Rest, Play, Grow in Action

Rest Play Grow...enhancing our practice

Karen Paskiewicz
Associate Director & Infant/Toddler Coordinator

The teachers in the YT classroom have been thinking a lot about understanding the innate instinct of young children called counter-will. In the Young Toddler classroom (and with any toddler) it is not uncommon to hear “no” frequently and for everything (even the things they want).

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During weekly team meetings we frequently hear questions like:

  • What is really happening for this child?

  • How as teachers do we best support young toddlers with each interaction we have?

  • What do we need to better understand about the growing need for independence from our group?

As a team, the teachers are looking beyond the “reaction” the child is having to consider what happened right before, during, and even after the upset, to understand the whole story of what the need of that child might be.

The growing need for independence and the drive to stay connected with a caregiver is an inner struggle for young children that we are very aware of: What was an “ah ha” moment for Heidi and her team while reading Rest, Play, Grow was the practice of meeting the child in his/her development and taking the perspective of better understanding what was happening for the child---not focused on the behavior, but what was underneath the behavior. This approach resonated with our long-held beliefs about toddlers and also gave the team a fresh way of looking at this unique age and stage.


The first step in finding one’s own will is to resist and counter the will of others.

Gordon Neufeld, as quoted in Rest, Play, Grow, pg. 204


Rest, Play, Grow...Fueling our wondering...

Amy Maney

Preschool Coordinator

In the Preschool classrooms I’ve seen much evidence of how our reading of the book Rest Play Grow has helped to inform, as well as validate, teaching practices. During team meetings, I hear teachers wondering about a certain behavior for a child and referring back to something they read in the book and thinking about what to do next in order to help that child be successful. 

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ITC has always placed enormous value on relationship building and connections and it’s been encouraging to see and hear teachers talk about coming alongside a child who is in emotional upheaval and what that looks and feels like. This comes directly from our reading of Rest Play Grow. It can be uncomfortable and emotionally exhausting, but acknowledging their feelings and being available to them while these emotions are unfolding is where our most important work lies. The book also refers to alpha and orchid children, which is completely new terminology for staff and has definitely impacted conversations and wonderings about individual children. Rest Play Grow has been an amazing resource and tool for developing staff trainings this year.

“When you come alongside a child, you are leading them through their emotional experiences.”

Rest, Play, Grow, pg. 141


Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers

(Or Anyone Who Acts Like One)

This video is a talk by Rest, Play, Grow author Deborah MacNamara. In it, she talks about the value of play in children’s lives and why it is critical that we protect and preserve this basic human need for healthy development. It is a taste of what she offers in her book and it is a quick way to connect to her worthy work!

Deborah has another great presentation, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Weyv219Pinc. Check it out!

Professional Development at ITC: Tackling the BIG IDEAS that influence our work

Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (Or Anyone Who Acts Like One)

Cindy Heaney, Executive Director

Professional development at ITC takes many forms:

  • Teachers attend local workshops and conferences;

  • We have monthly staff meetings with both in-house and guest speakers; and

  • We put on our own annual conference and an Infant Toddler workshop series, where our teachers present to the larger early childhood community.

Teachers create goals annually, usually revolving around questions they wonder about or research-based concepts that are new to the field.

Often, teams come up with a group goal that they explore together throughout the year. All of this work and continual reflection keeps our teaching fresh and builds our foundational thinking.

One approach we have explored of late is addressing professional development through a book group format. Early this fall, the administrative team began reading Rest, Play, Grow by Deborah MacNamara and we were so intrigued that we quickly brought it to the lead teacher group so we could dig deeper. It was soon obvious that we needed to open the book to the entire staff so that teams could wrestle with some of the ideas presented.

At that level, we dedicated two staff meetings to the book—one in November and one in January---where we reviewed key elements as a full staff and then broke into teams for further reflection and discussion. We have finished the book but we are not at all “finished.”

There is so much more for us to cull here, as we play with ideas presented, wrestle with the ideas that irk us, and champion the ideas that resonate with our ongoing work with children and families.

We will add yet another layer at our March staff meeting, where guest presenter Martha Eshoo will lead us through a developmental look at children’s behavior that will tie in nicely with Rest, Play, Grow.

As you can see, professional development isn’t something we check off in a neat little box on a to-do list and move on…it is part of our living, breathing process of growth---as individuals and as a program!

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Some key elements from Rest, Play, Grow that have challenged our thinking

Since our earliest days, ITC has had as a focus the idea of relationship-based care. Our approach has had several iterations over the last 38 years, sometimes meeting a common need that has bubbled up (EX: parent-teacher partnerships), and sometimes grounded in the latest research (EX: What are theorists saying about attachment and how does that align with primary caregiving in infants and toddlers?).

Responsive Caregiving is one term we use to explain what it is we do---the underlying concept that caregiving is not “one size fits all,” but highly individualized---meeting the child where she is with what she needs from us in order to thrive in a group care setting. Rest, Play, Grow has added depth, language and detail to our ongoing narrative, helping us to continue championing the idea that teaching “in relationship” lays the groundwork for EVERYTHING ELSE.

Some Key Elements from our reading

It’s not the behavior we should focus on, but what’s beneath the behavior…

  • Coming alongside the child when in conflict, not in opposition

  • Emotional Charge-Our perspective of children’s BIG EMOTIONS influences our response

  • Young children can only feel one emotion at a time (we can feel sad and excited about an upcoming move…a toddler or preschooler can only tackle one of these feelings at a time)

  • Ground our expectations in understanding human development… and this child’s development …and ability to function in this moment

  • Counter-will as an expectation (natural part of human development)

  • “Collecting” children before making a request of them

  • Frustration-anger to tears-helping children feel safe to lean into us when in conflict or distress (especially so if the conflict is with us)

  • Filling up the child so they are emotionally capable of moving away from  us for short periods (fill them up in caregiving moments)

  • Trust---the backbone of all relationships

  • Strong, supportive adult relationships are primary throughout the birth to 8 years, and continue to be critical as children develop healthy peer relationships in middle childhood and teen years---Keeping adults central in children’s lives…

  • Children are developing… (they aren’t finished yet!). Our expectations need to reflect our understanding of and respect for each child’s right to his or her own maturational trajectory.

Math Curriculum: Infant, Toddlers & 2/3's

Math Curriculum: Infant, Toddlers & 2/3's

Math experiences have been heightened by the use of loose parts in all of our classrooms, from collections of containers and wooden rings in the Infant Room to a box of boxes and lots of colored tiles in the Toddler rooms.  The role of the teacher is to observe…

Math: Program Planning and Teaching with Intention

Math: Program Planning and Teaching with Intention

It is easy to think that teaching a child to count to ten by rote is math education. What we really want to know, though, is that a child understands numbers— that “3” has a specific “three-ness” that is constant. That understanding is a lot longer process and requires a great deal of exposure to mathematical ideas and plenty of time to play with them…

ITC's New Logo!

ITC's New Logo!

The story of our logo is as old as we are. In 1981, Faith LeBaron and Lesley Hill sat on tiny chairs in the middle of an empty room at St Matthew’s Methodist Church and birthed a center-based program for infants and toddlers that eventually grew into our school as we know it today. Our original logo projected 2 very young children in silhouette: It was simple, classic and reflected our reverence for the age and stage of development that we served.  It had a warm, family feel