Oprah has her favorite things, and I have my favorites right now, too! I can't buy/create time for all of these things for you, but know that if I could, I would. Maybe one of these things will make it into your life, too!
Ping Pong Balls!
They float! They bounce!
Too big to swallow, too light to break anything. Cheap. Available in a variety of colors. Absolutely endless possibilities.
Ping Pong balls are my new favorite loose part. Over the past few months I have seen them added to cardboard structures with rubber bands, acted as a ball pit for a toy dinosaur, and tucked into secret places, drawn on with sharpies: The options are endless for children, and worry-free for educators.
Lifelong Kindergarten by Mitch Resnik.
I devoured this book on a flight from Seattle to New Orleans, and when I got off the plane I recommended it to anyone who would listen - I was probably a broken record. The creative communities - both physical and virtual - that the MIT Lifelong Kindergarten group has nurtured is inspiring. They believe in the open-source sharing of information and the importance to play and failure and community building - not always what you associate with coding and computers. Although they are applying a lot of this research to digital settings, it is applicable to the bigger conversations that are bubbling up around teaching and learning.
As a bonus, there is a free online course exploring the book happening in October: you can sign up today.
Stress? Love? Hard Decisions? Bad Habits? Shankar Vedantam has you covered on NPR's weekly Hidden Brain Podcast.
Education is closely related to psychology - and I love how Hidden Brain frames different everyday challenges with little “hacks”, like overcoming perceived obstacles. It is incredibly relevant to teaching young children, and also helps teachers who are working through stressful situations. My recent favorites include Be the Change (which addresses gender bias from infancy through the life span) and the “You 2.0” series from the summer. Subscribe to the podcast.
Penguin by Polly Dunbar.
This sweet little story was chosen by a kiddo on a trip to the library, and I love everything about it, especially the colorful illustrations. I made a grand assumption about the plot when I opened it that was debunked, and I am always pleased when I am that engaged and delighted with a picture book. We read it over and over again as a group, but this is also the kind of book that children can engage with themselves, retelling the story on their own using the pictures.
Google Photos Animations.
I use Google for all my raw documentation - photos and videos from my phone and camera - and sometimes their magic algorithm makes little boomerang-style videos. I love them, and so do the kids: the two here were magically created from video I took this summer.
If you use Google photos, click here: you may already have some animations waiting for you.
It may seem like a silly thing to recommend, but it is easy to forget, or make excuses not to.
It is still pre-rainy season here in the Pacific Northwest, and I am all about being outside. Stressful morning? A short lunchtime hike. Interested in finding a book on cultural development and play? I walk up the hill to the university instead of driving - or looking something up on the internet. It is a habit I hope takes me into the winter, despite the weather. Spend time outside by yourself, with a friend, a partner, your dog: remember how lovely it is to be out in nature. I also recommend leaving your phone at home - its too tempting for me to take photos and listen to music instead of just taking the time to just BE.