How I helped a child overcome fear by not helping

Jarrod Green, early childhood educator and author of I’m OK! Building Resilience through Physical Play, shares a personal experience helping one of his littles overcome fear, and gain confidence through self-help.

*Names have been changed to protect the brave.

Sliding Towards Resilience by Jarrod Green

“Augh! Aaaaaugh!”

up-at-the-slide-1479652-638x428I turned around to see Calvin*, a three-year-old in my class, hollering from the top of the
slide. The slide was yellow and blue plastic, no more than three feet high. I could see, though, that Calvin had gotten stuck at the top, with one leg down the slide and the other down the steps. He was quickly turning red and nearing tears, and I knew it was an important moment for his learning.

Physical risk-taking is a powerful opportunity for young children to develop a wide range of skills that are difficult to build in other contexts. By trying out activities that push the limits of their physical abilities, children build self-knowledge, self-regulation, self-confidence, and self-help skills; by intervening thoughtfully, teachers can nurture this learning. A teacher’s response to a child’s moment of uncertainty can determine whether the child learns harmful lessons (for instance, “Trying is scary” or “I’m not safe here”) or helpful ones (like “I can take care of myself” or “I can solve problems even when I’m scared”).

As I walked toward Calvin I quickly reflected on what I knew about him and some possible goals for this moment. He was a child who tended to display a nervous energy, often sticking close to familiar activities and situations. Playing on the slide with no adult nearby was a big step for him, and I wanted to make sure that the experience remained positive. He was also a child who tended to get very upset about small frustrations, and we had been working with him to feel confident shrugging off “little problems” and taking steps to fix “big problems.” Getting stuck at the top of the slide looked like a legitimate reason to get upset, but I wanted to make sure he would feel like a successful problem-solver at the end of it.

“Hey Calvin!” I said, trying to find a tone somewhere between empathetic concern and relaxed confidence. “You sound upset. What’s up?”

“I can’t get down!” he cried, and he threw his arms and his upper body towards me, clearly asking with his gestures to be lifted down. I stopped just beyond his arms’ reach.

“It looks like you’re stuck with one leg on each side, and you’re feeling frustrated,” I observed. “But I’ve seen you go up and down this slide so many times today! I know you can get down.”

“I can’t! Help!” He reached for me again, straining over the edge of the slide.

I squatted to put my face at his level. “I will help you,” I said. “I will help you climb down. You are strong, and you are a good climber, and you can climb down.”

“No!” he cried. He was getting more upset.

“Let’s take a slow breath together,” I suggested. Mindfulness skills like breathing are a core practice at the Children’s Community School, and familiar to every child we teach. “Take a breath in your nose. Ready? Yes, there you go. Let’s do another one, in your nose. Good! Calvin, I promise I will not let you fall. I will stay here and help you climb down, because I know you can do it. Are you ready to climb down now?”

“No,” he said sadly, but his body was a little less tense and he started to look around at his situation.

After a few moments, seeing that he didn’t know how to start, I suggested, “How about you put your hands on the sides, right here?” Over the course of several laborious minutes I coached him all the way down the slide. “Can you bend your knee? That’s it! Put your foot here. I’ve got my hands behind you, I promise you won’t fall.” Calvin shuddered and breathed hard, but he kept moving until both feet were on the ground.

He looked down, then up at me. “I did it!”

“Calvin, you did it!” I said as we exchanged a high five. “You were stuck and you were scared, but you worked hard and got yourself down. No one lifted you, and no one climbed for you—you did it yourself! You really know how to take care of yourself, don’t you?”

Or rather, I meant to say all that. But I never got the chance, because the moment we high-fived Calvin practically ran back up the steps of the slide, and proceeded to slide down five times in a row without pausing for breath.

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David Sobel’s NATURE PRESCHOOLS AND FOREST KINDERGARTENS inspires outdoor school in Crimea

Tanya Bibikova, creator and head of Solnechnosadik, or “Sunny Kindergarten,” credits David Sobel’s Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens (Redleaf Press) as a great inspiration in the organizing of the outdoor preschool in mountain village at Crimea region. Bibikova spoke with Redleaf Press over email to share how the school is faring.

Solnechnosadik opened September 5th, 2016, and Bibikova happily reports, “It already feels like a lifetime of adventures.” They regularly have 3 to 5 kids, but occasionally their numbers will go up to 9 children plus a few parents on crowded days.

When asked about the most important benefits in nature kindergartens Bibikova says, “Long story short: kids are free and happy. They enjoy playing, running wild, climbing trees, observe home and wild animals and learn to respect them. They eat a lot and with great pleasure. And as the mother of two-year old, Yana, who visits our Solnechnosadik, I will say that the rest of the day is more structured, quieter and happier, than before.”

One common concern for outdoor schools is the shelter for extreme weather. Fortunately for Solnechnosadik they haven’t had to build any except for plastic tent they unroll for rains. “We are very lucky with the weather as it was only three days of rain in two months here at Solnechnoselie. The place is known for its great number of sunny days and almost no rain, which is bad for gardening and really good for us,” says Bibikova. They are currently making longer term plans including looking at a “Dubldom,” or small house.

Solnechnosadik has a tradition of serving fresh mint tea made of mint they gather with the children every day. “Some days we roast bread on fire or even cook a soup from fresh champions that grows in our apple garden,” shares Bibikova. Another favorite part of the children’s day includes Sunbeam—Sunny rabbit in Russian. “We have an animal totem—Sunbeam—who writes letters everyday for the kids,” explains Bibikova, and with a little help of the teachers the children will write letters back to Sunbeam at the end of the day about big things happened. “We have a special hole in tree trunk to exchange messages. Kids looove the letters and Sunbeam very much,” Bibikova explains.

We are incredibly grateful for Tanya Bibikova sharing Solnechnosadik’s story and photos with us, and thrilled to see David Sobel’s Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens put into practice. To learn more about Solnechnosadik you can visit them on Facebook and Instagram @solnechnoschool.



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Join Us In Booth #1640 at the NAEYC Conference

Playing together

Redleaf Press authors will be available for signings on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 during NAEYC’s Annual Conference!

The following authors will be available for signings: Emily Plank, Debra Sullivan, Lisa Murphy, Mike Huber, Rosanne Regan Hansel, Maurice Sykes, Julie Powers, Miriam Beloglovsky, and Lisa Daly. Many Redleaf authors are also presenting on a variety of topics! View the complete list to plan your itinerary here.

Come stop by our booth #1640 to look for your new favorite Redleaf book and say hello! Conference specials include 15% off new titles and free shipping. Hope to see you there!

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Find your favorite fall titles

As the air gets chillier, the leaves shift colors, and nighttime creeps up quicker, it’s the perfect time to snuggle up to Redleaf’s newest books. These new titles hit the shelves this month, perfect timing for the chilly days to come.



Creative Block Play by Rosanne Regan Hansel

Blocks are a timeless toy. They never stop challenging, stimulating and engaging young children. Creative Block Play will help you set up an inviting space for block play, and inspire children’s block creations.


imok-blogI’m OK! Building Resilience Through Physical Play by Jarrod Green 

Children must learn to pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and try again. This practical guide supplies you with the tools to create a culture of resilience through physical play.




Celebrate! by Julie Bisson

Just in time for the holiday season, the second edition of Celebrate! can help your program celebrate holidays in a respectful, unbiased way. It’s filled with strategies for implementing culturally and developmentally appropriate holiday activities.



Embracing Rough-and-Tumble Play by Mike Huber

Physical play is vital to young children’s development. This practical, hands-on resource encourages you to incorporate boisterous physical play into every day and offers concrete advice on how to create spaces for safe play.



The Language of Art by Ann Pelo

The second edition of The Language of Art further expands on the inspiration born in Reggio Emilia, Italy. This resource offers guidance for teachers to create space, time, and intentional processes for children’s exploration.




Practical Solutions to Practically Every Problem by Steffen Saifer

 Find solutions quickly and easily! The third edition of this classic book offers hundreds of updated tested solutions for the tricky problems, questions, and concerns that arise throughout the early childhood teacher’s day.




Kimmy’s Marvelous Wind-Catching Wonder by Linda Glaser and illustrated by Rachael Balsaitis

Kimmy wants to build a kite, but everyone around her says she can’t. She cuts and pastes paper and ribbon all morning, but will it fly? This book will help you teach children how to take risks and stand up for themselves.

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DIY Play Dough for National Play Dough Day

Friday, September 16 is National Play Dough Day, which is the perfect excuse to make some homemade play dough. The main benefit of sensory play—activities that stimulate a child’s sense of touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing— is that it’s one of the best ways children learn about the world around them.

Child moulds from ecological plasticine on table.

By touching loose, malleable objects such as play dough children are discovering the concepts of mass, volume and dimension. There is also a language element to sensory play, when teachers or caregivers offer adjectives to describe textures a child is feeling they build up their vocabulary. Words such as ‘rough,’ ‘wet,’ ‘dry,’ ‘bumpy,’ and ‘smooth’ are often used during sensory play.

Play dough also helps develop children’s small motor skills and strength as they push, squish and mold it in their hands. Similar to adults who squeeze stress balls to relax, children who play with play dough or other malleable objects feel better emotionally.

The best part about playing with play dough is that there is plenty of room for mistakes, what started out as a snake can turn into a snail. There are no right or wrong answers and children learn to make mistakes in a safe environment. Celebrating and learning from their mistakes is an important skill for children to bring into school and adulthood.

In honor of National Play Dough Day, we’ve pulled a great play dough recipe from The Ooey Gooey Handbook by Lisa Murphy.

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For more information on the importance of sensory play, check out Lisa Murphy on Play the Foundations of Children’s Learning by Lisa Murphy and Creating a Beautiful Mess: Ten Essential Play Experiences For a Joyful Childhood by Ann Gadzikowski.


Gadzikowski, Ann. Creating a Beautiful Mess: Ten Essential Play Experiences for a Joyous Childhood. St. Paul: Redleaf, 2015. Print.

Murphy, Lisa. Lisa Murphy on Play: The Foundation of Children’s Learning. St. Paul: Redleaf, 2016. Print.

Murphy, Lisa. “Playdough.” The Ooey Gooey Handbook: Identifying and Creating Child-centered Environments. St. Paul: Redleaf, 2001. 115. Print.

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‘Loose Parts’ Wins Learning Magazine 2017 Teachers’ Choice Award

2017-TCA-Preschool-colorThe winners of the Learning Magazine 2017 Teachers’ Choice Award—teacher-selected books and products that exhibit exceptional quality—Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children has won in the Preschool category!

RedleafPress-LoosePartsWritten by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky, Loose Parts encourages young children to utilize the loose parts they can find themselves, both organic and inorganic objects. From acorns to fabric scraps anything and everything is utilized to captivate children’s curiosity and allow their imagination to run wild.

A panel of teacher evaluators, who use the products in their own classrooms, carefully selects the Learning Magazine Teachers’ Choice Awards. They select the highest quality products for parents, teachers and caregivers to use. With over 550 color photographs of a range of loose parts found easily in early childhood settings, Loose Parts is a must-have in a preschool classroom.

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Revamp Your Classroom For the New School Year

Summer is officially coming to an end and back-to-school season is in full swing. For teachers looking to freshen up their classroom or create some new spaces, they can gather innovative classroom design ideas from these helpful books filled with environment inspiration.

  1. Pedagogy and Space by Linda M. Zane


This book perfectly blends design information with early childhood theory to give you a new perspective of how to set up your classroom. The colorful photos of intentionally designed spaces will serve to get your creative juices flowing.




  1. Designs for Living and Learning by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter


If you want to create an environment that captivates and nurtures children, family, and staff while supporting children’s learning, this is the book for you. It goes beyond rating scales, regulations, and room arrangements. The photos show real early learning spaces and provide insightful and creative ideas for both indoor and outdoor spaces.




  1. Great Afterschool Programs and Spaces That Wow! By Linda J. Armstrong and Christine A. Schmidt

great afterschool.png

This book is filled with hundreds of ideas to help you create a high-quality school-age program that is exciting, inviting and engaging to children. It takes you through how to improve the three dimensions of a school-age environment: temporal, interpersonal, and physical. The authors’ years of experience in education is reflected in this book.




  1. Cultivating Outdoor Classrooms: Designing and Implementing Child-Centered Learning Environments by Eric Nelson


If you can’t redesign your indoor spaces, simply transform your outdoor spaces into learning environments.  This book is filled with guidance to help you plan, design, and create an outdoor learning program that is a rich, thoughtfully equipped, natural extension of your indoor curriculum. It’s filled with practical and creative ideas and plenty of information to help make your outdoor classroom a reality.




  1. Family Child Care Homes: Creative Spaces for Children to Learn by Linda J. Armstrong

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Filled with low- and no-cost ideas, this book can help you to make your home a safe and welcoming space for children. Chapters are packed with full-color photographs and provide examples and tips for designing learning zones, selecting items, organizing materials, and more.

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