Better Late than Never

Build Your Own Playground!

My book finally got reviewed!

It only took 44 Years! I know I’ve been ahead of my time but that’s ridiculous. Thank you, Rita Watts, for your continued curation all things play and playground related.

Now I just need to find my copy and rediscover what I used to think. Amazing.

BTW – Bucky Fuller was kind enough to write the forward and he essentially equated play with what we would now call STEM. Another guy who was ahead of his times.

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”—Nicoló Machiavelli

CAAEYC Presentation

If you were able to join us at CAAEYC, it was wonderful to be with you. Your enthusiasm for my presentation was very supportive. I am happy to correspond at My professional website is and there are links to my history there. 2019Banner_CONF

Below is my presentation to CAAEYC on April 12, 2019.  It may not make much sense if you were not there and is being posted for those who did attend.

play patterns CAEYC 4-15 PDF

play patterns CAEYC 4-15 PPTX

Session Handout – Early Childhood Learning Patterns and Triggers Assessment

Suggested readings:

*Highly Recommended

*Free to Learn – Peter Grey

What’s Going On In There – Lise Eliot

*The Genesis of Animal Play – Gordon M. Burghart

*The Playful Brain – Sergio and Vivien Pellis

Embracing Rough and Tumble Play – Mike Huber

Play, How it Shapes the Brain – Stuart Brown

*Designing for Kids – Krystina Castella

The Gardener and the Carpender – Alison Gopnik

Becoming Brilliant – Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek

Play Based or Academic Preschools

Two main factors will turn the tide towards a greater percentage of preschools that are play-based rather than those who promote primarily academic teaching. The first of these is that increasingly children who attend play-based preschool have significantly better long-term success, both academically and personally than students of academically based preschools. These numbers can be seen in small studies of particular programs, such as Regio, and nationally as is the case with Scandinavian schools. As more longitudinal studies pour in parents will naturally choose for better outcomes for their children.

The second reason that play-based learning will become the dominant form is science. In recent years, and accelerating rapidly, more and more studies are showing that play is the best way to foster development. We now know so much more about who development proceeds, especially neurologically, and that science reinforces play-based preschools for a beneficial and self-reinforcing loop.

For me, the most significant breakthrough has been a new understanding of the cerebellum. Until recently the role of the cerebellum was thought to be motor control. While that is still a primary function, we now know that the cerebellum is a “complete” brain so to speak, with functions that are emotional and sensory. Indeed, the cerebellum contains more than four times the number of neurons as the cerebral cortex, which we have previously thought was the base of intelligence.cortex

The learning that takes place in the cerebellum is stimulated primiparity by gross motor activity like that found in play. Indeed, the cerebellum has a “menu” of activities it prefers such as sliding, spinning, swinging, climbing, jumping, running and wrestling. We have identified 20 of these brain building patterns.

While the cerebellum is actively learning all these skills, it has a playmate, the cerebral cortex, but not the whole cortex. The connection is to the right hemisphere.

The left brain’s functionality is one of language, numeracy, literacy, analysis and time. It is the logical, calculating, planning, busy-bee part of us that keeps us anchored in the pragmatic world, and in the past and future. The right brain, on the other hand, is responsible for empathy, intuition, imagination, and creativity. It is where we wonder, dream, connect and come alive. Through the right brain, we dwell in the space of no-time, in being absolutely present. While the left brain is more interested in outcomes or product, the right brain cares much more about the process—the journey is what matters, not the destination. – Vince Gowmon

The critical insight here is that the logical left cortex doesn’t mature until about seven years old whereas the cerebellum and has been playing footsie with the right cortex from birth and that fully matured at 3 to 4 years of age.

From an educational standpoint, this means that any attempts to teach numbers and letters to children younger than four will fail because there is no functional brain there to learn. From 4 to 7 years fact-based leaning can be gradually introduced.

No, that doesn’t mean that during these years you can sit kids down at a desk and make them study. What we have failed to factor when thinking about learning and teaching is that it is not all about brain wiring and creating mental connections. Learning, especially in the early years is also chemical. When connections between neurons are made, they are not hard-wired, rather they are facilitated by chemicals which pass between the neurons. What these chemicals do is contain the message that is moving being conveyed.


From a learning standpoint, the most important of these chemicals are Endorphin, Dopamine, Serotonin, and Dopamine. These neurotransmitters are sometimes referred to as the “feel good” chemicals. The bottom line here is that playful learning feels good and is fun. For this beneficial pattern to set in, it must be self-directed. Adult-directed and controlled teaching is anathema to learning in the younger years and likely far into adulthood.

The preceding is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the revolution science is bringing to the understanding of child development. As the flood gates of research open ever wider, and as the children from play-based preschools demonstrate superior outcomes, academic preschools will become a rarity.

Humankind has been trying for a couple of hundred years, but in the end, you can’t fool mother nature.