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Play Time IS Learning Time

“Play is not a specific activity, it’s an approach to learning, an engaged, fun, curious way of discovering your world.” Dr.Tamis-LeMonda.

At HFP, we trust children are intrinsically drawn to play. We provision the environment with a wide array of open-ended materials –limitless play options. We safeguard extended time for children to connect with new experiences, friends and story lines.  We know children cannot help but learn when they are given the space, materials and time to do so. As adults, we have the privilege of supporting and witnessing children’s unabashed expressions of play and we have the responsibility to protect their ongoing access to it.

Countless articles tout the value of play. The New York Times recent article “Taking Playtime Seriously” (1/29/18 by Peri Klass, M.d) recognizes play as “a universal, cross-cultural and necessary attribute of childhood, essential for development and essential for learning.” Klass warns that we are “encroaching more and more on [children’s] time for playing.”


Klass advocates, “As children get older, we need to keep an eye on whether their schools give them time to play, we need to help them go on engaging with the world around them, and we might even be able to make that world a better environment for learning and play. Again, this is not about walling children off into special places where they can play, it’s about helping them play and learn in the world, in the homes and schoolrooms and larger environments in which they live and grow.”

In addition to providing calming tactile sensations, sensory play is ripe with learning opportunities. Children practice turn taking, build language skills and use materials creatively. Children mix potions, pour cups of hot cocoa or bake tasty sand cakes to honor a parent’s birthday. They refine both fine motor skills and language skills as they exchange ideas and scoops treats. Best of all, they learn without strain or effort. This is not some adult imposed “learning time.” This is play– joyful, easy learning. I’m grateful to be a part of a preschool learning community that understands play time is learning time.



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Interview with Teacher Susan

HFP’s Teacher Susan was recently interviewed for Life as an Early Childhood Educator blog.  She shares her thoughts, motivations and passions behind the awesome work she does as an early childhood educator.  Below are some of her excepts from the interview. You can read the full interview here.

“I would like to create social change so that children’s experiences are truly valued, their parents and teachers are better supported to fully meet children’s needs, and a social justice curriculum is embraced nationwide. I would like to teach differently from the beginning.”

“I love the variety of what I get to do as a preschool teacher and leader in a small, tight-knit learning community/co-op preschool. I like that investing in genuine, caring relationships– with children and families alike– is at the heart of my work. I get to be my authentic self, to continually learn alongside the children, and to share my process with their families.”

“I’m not sure that I see early childhood as a more honored part of our culture. I would love for that to be the case. I would love for early childhood to be a sought after and revered field, with a dramatic shift in resources allocated to the programs serving young children. I do appreciate that there has been significant thinking, research and writing offered up on the importance of play, respecting foundational years, the value of teachers partnering with parents, and anti-bias education. I know that the work in Reggio Emilia Italy has been transformative in some folks taking early childhood more seriously.”

Read full interview here.

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Talking About Martin Luther King & Skin Color

1/16/18 and 1/17/18  FAMILY SHARE:
Millions of people celebrated Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. We think Martin is a hero because he cared for and worked for what is kind, loving and fair. When people are confused, thinking that WHITE or light-colored skin is better than BLACK or dark-colored skin, Martin (and many people) said, “No! That’s not kind. That’s not true. That’s not fair. All people are important and all skin is beautiful.” 
 Look at this picture of people’s hands. Point to the skin color that is closest to the color or shade of your skin. Point to another skin color or shade you like.
We’ll continue to talk about ways we’re the same and different, referencing many spectacular children’s books. We’ll also talk about FAIR and UNFAIR and consider ways to speak up when something is unfair.
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Celebrating Holidays With Intention

In our multicultural society, Christmas, although important to many people, is still not everyone’s holiday. For children and families from other groups—be they Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, pagan, atheist, or anything else—Christmas can be a difficult time. For almost all families, the commercialization of the holiday, with its pressures to buy, decorate, and entertain, adds tremendous complication to already overloaded and busy lives.

 -NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children)


As parents, we relay our values to our impressionable children. This time of year poses an additional challenge as retailers, commercials, and in some cases our extended family and friends, bombard us with messages about how to prepare for Christmas. Inherent in this commercial construction of Christmas underlies the misleading assumption that everyone celebrates Christmas and does so in the same way: feasts, decorations, visits with Santa and numerous gifts under the Christmas tree.

We can guide our children’s thoughts and expectations this holiday season as we choose experiences, rituals and gift-giving that are consistent with our values and let go of those commercial values that are not. As we hold true to our wishes for our families and tease those out from what’s being sold to us, we can gift ourselves a nourishing, balanced and joyful holiday season.

Emphasize Connection and Balance

Whether we are aware of it or not, there is a persuasive Christmas script that can run the show. In an effort to attain this elusive picture-perfect Christmas, we might overcommit to activities, spend beyond our means, consume more sugar and/or alcohol than we truly want, focus children’s attention on material desires and regret subsequent meltdowns, host in pristinely decorated and spotless homes, and forget the experiences of those who don’t celebrate Christmas.

There is much to treasure this season:

  • Time with loved ones
  • Family rituals
  • Annual decorations
  • Favorite recipes
  • Festive music
  • Gift sharing
  • Outdoor excursions
  • Joyful connections

Let’s pause to consider the activities that most nourish us and leave behind those that don’t bring us fulfillment. Sometimes, less is more. We can plan based on the knowledge that what our children most want is our loving attention. Let’s act in accordance to our values, rather than get swept up in what author Jean Staeheli refers to as the “Christmas machine.” *

Challenge Assumptions

Instead of narrowly defining winter celebrations, we can teach our children that there are many ways to honor winter holidays. Assuming every family celebrates Christmas is hurtful. It reinforces a false narrative that there is single experience and it keeps others’ experiences invisible.  A couple of simple shifts in language during December can help to reflect a broader range of family experiences:

  • Wish people “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
  • Call the two-week school closure at the end of December “Winter Break,” rather than “Christmas Break.”

Shifting from dominant culture assumptions takes time and practice. The more we do it, the closer we’ll come to achieving the true meaning of the holidays– goodwill to all.

Consider Families With Less Financial Means 

We can support our children’s understanding that families’ access to material wealth varies. While the holiday season offers some families luxurious social events, feasts and the exchange of multiple gifts, other families are struggling to meet their basic needs.

We can let our children know what we are thankful for (each other, our homes, heating, warm clothes, good food, etc) and we can help them understand that many people don’t have access to these things.

Consider donating to or volunteering at a food bank, donating warm clothing and/or donating some new or gently used toys. These actions will help support our children’s awareness of others and will help remind us that we can all make a difference.

Gift Ideas that Emphasize Connection Over Consumption

  1. Trade gently used books or toys that your child is ready to pass on. Wrap them up and swap with another family.
  2. Make a batch of homemade play dough.
  3. Purchase books that feature perspectives and experiences that may be different from your child’s to help boost empathy and awareness. Some of my favorite picture books are here.
  4. Subscribe to a great magazine. Here are some recommendations.
  5. Activities: Rollerskating, bowling, family soccer game or card night.
  6. Coupon book: Include a night time family walk, a trip to OMSI, picking what’s for dinner, or an extra bedtime story.
  7. Crafting date: Time to get together to make something.
  8. Baking date: Offer recipes and ingredients and bake.
  9. Play Date: Make plans to invite friends over to play or to meet up at a nearby park.
  10. Gift Certificate for Parent Play Time- A coupon for child to pick a half hour of uninterrupted play in which they dictate what you do together.  Set the timer and let the good times roll!

Here’s to a joyous holiday season!

Further Reading:

From Hand-in-Hand Parenting: “Holidays and Meltdowns Go Together like Peanut Butter and Jelly” 

*  “Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season” by Jean Staeheli

Photo credit: Johnny Lai, Flickr Creative Commons

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Anti-Bias Workshop for Parents

A workshop for parents who care about social justice and equity

At HFP, we commit to learning about bias and to deepening our understanding of how bias impacts our lives. We strive to teach our children a healthy respect and understanding of what it means to live in a diverse world. In an effort to help our process, we are pleased to co-sponsor a Parents’ Workshop led by activist, teacher and author, Katie Kissinger.

This workshop is open to the public.

This “retreat-like” format provides a great way to get a basic foundation for anti-bias education and parenting.  We will combine storytelling, goals for children, and strategies for supporting your child’s identity and learning about differences. The session is interactive with the sharing of your own stories about the messages you grew up with regarding identity in six categories: gender, skin color, culture, economic status, sexual orientation and able-ness.  We will have time to explore your questions, hopes and fears regarding this important and very timely topic.  

Let’s create a more equitable world for our children, families and community.  

When: Tentatively scheduled for Fri., Sept 22nd, 6:00-8:30 p.m. (Pt 1)  and Sat., Sept 23rd, 9:00-4:00 p.m. (Pt 2). * Participants are expected to attend both Pt 1 and Pt 2.

Cost: $75/person or $125/couple. (We may have scholarship funds available).

Instructor: Katie is an activist and leader in anti-bias work in early childhood education. She is author of All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color and Anti-Bias Education in the Early Childhood Classroom.








To reserve a spot, please email