All posts by CEH Preschool

Kislev is for Kindness

Once a month, I leave just before noon and drive to Rockville for a meeting with my fellow preschool directors. These meetings are a great way to connect with peers and offer an opportunity for personal, professional and spiritual growth. Each meeting starts with a d’var Torah (word of Torah) followed by a text study and discussion. It is a wonderful way to prepare ourselves for what we consider to be sacred work: work with children.

But lately, I’ve been dreading meetings because Pittsburgh… or swastikas on the JCCNV…or fill in the blank tragic event. Our precious time together has been hijacked by responding to this tragedy or that act of violence or hate. Yesterday was no different, but the discussion took a different turn.

One of my colleagues stated, “We all want to feel better, but I don’t want to. I want to keep this hurt and pain with me.” She was saying that keeping the hurt and pain put her sacred work into a different and clearer context. This led to a deeper discussion on our roles as teachers.

How do we reach the troubled child? Am I doing everything to meet his needs?

Am I giving this child a voice? How can I help her find her voice?

Am I creating a stable and routine environment for children in unstable world?

Am I creating a community mindset of caring for the children in my care?

We can and do have a hopeful response to tragic events. We can teach our children Derech Eretz (common courtesy), Chesed (loving kindness), and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). We teach them in the ways that we treat them and others. And when complacency creeps in, we hold onto the hurt and the pain, so hopefully one day they won’t need to.

The month of Kislev began on Thursday, November 9th, and Facebook gave us Kislev is for Kindness at just the right time. Every day this month, you can practice a random act of kindness. Each of us has the capacity for kindness and is deserving of kindness. How many acts of kindness can you do this month? For more information on #kislevisforkindness, please visit

-Alexis Joyce, Preschool Director

Etz Hayim Preschool Teams Up with AFAC

On Friday, May 25, 2018, Etz Hayim Preschool teamed up with AFAC (Arlington Food Assistance Center) for a story and a social action project. In addition to collecting the over 60 boxes of cereal that Etz Hayim families donated to build our Shavuot mountain, Danielle from AFAC read a story to the preschoolers at Kabbalat Shabbat. Then she led a fruit-bagging activity in which the preschoolers helped create bags of apples for those in need.  The youngest class, Chatool, was especially engaged in the apple bagging!

Age-Appropriate Rough and Risky Play (A Review of Risky Play: Why Children Love It and Need It by Peter Gray, PhD)

“Put that stick down! You’ll poke your eye out!”
“Stop pushing your friend. I don’t think he likes that!”
“Don’t get to close to the edge of the stream or you’ll fall in!”
“Don’t do flips off the couch. You’ll break your neck!”

As parents, we’ve all said these things, and wondered why our kids don’t listen. We’ve been on this planet a lot longer than they have, and we have wisdom to impart. Do they think they know more than us? Well, in this case, yes. Yes they do.

Risky behavior isn’t without risk, but why is it such a natural tendency for all young animals to engage in such play? Peter Gray, PhD, posits that the risk of injury must be outweighed by some other developmental benefits of rough play. Research shows that depriving lab animals of risky play when they are young inhibits their ability to respond appropriately when faced with real danger. The findings suggest limiting risky play inhibits children’s ability to properly regulate their emotions (Peter Gray, 2015). In other words, all of us mother hens and helicopters out there, while well meaning, are setting our children up for emotional failure in the future.

Not only do children love rough, risky play, they need it. Allowing children to feel fear and the thrill that these and other risky or rough behaviors give them creates more emotionally balanced children. I am not advocating allowing your toddler to cross the street alone, or letting your school-aged child build a campfire with friends in the woods. There are reasonable risky behaviors your child can engage in while playing. Some age-appropriate risky play includes:

  • Play fighting. Very rarely does play fighting end with serious injury or due to escalation of aggression. We know this because everyone is smiling and actively engaged, and children understand that hurting someone ends the game. Often children will come to us if play gets too rough, not because they don’t like it, but because we have taught them that is the appropriate response (Carlson, 2011).
  • Tag often ends because an adult intervenes when a child gets pushed. Have you ever stood back, and watched what happens next? Children will often help a friend get up, they will take turns being the chaser and the chasee (both important roles). If someone gets hurt, the game is over before everyone has the chance to be “it” and that’s not fun.
  • On the playground, encourage your child to use the swings. Swings are great for body coordination, vestibular development (balance), and are just plain fun.
  • Climb up and down the slide with a group of peers; climb over the side of a slide, etc.

  • If the swings and slide are still too much for you, enroll your child in a gymnastics class.
  • See that tree over there? Climb It!
  • Use adult tools such as shovels and drills. For Small Hands offers many child-size tools.
  • Use a plastic knife to cut fruits and veggies for a salad. Like other adult tools, kitchen utensils need some instruction, but they should not be feared…unless you are a cucumber.

For a more detailed discussion of risky play, you can read “Risky Play: Why Children Love it and Need It” by Peter Gray, PhD in its entirety.

–Alexis Joyce, Preschool Director


  • Carlson, F. M. (2011). Big Body Play. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
  • Peter Gray, P. (2015, October 23). Freedom to Learn. Retrieved from Psychology Today: