Play Empowers
Kisha Reid
Founder & Director, Discovery Early Childhood Center
Kisha Reid is the owner and director of Discovery Early Learning Center: A
Place for Childhood , a wonderful play-based program located in Poolesville,
Maryland. She has been in the early childhood field for 27 years and
continues to actively work in the classroom with children 3-5 years old. Her
passion for authentic childhood has led her to found Play Empowers, an
advocacy group focused on promoting developmentally appropriate
play-based education for young children. An early childhood advocate, Kisha
has collaborated with Defending The Early Years, Campaign for Commercial
Free Childhood, and Explorations Early Learning to promote play in early
childhood. Outside of her daily work in the classroom Lakisha also delivers
keynote presentations, is a mentor, and consults directly with programs.
Kisha mentions a “hot mess” preschool project called “bungie painting.
How do you feel about mess projects with preschoolers?
Kisha says that she created early childhood advocacy group “Play Empowers”
because she was searching for “her people,” meaning educators and parents who
understood “authentic childhood.” When you are doing something outside of the norm,
it is always useful to find your community.
Have you found your community?
What makes it a place that helps you “stand strong” and “makes you think?”
Kisha talks about having always wanted to be a teacher, but found that once she was
there “the idea of school just started to make a bad taste in my mouth.
If you are a teacher, have you ever had a similar feeling about your profession?
Kisha believes that we, as a culture, have separated school from life.
Can you think of ways that school is separated from life in your area?
How does this harm or impede children?
How can you seek to connect the young children in your life to “life itself?”
Kisha defines “authentic childhood” as making space for children to be who they are,
as opposed to getting into this funnel where we’re trying to create cookie cutter
adults.” She acknowledges that this term means different things to different people.
What does “authentic childhood” mean to you?
Kisha worries about our world: “In my opinion, there's very very little space in this
country for authentic childhood. We want to hide it, we want to correct it, we want to
train it out of them, we want to over-schedule it out of them. I don't know if we're
afraid of it, if it's too boisterous, if it's messy but it just feels like there's not much
space for it.
What do you think about her concerns?
How can we make more spaces for children to live an “authentic childhood?”
Kisha reflects on her own childhood as being “full of big active play, autonomy, and
trust” which inspired her to create her play-based program.
What was your childhood like?
How has it impacted (for better or worse) how you work with the young children in your
Kisha talks about the “best summer ever,” when she “let go of the stupid leson plans
and the stupid crafty crafts.” She said, “feelings that I had from my childhood rushed
into my body.
Have you ever had that experience?
Take a moment to describe it.
Kisha talks about how dropping her “adult agenda” and “getting out of their way” led to
more laughter, fewer conflicts, less neediness, and more caring.
Why do you suppose that is?
Kisha says her biggest lesson was to make more of an effort to simply watch, observe,
and be fully present versus occupying herself with “curriculum, the schedule, the time,
the materials.
Do you have the opportunity to simply watch and observe when you are with young
What do you learn?
What impact is created for children when their important adults are able to do this?
Kisha says that her current work is an “extension of my heart.” What would that look
like for you?
Kisha talks about her supportive parent community. Reflect on your own parent
community (whether you are an educator or parent).
Is it supportive of “authentic childhood?”
Why or why not?
Kisha jokingly describes “loose parts” as “anything that you can’t kill yourself with.She
talks of pieces that can be transported, carried, built with, climbed on, or be used to
make something. What are loose parts to you?
Kisha says that she doesn’t worry about kids breaking things while playing with them
on the playground because they’re already junk. Do you worry about children breaking
How does adult concern about property impact a child’s play?
Kisha tells a story about the kids getting so muddy that they had to strip
completely just before the parents arrived for pick up.
How would the parents in your community respond?
Would they understand?
Why not?
Kisha says that “a big benefit for children who are allowed to play in these types of
playgrounds, (is that) they have stronger core muscles. They have balance, they have
depth perception. They are great risk assessors, they trust themselves and their
bodies. They don't take risks that they can't handle. It's safer and it's been proven that
it's safer.
Is your play space providing this opportunity for the children in your life?
What could you do today to make their play space more amenable to “authentic
What are your big takeaways from this talk?
Share your thoughts about this talk in our dedicated
thread about this speaker in the private Teacher Toms
Play Summit Community Facebook group
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Tom "Teacher Tom" Hobson is an early childhood educator, international speaker,
education consultant, teacher of teachers, parent educator, and author. He is best
known, however, for his namesake "Teacher Tom's Blog," where he has posted daily for
over a decade, chronicling the life and times of his little preschool in the rain soaked
Pacific Northwest corner of the USA. For nearly two decades he was the sole employee
of the Woodland Park Cooperative School, a parent-owned and operated school, knit
together by Teacher Tom's democratic, progressive, play-based pedagogy. He has
authored two bestselling books, consults with organizations about his "Family Schools
program,” and inspires early years audiences around the world at major education
conferences, both virtually and in-person.
Teacher Tom also enjoys sharing his approach through online e-courses for early
childhood educators and parents, and via international ECE conferences. In 2020, he
co-hosted the epic “The Play First Summit” with Fairydust Teaching, attracting more
than 75,000 participants from over 100 countries. This year he is thrilled to be hosting
and producing Teacher Toms Play Summit all on his own.