Category Archives: Preschool

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:

Preschool Primer: Keeping Sick Children at Home

“She has a little fever that went away with Tylenol, so she’s fine.”
“He threw up last night, but he’s better now.”
“We’re not sure what the rash is, but it must be allergies.”
“He’s not really that contagious. Do I really need to keep my child at home?”


This article is not a guilt trip. Sometimes we don’t believe or don’t want to believe that our children are sick, so we send them to school anyway. We have a busy day, and a sick child is the last thing that we need. My goal is to create more awareness both here and in my own home. Here are some things to keep in mind about why it is important to keep sick children at home:

  • Children recover more quickly at home in comfortable, familiar surroundings. I am approximately 35 years old, and I still want my mom when I don’t feel well.  At home children can get the rest they need for a speedy recovery.
  • You have a meeting that you can’t miss, so you send your child to school. Not only is your child feeling worse, which will cost you more sick days, but other children are exposed to illness as well. Sharing is caring, except when it comes to germs. Then it’s just gross.
  • Not all of the children in our program are fully vaccinated. Many of our children are too young to receive certain vaccines which makes them more vulnerable, which in turns causes their parents to use sick days.
  • Children are not the only ones getting sick. Common childhood illnesses if contracted by adults can be life-changing. An ill-timed sneeze can lead to lost time at work, a weakened immune system and re-occurrence of “one and done” childhood illnesses in adults.
  • Snuggle time. There is a certain amount of ickiness involved when children are involuntarily leaking various fluids, but take those snuggles any way you can. The time is rapidly approaching when the only way you’ll get snuggle time is by begging for it.
  • You are performing a mitzvah. Caring for the sick… protecting others by isolating a sick child…You pick. They are both noble, and both take priority over Fill-in-the-Blank meeting with Mr. Whatshisname.

Throughout the year, stuff is going to happen. Our children will get sick. Sometimes we will be the unlucky recipient of some unsavory germs and sometimes we will be Patient Zero. It’s the way of the world. However, we can all be good menschen by keeping our sick children and our sick selves at home. Don’t worry. Work will always be there.  I promise.

–Alexis Joyce

Preschool Director


Sukkot Family Program Recap

On Sunday, October 8, Preschool and Religious School families enjoyed lunch, singing and crafts in the Sukkah. The families learned the significance of the lulav and etrog and participated in the lulav ceremony (shaking it in all directions!). Fortunately, the weather held up and we were able to eat lunch in the sukkah and play outside on the playground. Thank you to Rabbi Bass and Will Rivlin for leading songs and prayers and thank you to Alexis Joyce and Laura Naide for planning the event.