Parent Education at Cedar Lane Nursery School

Where Play Is at the Heart of Learning

How Children Learn

For young children, the finished product is not as important as the process of creating it. For example, painting is how it feels to apply color to things, how colors mix, how paint drips, how people react when it drips! When a child is asked what their finished product is, an arbitrary standard is being set that can make children feel that they have failed if they can’t call it something, and they may never return to that activity again. PROCESS, PROCESS, PROCESS! How does it feel, what will happen if, how does it smell, what happens next, are all paramount to the child. Children should be asked where they would like their work to go--on a wall, in a cubby? The same can be said for other activities in the program. All children have different learning styles which dictate how they are able to process information at this age. Not all children can sit still, understand our verbal directions, or see what we mean. We strive to discover how each child learns best, and then use that to everyone’s advantage.


Our Philosophy in Action

We provide many alternative activities for the children, and encourage them to make their own choices. The children may choose from any available option, depending upon their mood and personal preference. A child's opportunity for choice is only removed when there is concern for the safety of oneself, others, or the damaging of property.

We encourage our children to be autonomous in all respects. In addition to choosing activities, children are free to decide what results they want from their chosen activity. Offer to help a child in an activity only if they seem frustrated. Independence extends to snack and washroom activities time as well. Although it sometimes may take longer for a child to pump the soap, pour the water, clean the spill, these are all important parts of their learning and development of their self-esteem.

We encourage children to resolve their own conflicts. Think of yourself as a mediator rather than a problem-solver. Let them try to work it out first, instead of immediately intervening (except when a child is in physical danger). We want them to develop the skills to communicate. Take the children by the hand and help them communicate with words how they feel and what they don't like. Remember, it takes TIME, but it really pays off!

We emphasize personal responsibility. This includes helping to clean up the classroom as well as interpersonal behavior; if a child accidentally hurts another, the child could help care for the person who is hurt by getting a drink of water, a cool cloth, a tissue, etc. If someone spills something at snack, a friend might offer to help clean it up. Let children feel empowered by taking part in these events; it develops empathy.

Be positive. If a child is engaging in an unacceptable behavior or activity, help him/her find an acceptable alternative. If a child can't throw the blocks, what CAN they throw? Bean bags? Scrunched up newspaper? What CAN they do with sticks? Dig? Throw them over the fence? Play a drum?

Remember that the classroom belongs to the children, and their ideas may not be the same as adults. Take time to listen to their view; ask questions, and watch the beauty of childhood unfold before you!

We have a number of routines within our day's activities. Our goal is to provide a familiar and comfortable environment for the children, however, our schedule is always subject to change based upon the needs of the children on a particular day.

We encourage children to respect people and property including one another, the teacher, parents, and themselves.

If discipline is required, its purpose must be to help the child to learn acceptable alternative behaviors. We teach through meaningful consequences that are relevant to the behavior at issue. Under no circumstances is physical punishment, threats, or intimidation of any kind permitted.

Toy guns, swords, etc. are not permitted in the classroom. Games that involve imaginary gunplay or similar action are discouraged by offering alternative ideas and providing other forms of power play. Some ideas include pretending to put out fires, playing hospital, moving equipment and materials, standing up to paint, providing capes, using louder voices, and allowing time and space for big muscle movements. Another alternative is to help navigate the "gunplay" so that people feel safe, aware of their actions, etc.

The special nature of Cedar Lane Nursery School is the close working relationship between parents and teachers, a relationship which fosters an understanding of child development and parent/child relationships which parents can carry over into their home environment for the enrichment of their personal family life. The bi-weekly participation of parents in the classroom, the parent education presentations on topics of interest to the school community, membership and our contact with professional associations such as PACT, MCPPNS, MCCA, and PCPI enhance our philosophy of children, parents, and teachers working and learning together.


Classroom Activities (*Varies by Age Group)


Art provides opportunities for motor activities, self-expression, problem-solving, science, and many other experiences. Children are free to experiment, change, invent and create with available materials. Requests for different materials are also honored. Try not to judge or make comments about their art (even positive ones like “you did such a good job” or “what a pretty picture”). If they ask you if you like it, take it and show it to them and ask THEM if THEY like it! We are encouraging self-satisfaction versus pleasing others.

Our concern is for the PROCESS, the interaction with the materials, versus the finished product.

The children may choose to have their name written on their work, and may choose the color or location for their name. Some children may prefer to try to write their own name or leave their work unlabeled. Please ask them and honor their request.

Don’t worry about a mess. If it is caused by a child’s deliberate action, they should participate in the clean-up.

Ask the child if they need a smock for painting or messy water table activities, but do not force them to wear one. Let them put it on for themselves.



When children build with blocks, they are often learning about size, weight, and number concepts. They are also coordinating and controlling muscles. They are expressing ideas and learning to cooperate with others. They are problem-solving and inventing.

The children may build anything they choose. Only physically threatening behavior is discouraged.

Encourage children to think about where they are building; will it be easily knocked down by others? Does that matter to them? Is it obstructing a door or another play area?

Encourage children to put blocks away. The shelves are labeled for all of the block types. This is a good math and spatial exercise!

You may use the camera to take a picture of a block project before it is dismantled if the child would like a memento. Sometimes, children will make signs to let others know not to take something down.


Table Toys, Puzzles, and Games

In addition to sheer fun, these activities help develop spatial awareness, concept building, cooperation, matching and classifying, coordinating the actions of the eyes and the hands (reading and writing readiness), and expression of ideas (language development).

Children may choose toys, puzzles, or games from the shelf or cabinets. Many activities are child-directed, but some may require adult assistance.



Reading with children develops a love of books and a desire to read (reading readiness). Turning the pages alone teaches children about reading from left to right. Talking about what happened in a story helps with language development and expression of ideas.

We have a variety of books available to children. The library is a peaceful place where a child may go to look at books. Parents are also encouraged to read to individual children or small groups. Allow for interruptions to the story and encourage children’s extensions and interpretations of the written word.


Science and Math

Children in this area may be sharpening their observation skills, conducting experiments, manipulating or grouping objects into categories, inventing, developing hypotheses, enjoying nature, or taking care of animals.

Children are free to explore the science area. Tools for exploration (such as magnets, magnifying glasses, tape measures, scales, etc.) are provided for the children’s use. Be available for discussions to spark the children’s curiosity and to help them find answers to their questions. Say things like, “What do YOU think?” or “Let’s see what will happen if...” Take them exploring around the room to measure, magnify, etc.


Dramatic Play

Children in this dress-up area are using their self-help skills, understanding the roles that people play in our society, grouping objects by category, interacting with other people, and engaging in creative, dramatic experiences. Fantasy and make-believe are an important part of young children’s worlds. It builds creative thinking, self-image, and allows children to act out real world situations.

We encourage the children’s creativity and imagination. Allow them to role play in any way they like; please avoid gender stereotyping.

Children will often invite you into their play. Follow their lead, letting them dictate the play. Feel free to ask questions to extend their learning: “Where will the wedding be?” “Are we walking or driving?”


Sensory Table

The versatility of sand, water, and other tactile experiences provide a framework for the development of many concepts. Weight, volume, and texture allow for the most basic type of scientific and mathematical exploration. This area will help children develop logical thinking, recognize cause and effect, develop cooperation by working together, and build small motor skills.

The children are free to enjoy the natural materials provided in the table. We encourage the children to try to keep the materials in the table, and to help clean up when spills occur. Child-sized brooms and dustpans as well as rags are available for this purpose.



Make sure that each child has washed his/her hands before sitting down to snack.

Encourage the children to serve themselves, including pouring drinks (fill the pitchers half full). Encourage good manners and passing of food to others.

As food is passed, children should take their “fair share” of the items and pass them to the next person at the table.

Each child should be encouraged to eat snack, but should not be forced.

When children are done eating their snack, they should clean up their space; they throw away their trash, wipe off the table with the sponges provided, and sweep under their seat.


Circle Time

At Circle time, the entire group of children and adults will gather together for an active ten or fifteen minutes of games, music, dance, stories, or sharing. This time provides an opportunity for each child to participate in a large group activity, sharing and demonstrating ideas and imitating the ideas of others.

Please sit on the floor with the kids. Your own child may wish to sit with you, but do your best to engage with others as well.

Gently encourage the children’s participation in the circle activity. If a child is distracting the others, please move closer to them to try to engage them in the activity. The teacher may ask for other specific help.

If a child does not want to participate, but would rather watch from a distance, that is okay. When they are ready (later that day, in a few weeks or even months), they will join in.


Gross Motor Activities (for rainy days)

Using large muscle groups is an important means of developing balance and coordination as well as channeling children’s energy in positive ways. On occasion we will use bikes and whiz wheels in the hallway.

Additional materials are available as well, including gymnastics mats and apparatus, a climbing structure, and other things that will be used from time to time on inclement weather days as an alternative to outdoor play.


Outdoor Play

The playground is merely an extension of the classroom. While some of the equipment and space differs, the interaction and learning are similar. Children work actively trying out ideas, making up games, role-playing, and exploring the environment. There are many opportunities for gross motor development and learning more about the natural world.

Outside time occurs every day except in bitterly cold or rainy weather. Most children enjoy the colder weather if they are dressed accordingly. When you are co-oping, come dressed for the weather with boots, gloves, hats and coats. Be prepared to move around with the children to keep warm!

The children are free to run, yell, and dig in the dirt, but they must play safely. Ask yourself, “Are they endangering themselves, others, or destroying property?” If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, intervene. If not, observe carefully before taking the next step.

Adults should station themselves according to where the children are playing. Please keep conversations with fellow co-opers or the teacher to a minimum at this time.

In general, please don’t “help” children climb higher than they are comfortable going on their own. Encourage them to take a rest and try again. In the end, when they succeed at the task, they OWN it. It’s very powerful!


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Logo: National Association for the Education of Young Children

Cedar Lane Nursery School is accredited by National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Logo: Maryland Excels

Cedar Lane Nursery School is also the first cooperative nursery school accredited by the Maryland State Board of Education.