While children are small every moment we spend with them we are planting seeds.

We plant seeds of self-esteem when we share our love with them; seeds of confidence when we acknowledge their work; seeds of gentleness when we guide them through a tantrum or meltdown with kindness and understanding.

Those wondrous little beings take the very best parts of our souls and turn those seeds we share with them into beautiful blossoms.

Wouldn’t It Be Easier …

When the children and I are out on our adventures we occasionally need to stop to get our shoes on or take them off, to have our lunch, or wash our hands.

These are things my little friends try to do on their own, some with complete independence, some with a little support, always within the age appropriate expectations for their development.

Sometimes while the children work on their shoes, or their coats, or eating their lunch independently (oh the mess independence can make sometimes!) someone will comment: “Wouldn’t it be easier if you … fed them … did it for them? Wouldn’t it be faster?”

Yes, it absolutely would.

But what am I saying to them when I hurry to do up their shoes for them? When I take the spoon away because they are too messy?

“You can’t do it.”

“I can do this better, faster, than you.”

These aren’t things I want to say to my little friends who are working so hard to master a skill, to learn and to grow.

I want them to know that I believe in them, that I’ll help them if they ask, but I know that they can be successful as long as they keep trying.

Maria Montessori said, “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”

So I stand back and let them work and support them when they need it.

We make a mess, we take our time.

Sometimes it’s hard to wait for those little hands to zip that zipper, but the results are so worth it.

Winter Solstice Reflections

Winter brings with it the warm scents of sage and thyme in the kitchen, wool sweaters and comforting blankets with a weight that feels like a welcome embrace. The world sparkles as if the ground has been dusted with thousands of tiny, perfect jewels.

There is magic in this season when all the plants slumber and the trees reach bare branches to the silvery sky. You can see it in the first snowfall as children rush to the window to press eager little hands and faces to the glass, there is a cold and glimmering beauty that whispers of Christmas and fairies and wonder.

This is the time for snowmen, twinkling lights, and sugar cookies with icing that shines like polished glass gems. A wondrous season to be small and still so full of awe at the little miracles in the world.

In our little school we joyfully follow the rhythms of the seasons because there is beauty to each of them. In winter we observe the bare but lovely tree branches decorated with intricate frozen crystals and discover pieces of ice atop puddles that look as clear and lovely as gemstones. We also prepare strings of delicious treats for the little creatures that share our play yard because I believe it is so important to teach the little people to love even the tiniest living beings.

As the days shorten and the nights grow longer we celebrate the Solstice with lanterns and dehydrate orange slices to hang in the window to catch the sunlight.

In these little celebrations and traditions we are cradled in the same circle as our ancestors, travelling familiar paths into the next season together as a learning community.

How do you embrace the changing seasons in your programs?

Authentic Learning & Authentic Learning Environments

A few weeks back a professional colleague asked what I thought an authentic learning environment looked like, this is my rather long winded answer 😊

Authentic learning “… is a pedagogical approach that allows for the construction of meaning grounded in real-life situations and the learners own personal experience” (Authentic Learning Environments). An environment allows for authentic learning when children have caring,  authentic relationships with educators and space to experiment and explore.

An authentic learning environment begins with authentic relationships between children and educators. Authentic relationships with children are hugely important because “[n]o significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.”  (Dr. James P. Comer, professor of Child Psychiatry) When a classroom culture cultivates positive relationships and a sense of belonging and inclusion children have the security to learn in authentic ways.

In authentic learning environments children are allowed to make discoveries through concrete, hands on experiences rather than attempting to force them to understand a concept by filling out a worksheet or participating in a teacher planned lesson. As Bev Boss, early learning expert said, “If it hasn’t been in the hand and body it can’t be in the brain!”

Giving children the space and time to play and to construct their own understanding of the world is crucial if we want their learning to be meaningful to them. Educators in authentic learning environments are co-learners and play partners, scaffolding the children’s learning with open ended questions and gentle guidance.

The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.  – Alexandra K. Trenfor

Children are designed to learn, motivated to discover and understand the world around them. From the moment babies enter the world they are eager explorers visually mapping the faces of those closest to them, communicating with cries and smiles, and learning through interacting with their environment. As educators we must support that natural drive to discover by creating welcoming environments that inspire children to learn.

Reflecting children’s interests and individual needs creates a rich and meaningful classroom environment. Because teachers in authentic environments cultivate close relationships with children and their families they genuinely understand what topics will ignite their students’ curiosity and are able to weave them into the fabric of play.

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. – William Butler Yeats.

When teachers are sensitive to each child’s individual needs, interests and temperaments and the environment is conducive to exploration and play, authentic learning is a natural process that occurs organically. Authentic learning is distinctly meaningful to each individual child and it is the things that have meaning to us that linger in our minds and our hearts for a lifetime.

Our children teach us what life is all about.

Yesterday morning as I was washing the hands and faces of the little ones who had finished their breakfasts my daughter leapt from her chair and shrieked, “Spider!”

I of course sprang into action to remove the eight legged invader from the table because spiders are a source of much fear for my eldest child … but the little arachnid was still, it’s legs curled up so it looked like a ball rather than a creature. I began to sweep him on to a piece of paper to toss into the trash.

“It’s okay, he’s not a live spider. He must have died,” I said offhandedly as I cast a glance at my daughter. The other kids had moved on to trains and cars and racing round the circle of the living room.

“Maybe he fell against the window and died,” she said matter-of-fact, chewing on the hem of her sleeve.


I whisked the little spider-body to the trash for a less than ceremonious “funeral”. When I looked at my little girl again her eyes were welling up with tears.

“I kind of feel bad for the spider,” she said, her voice cracking as I walked towards her and knelt beside her. Her entire five year old self fell into my arms and she cried for the little spider who died on our kitchen table.

Children have such big hearts, filled with empathy for even the smallest creatures on this planet.

Yesterday I learned to slow down as I helped my child find her way through her sadness. Grief is a hard thing to cope with, even when that sorrow is for the lost life of a little spider; children’s feelings are just as valid as our adult emotions.

Every moment I spend in the profession of early learning and care I am growing as an educator. I learn as much every day from the children that I work with as they learn from me and I’m lucky to have such kind little teachers.

Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day

Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day is set aside to acknowledge the huge difference ECEs make in the lives of families as well as the impact they have within the broader community.

Early Childhood Educators are experts in child development. We are passionate professionals that assess children’s needs and design curriculum to scaffold and support children’s individual stages of development and growth. We strive to cultivate healthy and trusting relationships with children and their families so that learning can blossom.

Everyday Early Childhood Educators are committed to providing exceptional learning opportunities for young children in environments that are caring and welcoming. We build bridges with families between school and home that allow us to work collaboratively to support each unique child.

Yet our work is still undervalued in society; we are seen as babysitters and those of us that work in the school system are often just thought of as assistants rather than teaching partners. This has to change! Research has demonstrated time and time again the importance of quality early learning and care programs and it is time that we begin to acknowledge the value of the educators who are committed to creating these high quality learning environments for children.

If you have an Early Childhood Educator in your life let them know how important they are today and everyday.

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. – Henry Adams

An Open Letter to Christine Blasey Ford

Dear Dr. Blasey Ford,

I want to thank you for standing up, for telling your account of your assault at the hands of Judge Kavanaugh even though it was painful and terrifying. Your bravery amazes me. I want you to know that I stand with you and that I believe you.

And I want to make you a promise.

You see, I am an educator. I work with brilliant, goofy and cheeky little people that fill my heart with hope for the positive ways this world can change and grow.

I promise you that I will teach them all that their bodies are their own.

I will teach them that when they say “no” it matters, and when they hear “no” they must stop.

I will model respect and kindness in my interactions with them and our broader community so that they learn to be respectful and kind.

I will show them the injustices of the world in developmentally appropriate ways and teach them that even little people can have a big impact when they stand up and make the choice to make things better.


Natasha Kocher, RECE

Moldable Beeswax

The days are growing shorter and though the leaves have just begun to show their autumn colors winter is already on my mind. As the weather begins to cool I find myself bringing more natural materials inside, preparing for the days when the cold is too much for the little ones to bear.

I gather acorns and pinecones to adorn the shelves of my classroom like treasures for little hands to discover, sticks and pressed flowers, and dried goldenrod are scattered about like precious jewels for the children to create and imagine with.

I love to include nature in my program, especially in the months when the weather can be too harsh for our adventures outdoors. Beeswax is my favorite natural material to explore with my little friends on cold dull days when we are stranded inside; the smell of honey reminds us of the plump bumblebees we observed flitting from flower to flower in their sweet, clumsy way in the warm months of summer. We’ve made candles and polish for our toys from beeswax but I just recently discovered a recipe for moldable beeswax and I think the children will absolutely love it.

Moldable beeswax is a learning tool often used in Waldorf programs; it is an amazing material that allows children to practice fine motor, creative representation, and planning skills. Play with moldable beeswax requires patience as well because it must be warmed in the children’s hands before it is malleable enough to use.

Moldable Beeswax Recipe


1 pound of beeswax
5 tbsp coconut oil
4 tsp lanolin


Crock-Pot or
Microwave safe bowl
Measuring spoons
Spoon for stirring
Muffin tin & liners


Melt the beeswax in a crock pot (or microwave safe bowl in the microwave), then mix in the coconut oil and lanolin. Take a small amount out to test (carefully as it will be hot); If your wax mixture is a bit too crumbly add more oil, if it is too sticky add a bit more wax.
When you’re happy with the way it feels pour your wax mixture into a lined muffin tin and allow to cool.


To make moldable beeswax children nust measure, observe and combine materials to create something new; it’s a fantastic, organic way to explore math and science. There are so many opportunities for learning in such a simple activity.

Plastic is Fantastic (As A Loose Part)!

When I think about loose parts I picture lovely pieces of sea glass, driftwood, acorns and rocks. Plastic is usually the last thing to cross my mind, yet as a loose part it can be so engaging! I wanted to take a little time to focus on its beauty and versatility.

Even though it is sometimes overlooked when we are preparing our learning environments, plastic is a fantastic addition to your loose parts repertoire. Plastic is durable, comes in a variety of sizes and shapes, and is readily available which means most families in your program would be able to contribute a piece or two (hello engagement!).

When we use plastic that would otherwise be considered trash in our classroom we rescue it from the landfill and teach our students a valuable lesson about reusing materials instead of wasting them. As early years teacher Samantha Kent points out, “Reused plastic loose parts are better used creatively than thrown into landfill. This allows children to see how materials can be used in multiple ways.”

“In any Early Years setting, there is no such thing as ‘waste’ – just resources,” explains Andrea Rose, Co-Founder of My Recycled Classroom. “Children need to experience playing with plastics and the things we would usually throw away in order to develop a deeper, unspoken understanding of their responsibility to our planet. Alongside this, we’ve observed at My Recycled Classroom, that enriched learning unfolds in all developmental areas when children are allowed to handle ‘ordinary’, disused items.”

Having a variety of items such as plastic, wood, fabric, and metal that have different textures, colors and weights for the children to use in their imaginative play extends their learning and challenges their thinking. Colorful plastic pieces mixed in with more muted wood cookies and other loose parts can add another dimension to the children’s play.

“We don’t have a lot of color in our play space so I welcome plastic,” explains Tammy Lockwood, early years teacher. “I just prefer it be donated or purchased used.  I’m not keen on purchasing new plastic items for loose parts. While I love natural items and I think that the feel of natural items is best, there is still room for plastic and teaches something entirely different.”

“I like what is free, recycled, and accessible,” says educator Carla Gull, administrator of the Facebook group Loose Parts Play. “Some hits have been the large rings with two or three holes that hold several spaghetti sauce jars together (lots of spinning with those), pvc pipes of varying sizes, large plastic spools, heavy duty plastic crates (will pay for these), pizza “tents” to keep the cheese off the box, plastic netting around produce, and anything with texture for use with playdough.”

Pieces of plastic and other recycled loose parts are amazingly engaging materials for children to explore; they not only add depth to the children’s play but teach them crucial lessons about environmentalism. Let’s save these valuable treasures from going in the trash and give them another life as tools for playful learning in the hands of our students.

Learning About Orange Shirt Day with Young Children

Every child matters.

These words emblazoned on an orange shirt are striking and true. They honor the story of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad who was just 6 years old when she attended one of the residential schools in Canada. On her very first day she wore a shiny new orange shirt her grandmother had bought for her, she was happy and excited to be going to school. However, when she arrived at the mission they stripped her and took her clothes away, including her very special shirt. It was never returned to her. Phyllis felt sad and hurt, but what was worse was the fact that her feelings didn’t seem to matter at all to the adults around her.  (

“The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.” – Phyllis (Jack) Webstad   (

Each year on Orange Shirt Day I share Phyllis’s story with the children in my class. It gives the little ones a glimpse of some of the terrible things that took place in the residential schools from a child’s perspective.

It may seem like a difficult subject to approach with such young children but we have a responsibility to share the truth with our students about what happened to First Nations, Métis and Inuit children at the residential schools in ways that are age appropriate and consider their developmental level. Discussing the residential schools and those harmed by them in terms that children can grasp supports understanding and empathy.

The children in my program are very little so we use a lot of stories to explain the narratives of different cultures and people in our country and around the world. Many children’s stories have been written that talk about the history of the residential schools in simple ways that are easily understood by little ones.

Some of the books we’ve read about residential schools include;

Shi-shi-etko by Nicola Campbell
This is a story about a little girl leaving for a residential school; she spends the day before she leaves taking in her family’s teachings to protect her while she is away from home.

Kookum’s Red Shoes by Peter Eyvindson
In this story a grandmother recounts her time in the residential schools and how it affected her whole life.

The children and I spend time discussing how the First Nations, Métis and Inuit little ones must have felt being so far away from their home and being forbidden to use their own languages or practice their cultures. We talk about how the teachers were unkind to the children in the residential schools and it makes us feel very sad for them; no child should be treated harshly of be made to feel like they don’t matter.

Orange Shirt Day is set aside to reflect on the residential schools and to empathize with the First Nations, Métis and Inuit children who were so deeply impacted by their cruel practices. We learn Phyllis’s story because she explains in a very concrete way that something was taken from her and from all of the children in the residential schools; their material possessions, their languages and cultural practices. We remember and learn together to prevent this atrocity from ever happening again, but our work as educators doesn’t end with one conversation, one story, or one day. We must cultivate inclusion in our classroom, foster kindness, and ensure that our learning environments represent different cultures, races, and a rainbow of different human experiences because every child matters.

A special thank you to Joan Sorley, the director of the Orange Shirt Society, for taking the time to read this over for me before it was published.