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The Beauty of Wildflowers

Posted June 6, 2022

The Beauty of Wildflowers
By Roxie Zeller

We made it through the long, cold Minnesota winter to be greeted by an abundance of beautiful wildflowers this spring. Dandelions, phlox, squill, and all the flowering trees have captured the interest of the Eagan preschoolers. We come inside each morning with a new bouquet of flowers to add as a centerpiece for one of the snack tables or as gifts that the preschoolers plan to give their families. There is something magical about picking wildflowers; maybe it’s the fact that no one will get upset if you pick some, or perhaps it’s their abundance. Or perhaps it’s the joy in knowing that flowers are a universal way to tell someone you care about them.

From patiently waiting for marigolds to bloom to using foraged flowers in cooking, our preschoolers have explored the many ways to study, use, and appreciate flowers. When the flowers first started to bloom, there were many conversations about how different insects need the flowers to survive, how we can gather flowers while being mindful of the amount we are taking, and where it is safe to collect flowers. We even talked about the fact that many people see dandelions as weeds and spray ‘plant poison’ on them during the dandelion season.

As more flowers emerged and we brought more inside with us, a flower press was introduced as a way to preserve the flowers longer. It has become almost a daily activity to place flowers in the press, between big blocks, or in books to use later in art projects. Many children chose fresh flowers in the art studio as the subject of their close-up still-life paintings. They selected one flower out of a bouquet to carefully draw; they mixed paints to match the flower’s colors, and then painted their flower as their last art project of the year. Once the flowers were no longer being used as a reference for still-life paintings, we brought them into the classroom to study and dissect. The children even used the flowers to decorate the hair of one of our visiting seniors, Grandma Puppies.

However, my favorite project we have done with the flowers is using dandelions to make natural playdough. When the dandelions were plentiful, the preschoolers filled many baskets full of the lovely yellow flowers and brought them inside for cooking. They carefully pulled all the heads off the stems and added them to a blender. Once the blender container was full, boiling water was added before blending the mixture. The preschoolers were skeptical that the “flower water” would become lovely yellow playdough, but once flour, salt, and cream of tartar were added and mixed in, it wasn’t long before the playdough was ready to play with. By the looks on the preschooler’s faces, you would have thought it was magic. If your summer adventures leave you with an abundance of flowers, the recipe we used can be found at

As the school year comes to a close and we say goodbye to our preschool graduates, it’s a bittersweet time of year. I couldn’t think of a better way to honor this group of preschoolers than with a beautiful fresh-cut flower, a tradition at All Seasons. I hope that all the graduates from both preschools go off to do amazing things, but also remember to find the abundant wonder and beauty in the world around them.

Never Too Young (or Old) to Navigate Change

Posted May 24, 2022

Never Too Young (or Old) to Navigate Change
By Amber Scheibel

Change is hard. Some people have no problem with it, but others, like me, don’t readily embrace it.

Trying new things, putting yourself outside of your comfort zone, and starting new life experiences can be intimidating, overwhelming, and downright scary. I’ve known my whole life that this has not been one of my strong suits. Not that I let the fear of change hold me back or prevent me from trying new things, but it has always been something I stress about behind the scenes. As I sit back and reflect on my first year of teaching at All Seasons Preschool, I can’t help but remember how nervous and, if I’m being honest, a little terrified I was to start a new job.

I love being a preschool teacher. I truly feel it is my calling in life. I am good at it, I love working with children, I love getting to know the families, and I love connecting with people and developing relationships. It is what fills my bucket and I have been blessed to do it for almost twenty years… so teaching preschool is not something new to me. However, starting a new job is. You see, I worked at the same preschool, a preschool I loved, with coworkers I loved, for seventeen years. My coworkers became cherished friends who I spent time with (and still do) even outside of work. When the pandemic caused our school to abruptly and permanently close, it was heartbreaking. Factor in my aversion to change and the uncertainties that the pandemic created, I really struggled with ending my time there. I felt sad, scared, and unmotivated when I thought about what I would do in the future.

However, after a good part of a year spent at home with my family, I realized I needed to start looking for another job, doing what has always brought me joy – teaching preschool. I didn’t have high expectations that I would find a place that fulfilled me like my previous preschool did. Over the years, I have heard other preschool teachers and families complain about the lack of quality preschools and quality teachers. I always considered myself extremely lucky to work in an environment where I enjoyed my coworkers, was proud of the program, and where I could wake up each morning excited to go to work. Would I find that again?

Long story short, I did. After substitute-teaching at a few different schools, including All Seasons, it was immediately clear to me that this is a special community. This is where I wanted to work. Although it was outside of my wheelhouse being that I have never worked at a nature-based preschool before (and that I don’t particularly love bugs), I felt like I had the most opportunity to be challenged here. And the philosophy of the program lined up with what I truly believe a preschool should offer to children. Everyone at All Seasons greeted me warmly, full of advice, patience, and friendship as I navigated my way through new routines, new surroundings, and new experiences. I respect and enjoy each of my coworkers and directors here and they, along with my students and their families, quickly became people I appreciate having in my life. And I’m once again doing what I love to do. This is a fun job, and although it can be challenging at times, there is nothing else I would want to do.

Now, as the year comes to a close, I can’t help but draw parallels between my experience starting a new job and the emotions many of my students must have felt at the beginning of their preschool journey. Some have a seamless transition and are excited and eager to do ALL the things and meet ALL the people, while others are not comfortable leaving their parents or caregivers and being thrust into an unfamiliar environment with strange new people. The first few days, weeks, and for some, even months, can be a challenging period. But eventually, the children grow comfortable, learn to embrace the experience, and enjoy spending time with their friends and teachers. What at one point might have been viewed as a negative, scary experience now feels like home, a place they feel welcomed and are excited to go to each morning. And I feel the same way.

Spring Blooms

Posted May 10, 2022

Spring Blooms
By Sarah Kern

After an incredibly long winter, it seems that spring is finally here. We’ve gone from snow pants to shorts in record time. And as the waiting buds finally burst open, relationships are blossoming at All Seasons.

Our beloved grandma readers, once strangers to some, are now members of our All Seasons family. Marion, Bette, and Pat are seamlessly folded into classroom routines and events. A couple of weeks ago, both preschool classes had pancake breakfasts, during which families could stay and sample syrup made from our very own maple trees. Of course our grandma readers were invited, and they were thrilled to taste the syrup.

In the toddler class, visits to Grandma Stella’s apartment have become routine. Children are eager to show her their fancy dress up clothes, try out her real flashlight, and peek out her window.

In the classroom, too, true friendships are everywhere. Even our youngest students are beginning to seek one another for play and reach out a hand to help.

A treat this spring has been to join together our older and younger classes. The full day preschool class and our toddler class have met a couple of mornings on the playground to play together. Immediately the older children welcomed the youngest into their play. Toddlers crawled like kitties with an older group, and groups worked together in the sandbox to dig holes and build castles. When a large rain gutter was added to the hill, 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds alike gathered to send various sizes of balls down the ramp.

The seeds that we’ve been sowing all winter long are blooming inside and out, and now is the precious time of the year that we’ve been waiting for. It’s time to soak it up.

Where the Clues Lead

Posted April 27, 2022

Where the Clues Lead

By Amanda Janquart

“I’m thinking of an animal that has no feet.”

This was the beginning of an exciting, weeks-long look at snakes. During lunch, children love to be challenged with Guess the Animal clues. There have been requests for extra tricky clues, and while I didn’t anticipate “no feet” to be on the difficult end, it certainly left the class wondering. They made guesses ranging from “a marshmallow” to “a monkey,” while classmates called out the contradictions. “Monkeys have four feet…or maybe just two?” A worm was the closest guess before it was time to rest. The children were left wondering while lying on their cots. More clues were shared after everyone was awake, getting excruciatingly specific.

“They can live in water and on land…even in trees…even in Minnesota,” which was followed by choruses of, “I live in Minnesota, too.”
“They have all sorts of patterns on their skin.”
“Maybe a cheetah?”
“Nooo; remember, no legs.”
The guesses kept coming until the final clue, “They can smell with their tongues.”

Knowing the answer wasn’t the end of their interest, though. Children wanted to learn more about snakes and share past experiences. “I held one at the zoo once!” This is what emergent curriculum can look like: something catches the children’s attention; teachers grab hold of their inquiry and take it deeper. These sparks of interest can be easy to miss, and teachers must be ready and willing to hop aboard. Where they go will inevitably vary; the rides could be short or cross country, but the travel is always thrilling.

The children excitedly made quick visits to the art studio, and they sketched out versions of snakes from their memories. Books were brought in, and the class talked through the details over and over. They wanted facts and were astounded by many: squishy eggs and forked tongues and eating prey headfirst?!? Wowsers. They pretended to be snakes, forming families, going hunting, and curling up together to keep warm.

With new information gleaned, children returned to the studio. They chose images of multiple species from the internet to print and use as models. As they drew or traced or sculpted with clay, the focus was on the details. Just having learned that snakes can swim, some chose sea snakes. Others liked the challenge of drawing a snake skeleton. It is a good day indeed when curiosity leads to confidence, pride and understanding – and it’s all visible in their faces.

The Joy of Spring for the Winter Room

Posted April 12, 2022

The Joy of Spring for the Winter Room

By Rita Thoemke

(Rita is one of the teachers of the toddlers, children who are two years old at the beginning of the year.)

A neighbor friend once told me that spring was created for mothers. She said this after observing me outside with my three little girls on one of the first nice days of spring. Today, I would add that spring was also made for teachers.

While All Seasons teachers enjoy the outdoors all year round, there are things about spring that we look forward to: longer outside times, less time needed to put on outdoor gear, enjoying snack outside on a blanket. Watching kids rediscover new magic in their familiar play areas is a joy. Mud puddles prove irresistible, and taking gear home to wash becomes routine.

There are other gifts that spring presents. Reflecting back on just how far these kids have come since fall is amazing. Drop-off time, once full of worry and concern, is now full of anticipation and curiosity about what awaits them in our classroom. Snack time used to be full of little challenges, from opening a lunch box or small container, to cleaning up and putting items away. Even conversations are different. Instead of asking teachers when their moms will be back, they now ask, “What will we do outside today?”

There is amazing confidence that comes to each child by the end of our school year. As their confidence has grown, teachers have made adjustments to how we support the children. Early in the year we would give step-by-step directions to get ready for going outside. “First, take off your shoes. Then find your snowpants.” Now we give them more space to do what they know how to do independently. Once outside, they no longer feel the need to stay close to a teacher. We watch from a greater distance as they explore the things of their choosing.

Throughout the year, we have also seen friendships develop. When a classmate is absent, it does not go unnoticed. The children ask about each other and want to know when their friend will be back. Children remember who enjoyed various activities with them and seek each other out to continue unfinished play. This is just the beginning of making connections outside of their family.

For toddler teachers, one of the biggest joys is that we don’t have to say goodbye at the end of the year. We are not sending any of our children off to kindergarten. We have just begun the early childhood education years, and we are eager to watch the journey continue as many of the children return for preschool in our Spring and Autumn preschool rooms.

Managing Disappointment

Posted March 29, 2022

Managing Disappointment
By Roxie Zeller

Disappointment is a big part of life. You may feel disappointed when a sports team loses, when seeds do not sprout, when the snow takes too long to melt, or when plans fall through. The higher your anticipation, the more it can hurt.
As adults, we have learned to manage our expectations and disappointment to protect us from the emotional impact, so we are not overwhelmed with sorrow, nor do we lash out in anger. Children, however, are still building the tools needed to handle disappointment, learning from their own experiences and from watching adults in their lives.

The preschoolers in the Autumn Room at Eagan have experienced a lot of disappointment this spring as we tapped our box elder trees, trying to collect sap to boil into syrup. Those who were here last year approached tapping this year with caution, after their efforts to get sap were fruitless in the past. Children who were new to our school were filled with excitement. They were eager to help drill into the trees, hammer in the spiles, and remind us to check on the buckets every school day. Day after day, their excitement dwindled as they carefully lifted the lids and found empty buckets.

That is, until the big rainstorm came through at the beginning of March. About a cup of rainwater found its way into the sap buckets, fueling their excitement again. It wasn’t until we were indoors filtering the liquid that we discovered that it was rainwater instead of sap. (A teacher tasted the liquid to test it.) The preschoolers were disappointed, as many were excited to taste the sap, expecting it would taste like syrup.

After that, many children lost hope that we would end up with sap. We talked about getting some from the Inver Glen preschool’s trees so we could still taste it, but most of the excitement around tree tapping was gone.

The week before spring break, on our daily hike to check the buckets, we were surprised to find some liquid sitting in one of the buckets. “Do you think it’s really sap?” “Maybe it’s just water, and we should dump it out. Can I dump it out?” “You found water in the buckets again?” Even the teachers were skeptical, assuming it was just melted snow from the Monday prior. The whole class had learned to manage their expectations about the sap buckets. From the rainwater debacle, they discovered that the lids over the buckets don’t keep out everything, and instead of getting their hopes up again, they cautiously approached the newfound liquid we collected.

Finally, the day came to give the sap a taste. Upon arrival at school, the preschoolers signed in by answering the question: “Today, we will taste sap! What do you think it will taste like?” They could choose to put their name cards under “water,” “syrup,” or “not sure;” the majority answered “syrup.” We combined what little sap we had collected over two days, filtered it through a coffee filter, then poured a small sample for all who wanted to try it, including our senior reader, Grandma Shirley. Many preschoolers were disappointed to discover that sap tastes nothing like the syrup they are familiar with. I would describe tree sap as earthy, or like mineral water, with a very subtle, sweet aftertaste. We now have a pot boiling away on the stove well on its way to becoming maple syrup but getting to this point took a long time and was full of disappointments and learning moments. Hopefully, managing all the ups and downs of the experience will make our upcoming pancake pajama party even sweeter.

Preschoolers are constantly working through disappointment, whether it comes from not being able to finish a puzzle or project before clean-up time, having a game go in an unexpected direction, dropping a treat from home on the floor, having your blocks knocked over, or having an experiment fail. As uncomfortable as disappointment can be, it is a big part of life. The more practice that preschoolers get acknowledging and moving through disappointment, the better they will be able to manage it as adults who, in turn, can be great models for future generations.

What the Research Tells Us

Posted March 8, 2022

By Joanne Esser

Picture this: A group of 4-year-olds is clustered together outdoors, busily stirring a mixture of sand, pebbles, water, and wood chips they have poured into old pots. Their conversation is animated as they debate about what ingredients should be added to their “potions.” They make up stories about how they will use their potions to shrink an imaginary giant, each child adding some details to the growing story.

Down the street at a different childcare center, another group of 4-year-olds is sitting at a table. The teacher is telling them to repeat after her a rhyme about the sounds of an alphabet letter. Their task is to color in a series of worksheets about the letter and copy the letter on the lines with a pencil.

Which group of 4-year-olds will be more prepared to succeed in school?

You have probably heard All Seasons Preschool staff talk about the importance of play as the main way young children learn. This is not only our opinion; it is supported by solid research evidence.

Parents may or may not be aware of new research studies about young children and learning, though. This kind of research may or may not be featured in the popular media. But when a new well-controlled, long-term research study comes out, early childhood educators pay attention to it.

In February 2022, a groundbreaking study on Tennessee’s statewide Pre-K program released its findings: Children who attended academically-focused preschools actually did worse over the long term than peers who did not attend that kind of program. Researchers discovered the harm such programs do to children over time: poorer scores on academic tests, more children showing learning disorders and more behavioral problems at school.

Other earlier studies, such as the well-known Perry Preschool Project in the mid-1960’s, have consistently found that children from “academic” preschool programs do enter kindergarten with some short-term advantages over children who have spent their early years engaged in play. They are typically more advanced in skills like letter-recognition and print awareness because these skills were explicitly over-emphasized in their preschool. However, whenever researchers have studied the long-term impacts, these academic advantages disappear over the course of only a few years, and the children are worse off by other measures, compared to their peers who spent their early years engaged in social, self-directed play.

The recent Tennessee study, conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University, looked at a group of high-poverty children randomly selected (by lottery) to attend a free, “high quality” preschool that focused on early academic training – up to five hours a day of instruction. The program’s intention was to give these low-income children a boost so they would be better equipped to succeed in school. Same-age children who did not attend that kind of preschool served as a control group. It was a well-designed study of nearly 3,000 children, following them through sixth grade.

What the data showed was that at the beginning of kindergarten, the academic Pre-K group performed better on all academic measures than the control group. But the control group soon caught up and generally surpassed their peers. By third grade, the control group performed significantly better on all academic measures than the children who attended the academic Pre-K. In addition, those in the academic Pre-K group were significantly more likely to have diagnosed learning disorders and had a higher rate of behavior issues (school rule violations) than the control group.

By sixth grade, the advantages to the group that did not have the academic preschool “training” were even greater: higher scores on all achievement tests, fewer special education placements and far fewer behavioral offenses committed at school. This study reinforces other research that shows children who have rich opportunities to play rather than being pushed into heavy academic instruction at young ages do better later in school.

These clear results surprised the researchers. What explains the harmful effects of early academic training in preschool?

Some analysts speculate that early academic instruction results in shallow learning of skills: enough to pass tests in kindergarten, but that interferes with deeper learning later. Early pressure and the grind of drilling inappropriate academics might also lead to a dislike of school, or a rebellious attitude that shows up in school later. One expert researcher commenting on possible reasons for the disturbing results described “too much whole-group instruction, rigid behavioral controls, not enough time spent outside,” and said, “Ideally Pre-K should involve more play.”

The main concern for us as early childhood educators is: what are young children missing when they are spending hours a day on academic training? Four- and five-year-olds need lots of time to practice taking initiative, socializing, negotiating with others, solving problems on their own and learning how to take care of themselves. These are all things that truly “prepare them for school.” The Tennessee study is confirmation that those of us who are focused on creating caring learning environments that are play-based, language- and social skills-heavy are on the right track.


Durkin, K., Lipsey, M.W., Farran, D.C., & Wiesen, S.E. (2022, January 10). “Effects of a Statewide Pre-Kindergarten Program on Children’s Achievement and Behavior Through Sixth Grade.” Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication.

Lipsey, M.W., Farran, D.C., & Durkin, K. (2018). “Effects of the Tennessee Prekindergarten Program on Children’s Achievement and Behavior Through the Third Grade.” Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 45, 155-176.

Gray, Peter. (2022, January 31). “Research Reveals Long-Term Harm of State Pre-K Program.” Psychology Today.

Kamenetz, Anya. (2022, February 10) “A Top Researcher Says It’s Time to Rethink Our Entire Approach to Preschool.” NPR News.

The Kitty Cat Hill

Posted February 23, 2022

The Kitty Cat Hill

By Calley Roering

This year our group of preschoolers named the beloved hill in the Boulders area “The Kitty Cat Hill.”

It all started this fall when the children discovered that they could slide down the hill like penguins. They were eager to get back up the hill but struggled to do so. The children were heard yelling, “Help! Help me get up this hill!” As teachers, our first impulse was to jump into action and pull them all up the hill ourselves, but we didn’t do that. The teachers slid down the hill, sat with the children and brainstormed together ways to get back up the steep hill. Collectively, we thought that it would be easier to crawl like a kitty cat. Crawling up the steep hill like a kitty cat worked and the name has stuck ever since!

During the fall months, it was much easier crawling up Kitty Cat Hill because it was only dirt. By winter, it was covered in snow, which proved to be trickier to climb up. The children struggled getting up the snow-covered hill. After struggling for a while to climb up the icy, slippery hill, we went inside and once again brainstormed ways to get up the hill. We came to the conclusion that perhaps a rope would help us.

That afternoon, we brought a rope to the Boulders and discussed how it would be used. A few children slid down Kitty Cat Hill and yelled, “I need the rope!” The children who were standing at the top grabbed the rope and threw it to the children at the bottom of the hill. The children at the top of the hill yelled, “Grab onto the rope,” and “Pull!” in unison. The child holding onto the rope was able to walk up the hill or belly slide with the help of the children pulling at the top.

The children relish the idea of being the rescuer as well as being rescued. One morning, a child was at the bottom of the hill and yelled for the child at the top of the hill. Their conversation went like this:
“Please throw the rope to me. I need it!”
“I’ll help you! Come on, you got it. You’re almost to the rope.”
“Thanks for helping me up The Kitty Cat Hill. You rescued me!”

The Kitty Cat Hill in the Boulders has become one of the children’s favorite spots to play. This type of play has allowed the children to problem solve and work together. Playing on Kitty Cat Hill has naturally become a community building activity where all can all join in and help each other.

Cooking With Young Children

Posted February 8, 2022

Cooking With Young Children

By Brigid Henry

There are many benefits of cooking with your preschooler. It can build self-confidence, help children learn and practice basic math skills, lay the foundation for healthy eating habits and of course, it can be a lot of fun! With a little preparation and flexibility, and with the right expectations, time in the kitchen with your preschooler can be educational and joyful!

Counting eggs, measuring ingredients into measuring cups, going through the sequence of steps in a recipe are all great hands-on experiences that teach various skills. Count together while scooping cookie dough onto a cookie sheet. Introduce new words from a recipe to expand your child’s vocabulary and promote literacy. Following steps in the recipe can help develop listening skills.

Having your child help with the preparation of meals can also help encourage an adventurous palate. Preschoolers can be picky eaters; by bringing them into the kitchen to help with cooking, you can open them up to new ideas. Children who get involved in preparation are more likely to try the food. You can talk about what foods and flavors they like and how eating healthy food makes a body grow strong.

The kitchen is a great place for exploring the senses. Listen to the sound of the mixer; feel the bread dough as you knead it and watch it rise. Smell it cooking in the oven and enjoy tasting it when it’s done.

Preschoolers love to show off their work and being able to show off their creations at the dinner table is such a satisfying way to demonstrate their growing abilities! The more they practice, the better their skills become, and they show a real sense of pride in their accomplishments.

Give them jobs suited to their age and developmental level, such as:
• stirring batter
• tearing lettuce
• adding ingredients
• assembling a pizza

I recommend using a step stool so children can easily reach the task at hand. Set them up for success. Remember, it’s about the process more than the end product. Praise their efforts! Many children enjoy the warm soapy water and the task of doing the dishes afterward, too.

Meal prep is a very social activity. A child must learn to share tools, work collaboratively, and help others. Discuss everyone’s roles as you engage in the process together.

Quality time spent contributing in the kitchen can begin a lifelong interest in cooking. It is a task you can build on over time and continue to enjoy with your children throughout your whole lifetime.

Snow Gear as Part of the Curriculum

Posted January 25, 2022

Snow Gear as Part of the Curriculum

By Tracy Riekenberg

I remember when my own children were preschoolers. Getting them dressed to play outside in the snow was such a … CHORE. With two tots the same age, I felt like I was competing in an Olympic sport called Snow Gear Race: see how fast you can get everyone dressed, and if you get outside before anyone gets too hot or has to go to the bathroom or starts to cry, you win the gold medal!

So, I empathize with my preschool families now. It is hard work and seems never-ending this time of year. But, I have good news for you! Here at All Seasons, we spend a significant portion of our day intentionally teaching kids how to put on and take off their snow gear. Come spring, the children will be whizzes at getting dressed for the snow (ironically, just in time to not need gear anymore).

We intentionally take the time – sometimes up to 30 or 40 minutes – to let kids dress themselves because we know the long term benefits. Children who are successful in everyday tasks like dressing develop great self-confidence. They feel a sense of independence and achievement, even when mastering a small portion of the tasks. We often hear exclamations of “Yes! I got my boots on!” from children.

Benefits go beyond self-confidence, though. When children practice dressing themselves, they practice gross-motor skills like balancing and fine-motor skills like zipping. Their cognitive skills are developing as they remember the order in which to put on their gear. And maybe most important, they are continually growing in their spatial awareness. Especially at school, where up to 16 kids are getting dressed at the same time, children work on noticing where they are in relation to other children and how to recover or make amends if bumps happen.

The best thing we have seen in the Spring Room this year, though, is that children help each other with getting dressed. Children have reminded friends about which order to put things on. They have helped with buckling or zipping. They put on or take off boots and shoes for other children. The teamwork that is created when we allow children to help each other is so rewarding.

I’m not a fool, though; I know how much easier and faster it goes to simply dress your children at home. As the parent, you can make sure everything is on correctly and is tight and warm. But, if you can make the time to let your child work on it on their own from time to time, you will see the growth and be amazed at what they can do!