Select Page

As many people know, I’m a strong advocate for play-based learningReal, authentic, student-driven and led play. Free play. I’ve called this play many things over the years, including “free exploration time” and “work time” — for play is a child’s work — but this year, my teaching partner, Paula, and I switched to just calling it “play.” If we believe in play, and have seen the value in play for academic, social, and emotional learning, then we should be standing behind it and calling it what it is. The problem: supporting play isn’t easy.

Ontario has a wonderful, updated Kindergarten Program Document, which stands behind play-based learning. In fact, the front matter of the Document is explicit about pedagogy, and truly puts the child at the centre of the learning. This Program Document makes me happy, especially the huge focus on Self-Reg. Not just any self-regulation, but Self-Reg as defined by Stuart ShankerIt’s often the Self-Regulation and Well-Being Frame, which has Paula and I talking the most.

  • What are we noticing about our students?
  • Why might this be?
  • What are their stressors and how can we address them?
  • How might we modify our program and/or environment to better meet their needs?

Sometimes we pose these questions with multiple students in mind. Sometimes we talk primarily about just a couple of students. But everything we plan and everything we do starts with the kids.

It’s for this reason that I struggle the most with some comments that I’ve heard recently — not necessarily even directed at our classroom, but just play-based rooms in general — that kindergarten is a “free for all.” The implication is that …

  • the environment is chaotic,
  • little planning is involved,
  • and learning cannot possibly happen here.

Every day, I have the pleasure of seeing that the opposite is true. As much as Paula and I record these videos of the classroom for our reflection, I think that we also do it to show others — parents, educators, and administrators — that play is working.

  • Kids are engaged.
  • Learning is evident.
  • Play may be “free,” but with an environment that is set-up to maximize its success.

As I think back to my feelings when I overhear these comments about play and kindergarten, I realize the dysregulation that they can cause. Even as a strong advocate for play, these words always cause me to stop and reflect on why we’re doing what we’re doing and how we know that it’s working.

I wonder though about the stress response that these kinds of comments lead to. Do they stop some individuals from embracing play, or questioning why they do embrace it in the first place? How might we change this play dialogue to a more positive one? I would like nothing more than for people to see the wonderful that Paula and I see when looking at photographs like the ones below, and realizing the value in this child-centred approach for kindergarten and beyond.

Self-Reg Seeds Learning Journey Symbol of a seed sprouting 2 leafs

What is Self-Reg?

Self-Reg is a pathway to calm, resilience, motivation, learning, & well-being.

Early Years



The Shanker Method

5 Domain Framework

Free Self-Reg 101 Webinar

Our Mission & Values

About Stuart Shanker

Self-Reg Sunrise Learning Journey symbol of a sunrise over a leaf

Explore how learning Shanker Self-Reg can help your approach to behaviour, dysregulation, emotions and any of the challenges that brought you to Self-Reg as a someone who cares.

Level 1 Certificate Programs

Early Childhood Development

Self-Reg Foundations

School Leadership

ASK Courses

*New* Reframing Bullying

Enhancing Resilience

Self-Reg Parenting

Learning for Teams

On-Demand Webinars

Upcoming Events

Summer Symposium

Book a Presenter

Self-Reg Quilt Learning Journey Symbol of a leaf in a patch of a quilt

Self-Reg can be practical, community based and woven with other initiatives, movements or priorities. How can you bring Self-Reg to your community or context?

What is Applied Self-Reg Knowledge?

Blogs & Vlogs


Webinars & Upcoming Events

School Leadership Certificate

Learning Facilitator's Certificate

Living, Learning & Linking Certificate

Self-Reg Schools Handbook


Mentoring & Consulting

Self-Reg Haven Learning Journey Symbol of two hands holding and nurturing a leaf up

Havens are our dream for all! A Self-Reg Haven is a place where everyone feels safe in every way: physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally.

I Know a Haven When I Find One

5 Self-Reg Haven Look Fors

Havens 101: Group Learning

RADAR Project Planning Tool

Self-Reg Schools Handbook

Self-Reg Foundations Certificate Program Course Cover of two brothers smiling at each other and holding hands

Self-Reg Foundations

Certificate Program Starts May 9

Facilitated Certificates

Self-Directed Courses

On-Demand Webinars

Events - Live & Online

Tools & Strategies

Speakers & Presentations

Books & Publications

Blogs & Vlogs


Graphics with Blogs


Translated Resources

Media Releases

Meet Our Team


Contact Us