I am so excited to share the video you will see below! This is a short look into what Sunnyside is all about, and from the children’s point of view, no doubt. Without prompting, they even discuss having no toys!

Before we go onto the video, though, a little context. This photo is from the day prior to the video and the same two children were creating something. The sticks that they stood vertically in the sand kept falling over. It is important to note that they were not upset and they kept working at it, so the educator did not intervene in any way. She was a silent observer.

One of the children said this, when looking at the photo the following day: “We were making a house. The tree kept falling so I put it on the floor so me and Jane* could use it as a bed.”

Children creating something in the sand with twigs and leaves

Now onto the video. There are two things I want you to think about while watching it – and I’ll break down my thoughts about it afterwards.

To keep in mind:

  1. They faced challenges with sticks falling the day before, but are trying again.
  2. The educator says very little – she gives the children the time to talk about their creation in detail. She is mostly observing them.

Have any thoughts or questions? Because I have lots to say about this!

The fact that they are trying again the next day shows that they have internal motivation to problem solve and to succeed. It also demonstrates that children are willing to challenge themselves! They could have asked an educator to help them or they could have went on to another activity, but instead they set out to try again.

On that note, here’s a reflection question: how many of you, on that first day of watching their sticks fall over, would have stepped in and showed them how to secure the sticks by pushing them deeper? I know I would have at one point, early in my career. And I think many, if not most, adults would have a natural urge to step in and help.

Luckily, I eventually realized that children don’t need the answers….they need to learn how to find the answers. They need the space and freedom to experiment, the opportunities to problem solve, and the support of an awesome educator (like in this video) who knows when to step in and help the kids, as well as when to stay back.

In this video, the children are very clearly little researchers, experimenting with physics, gravity, engineering, and problem solving! Had the educator been less patient, had she not resisted the natural urge to correct the children on the first sign of struggle, what would the children have gotten out of it? Maybe they’d have many more sticks, sturdy in the ground, but the problem solving and critical thinking skills – which are actually important for their future (both academically and beyond) – those skills would not have been practiced at all. That is why it was so important for the educator to be minimally involved. And that is also why I am always reminding other adults to slow down and observe the kids. Watch, see, and reflect on what they say and do. It is just so awe-inspiring to see where their minds go, and you will definitely be blown away.

Child making design in sand with leaves and twigs

My favourite part of the video is when they discuss the lack of toys. They said it is okay but I know that it is way better than okay, it is absolutely amazing for the children to be surrounded by open-ended loose parts instead of typical store bought toys! I won’t go into detail here right now, I think I have left you quite a bit to mull over already!

Look out for another blog post in a few day where I will do an FAQ (frequently asked questions) post about being a toy-free center. What does it look like, what do the kids do, and more questions will be addressed. Feel free to comment below or email me your questions if you’d like to see them included.

*Not the child’s real name.