Our pedagogical roots lie in Emergent Curriculum, Reggio, and play-based education. We believe that children learn and grow best when they are empowered to follow their own interests and passions. Seedlings provides children with an environment rich with opportunities for learning of all kinds, and the adults in the space give their attuned attention and observation. In this way, we are able to respect, encourage, and support each child on their unique path of development. We support all children to take ownership of their school, and encourage them to engage in discussion, conflict, and compromise with one another, as they navigate what it means to be part of a community. Seedlings is a place for messy play, rainy play, sunny play, challenging play, cooperative play, conflicts in play, child-made solutions to keep playing, creative play, risky play, loud play, quiet-concentration play, inspired play, open-ended play, innovative play...
Seedlings is a place that honors childhood and everything that it is meant to be.
"Let the child be the scriptwriter, the director, and the actor in his own play."
"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood."
Seedlings Playschool is guided by the belief that child-directed play is the best pathway to deep, meaningful learning. Seedlings is a rich, open-ended play environment, designed for children to explore, experiment, and delight in the world around them. Play is not something that we do as a break from “learning time.” At Seedlings, play is what we do all day every day because we know this is the way children learn best. Having these long chunks of time, in which they are completely free to play, allows children to find the kind of deep engagement that cannot be reached in a more limited time frame or under more structure or adult-direction. And perhaps most valuable of all, free play gives children opportunities to meaningfully interact with one another—to work together, communicate ideas, and collaborate, and to negotiate and work through conflict. These are skills that must be built through experience, and they are the skills that our world needs the next generation to have.
“Our flexibility and willingness to follow a child’s lead will allow remarkable things to happen, if we let them”
“Be careful what you teach. It might interfere with what they are learning.”
As Teacher, my role is first to craft the learning environment, then to observe and build upon the child’s interests. The environment has been thoughtfully and intentionally created to provide opportunities for all types of developmental play and play schemas, so every child can become deeply engaged in play that meets their individual developmental stages and needs. (If you’re curious, I’ve shared some infographics about types of play on the “parent resources” page) Then with careful observation, I can take note of patterns that are occurring in the children’s topical interests (I.e. these kids love cars), schematic interests (I.e. these kids are fascinated by the rotation schema), sensory needs (I.e. These kids are craving proprioceptive input and heavy work), or social play stages (i.e. these kids are mostly engaging in parallel play). Understanding all this helps me to become a collaborator and facilitator for the children’s play by meeting them where they are and building opportunities to go deeper with everything they are working on.
Process Over Product
“It must not be forgotten that the basic law of children’s creativity is that it’s value lies not in its results, but in the process itself. It is not important what children create, but that they do create, that they exercise and implement creative imagination.”
“Art for toddlers and preschoolers is rarely about beauty. It’s all about exploration and personal expression.”
Adults are so focused on results and outcomes that it can be hard not to project this mindset onto our children. But when young children are allowed to follow their own creative process, the end product is rarely the focus. At Seedlings, children are invited to experiment with materials, get messy, and experience the process of creating with no adult expectations. This means there aren’t any smiling farm animal crafts to take home to mom and dad. And while that big brown splorp of paint might not look like much to a grown-up, the experience of creating it was certainly more meaningful to the child—as they explored the sensory experience of touching the paint, or discovered how colors change as they mix, or investigated how lines and circles could intersect and form new shapes together, or observed how a paint brush flung at high velocity could create a splatter pattern. This focus on process applies not only to art, but to so many of a child’s endeavors—the important part for a child is the “how” not the “what.”
“We not only respect [children], we demonstrate our respect every time we interact with them. Respecting a child means treating even the youngest infant as a unique human being, not an object”
“Trust children. Nothing could be more simple or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.”
As important as learning in the early years, is the care that young children receive and the relationships they build. These early human interactions have the ability to shape how they relate to others for the rest of their lives. They are constantly looking to us as models of how to relate to others and how to expect others to relate to them. I believe that children are full humans from birth, deserving of all the respect and consideration one would give to an adult person. Which is not to say children should be treated just like adults—children have unique needs, abilities, and developmental realities that need to be deeply understood. What respect means to me is listening to a child’s communication (verbal or otherwise) with full attention. It means giving real consideration and weight to their perspectives and desires. It means taking them seriously when they want to be taken seriously and trying to see our interactions through their eyes. My hope is that every exchange I have with a child in my care leaves them feeling loved and seen and understood.
Guidance, Community Expectations, and Social Skills
“In my world there are no bad kids, just impressionable, conflicted young people wrestling with emotions and impulses, trying to communicate their feelings and needs the only way they know how.”
“It’s OK if it’s not hurting people or property.”
“Kids do well when they can”
At Seedlings, we believe in modeling as the primary source of children’s social learning and growth. This means that, at all times, adults engage with children in a way that is respectful and calm. We will arrive at a set of expectations for our small community through discussion and mutual agreement. This process allows children to feel responsibility and ownership over the norms and agreements that exist in the community, and encourages them to stay accountable to one another. When problems or disagreements arise, children solve them through discussion with one another, with a trusted adult nearby to facilitate only as much as is needed. Even very small children can take responsibility for solving their own problems, when they are trusted and seen as competent and capable.