Guiding Principles


Research shows that when young children practice planning and making decisions, they are more able to weather stress in the long-term. So, we give kids lots of opportunities to plan and decide.


At Children First, the “culture of choice” that begins when a child chooses her own sign continues in our day-to-day life as children take the lead in setting the agenda for their day. We invite each child to try different things, but with rare exceptions, trust her to choose what’s right for her in the moment. When we feel strongly about children participating or trying something, we negotiate an agreement with them about when they will try what we have in mind.

mical sign

We build choice into the daily routines. Do you want to start your morning inside or outside? Do you want to say good-bye at the gate or at the good-bye window?  Are you hungry for snack now? Likewise, most of our learning activities allow children to make choices. Who will you be when we act out your story? What will you add to your wood sculpture?  What reading word do you want this week? Which materials do you need for your design? What color comes next for your painting?

choice set

Perhaps most importantly, we choose ways of talking to children that build their sense of themselves as self-governing, responsible people. Inspired by Tom Drummond and the practice he calls “Enterprise Talk,” we try to do less (often manipulative) praising, less (often bossy) directing and less (often imperious) questioning — all commonplace ways of interacting with young children in our culture. Instead, we offer observations and information, allowing children the empowering privilege of choosing the right thing by and for themselves. We’ve come to see that the children’s character grows when they exercise it, not when we do.