kindergarten Goals of the Ontario Kindergarten Curriculum and all 15 levels of play (Parten, Smilansky  and Smith & Pellegrini)


New Session, New Ideas

This Last month at Barrie Forest Kindergarten….

It has been a busy month with a new session starting. New faces, new ideas and new beginnings. The children are constructing a new shelter, making pulleys and traps with the ropes, playing in the mud during the rain. Learning about tent caterpillars, plantain, poison ivy and so much more!

So far this session we met 116 goals over all 7 areas of the kindergarten curriculumn and all 15 Play areas from Smilanksy, Parten and Smith & Pellegrini. 

Seasonal Rhythms



This last week at Barrie Forest Kindergarten……

This week one of the posts on our page garnered some attention when it was shared on Explorations of Early Learning about the relaxed schedule of a child directed day. 

Some thought it chaotic or too inconsistent. This was my reply to that concern:

“Most who follow a routine with kids can not fathom what this looks like. They see chaos, they see no order they see no continuity because they believe that these things have to be imposed by adults. In reality our day is set by a rhythm set by the kids. Things like gatherings, snack, quiet time usually follow a pattern.

Children are people too and crave the same habits, routines and familiarity as adults.


Much like us they do better following their own routines (how many people would do well being told where they can buy their morning coffee in the morning before work or that they couldn’t at all versus following their familiar routine).”

This week at Forest Kindergarten has brought home this idea not so much on the day to day but on the macro level of seasonal rhythms. One of the seasonal rhythms the children immerse themselves during season change in is a return to sensorial play and locomotive play. They seems to sense this will be their last chance to lay in the chill of the snow, to purposely loose and catch their balance on a patch of ice, to break something (ice and snow chunks) without worry of hurting something. They also seem to enjoy the magic of the new season – excited to throw things in the pond that just earlier this week was covered in ice. Being able to run on the dirt ground without worry of slipping on it or getting stuck in deep snow.


Every stage of play and learning exist to allow for learning, understanding and growing. Children come into this world with all the tools to learn, experiment, understand and teach. It is a magical process to watch, and I am sure they would say a magical process to be immersed in.




A new season, with a new name

This Last Week at Forest Kindergarten……

One of the boys decided that it wasn’t spring yet, but it wasn’t winter. When I asked what season it was he declared “Treasure Hunt Season!” They were all so excited to find so many “treasures” on our travels today. From rocks, to pine cones, the countless sticks to a natural “rope” that was a vine or root the kids were having fun searching out new discoveries that were being revealed throughout the melting snow. 

In Inquiry based learning there are 4 levels of inquiry with Confirmation Inquiry being at the bottom with teachers deciding and leading an inquiry. 

The first or top Level is Open Inquiry where children are the leaders and decide everything from topic to finding their own information and drawing their own conclusions. 

In teacher directed settings teachers are encouraged to start with level four as children are not as capable of thinking without teacher guidance and build to level one, the gold standard of learning, by the end of elementary school to take control of their own learning. 

In child directed settings children are taught how to learn from the beginning and don’t need teachers constraining their learning with levels 2-4. Instead they learn the gold standard – the first level of inquiry based learning from the beginning as they learn to explore using open inquiry based learning. 

The “treasure hunt” season has brought open inquiry to the forefront and the excitement of discovery is felt at our Forest Kindergarten.  

More Writing, More People, More Play Empowered!

I am pleased to announce I will be a resident author for Play Empowers, a project comprised of the leaders of the revolution for Child Directed Play Based Learning throughout North America. It reaches out to promote play based child directed learning through blog articles, information and are working towards a conference next year.


Play based learning More than the three R’s

This last week at Barrie Forest Kindergarten….

Play based learning has to do with more than learning math or science it has to do with learning about ourselves, our emotions and being with others.

One of our boys suffered a loss this week and the next day at Forest Kindergarten he became a wild wolf grunting and banging into “walls” of snow. The others joined his “wild play” being foxes and wolves. At first they would walk as animals towards him and back up as he growled playing a child directed form of what time is it Mr Wolf. Eventually they were able to coax him to come rejoin the group and enjoy a “meal” with them.

This being done through the context of child directed play allowed the kids the safety of play to “pretend” to comfort this wild wolf and bring him back in the group for solace. This allowed the boy to play with and start to become comfortable with his emotions of loss. It also allowed him to play at finding comfort and acceptance with his friends