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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Last month I wrote a piece about children feeling welcome in the classroom. It was mostly about what we as staff do at school to make families---children and adults---feel welcome in the classroom.  Two weeks ago there was an episode that made me stop and take measure of the ability of children themselves to be an important part of that process.

I have a two-year-old girl who would become very sad when her mother left.  I had her mother stay a little longer and had her come back early the first couple weeks.  When mom left, though, she would cry.  I acknowledged her feelings and I remember holding her up to our window so we could watch the squirrels gathering winter food and then disappearing.  She talked through her tears about the squirrel going in the backyard out of sight.  We would talk about how sad she felt missing her mother.

Last week, there was a turning point.  It began with me asking her to help me wash the cups after snack.

After washing the cups, though, she was sad again.  We went over to the drawing table.  I thought maybe would could draw together.  Before I could even introduce making marks together, another two-year-old from the room came over and reached out to hold her hand.
At this point, it was important for me to take a read as to whether this sad child was open to this overture.  She was so my job became that of observer.

Next, the child who was demonstrating so much empathy gently gave my little friend who was missing her mother a hug.   As you can see from the picture below, it was reciprocal.

Next, the empathetic child gently took the other child's hand and said the magic words: "Do you want to play with me?"  And off they went together to explore what they could do together in the room.  

At this point, my job was done.  And it was done better than I could have done it.  Not only that, it was done by an two-year-old expert that understood the sadness of another in a way that allowed her to make a connection at a mutually understood level. 

Instantly, I became the student of the child who was teaching me something about how to make another child feel welcome.  

The beauty of the moment astounded me.  

Do you have those moments? 

P.S.  If you are going to the NAEYC national conference in Washington DC in November, I am presenting on sand and water tables.  The session is on Saturday morning from 8:00-9:30, so we will see who are the early birds.   Any readers of the blog who want to chat, I would love to find a time to meet.  Please contact me through my email: tpbedard@msn.com


  1. What a lovely story of welcoming. It's wonderful to see an example of how a young child offers empathy and friendship. I notice that the role of the adult here is so important. So often, we adults interrupt this kind of interaction because we forget that it's our job to step back. We have been trained to think that we have to "fix" the child or her problem. It's not! It's the child's opportunity to learn on her own....with a caring adult nearby.

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    2. Thank you. I think we do not even realize the different ways we interrupt children's interactions because we are so focused on our agenda. I also think we often fail to see and acknowledge the simple, magical moments that happen every day between children.

  2. Those acts of kindness between children make me want to cry. They are so pure and open with their emotions. But, while you as the teacher "stepped back" I believe it is largely the warm, loving, safe and respectful environment you create that helped those children meet each others' needs so completely.