The warmth of the past weeks makes it difficult to believe that we are a whole week into Fall. In a fortnight, we’ll start to feel the breeze sliced with a decided chill as the leaves vanish from trees. Welcome to harvest season and the pending arrival of nature’s slumber. While the fields and flowers start to bed down, we get ready to welcome family and friends on a constant basis in celebration of the holidays. Not long ago, the holiday season started about a week before Thanksgiving. Now the holidays begin with Halloween.

With the holidays come a whirl of gatherings, meet ups, food and sparkles which can add up to sensory overload for the youngest in our community. It takes stamina to be able to keep up with school and activities. Stamina takes time to build. How long does it take to get to point of comfort with multiple social gatherings that come with the holidays, on average, about twenty years (young adulthood). Something else that requires stamina is the process of learning. In preschool, children start with the basics. Learning to read, understanding numbers and using a pencil. During this time, they also experience environments that they will eventually master.

This full circle set of learning competency needs the correct environment to promote success. The Maria Montessori classroom design focuses heavily on simplicity without sparkle. Her classrooms are clear of clutter, streamed down to basics learning tools. She did this with an understanding that moderation in design keeps the focus on the process of learning. I think that had she ever to meet Ralph Waldo Emerson, they would have found common ground when discussing the benefits of moderation.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a deeply introspective man who pondered and wrote about many elements that make up human identity and humanity. One of the more memorable quotes that can be recalled of his is “moderation in all things, including moderation.” Although it is easy to blanket a wide area of thought with this statement, in truth, he meant that reasonable limits should be in place as one participates in life—keeping a check on behavior that can make life difficult. Not enough sleep because of too many parties or activity leaves everyone, but especially children, vulnerable to a lack of composure and confidence during a school day. Although he respected the value of human interaction, reasonable limits should be the focus. Moderation is a powerful tool that helps grow children into responsible and resilient humans.

Sometimes a picture is a better tool than words when conveying an idea, so here is a mental picture. A number of Playgroup alumni have become competitive athletes, many are known as scholar-athletes. The path that led them to this distinction is paved in a world of balance. This group could not always celebrate with friends, or study devilishly until the wee hours of the morning, and they could not train to the point of exhaustion on a regular bases. They accepted that moderation would serve them better than constant motion, acknowledging that they would miss out on some things and that was okay. This tolerance helped them to learn who they are. Living life at 100% participation is not simple for a young child. Building their stamina and tolerance with an understanding that no one can be apart of everything develops maturity and a positive sense of who they are.

The current student population at Playgroup has a few years before artistic prowess, athletic accomplishment or advance academic achievement will be addressed for advancement. A keen understanding and practice of moderation will sustain not only their lives now but also the lives that they will eventually choose to have. Whether they choose a life of service, homemaking, farming, building—any lifestyle choice that brings a sense of competence and purpose. As always, our focus is the foundation. A moderate amount of celebration with your children (humanity’s precious resource) is better than a robust pace which can exhaust more than anything else. It is the smallest things that make the biggest impression on a young mind.

Keeping Quiet
Pablo Neruda

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Supplemental Material


flyBear Wants to FLY
Susanna Isern
Silvia Álvarez

This is a beautiful story about a little bear that has a dream of flight. His friends, who adore him, want him to have a chance to fulfill his dream. With the encouraging love of his community, he learns and trains to make his dream a reality. The colors and art
of the book are a joy to take in as you leaf through the story of the little bear.


emerson1The Essential Writings of
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Introduction by Mary Oliver

If you only have a little time at night to read, the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson can be a moment of clear thought. His essential writings do not need to be read cover to cover. It can be enough to take pleasure in a few pages when the moment arises.


Question for Lonna

For years, Playgroup has hosted activities for the celebration of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. All of these events are center on family and community. Please share you thoughts about managing the abundance of activity that children enjoy, but none-the-less may struggle through without aid or direction.

Conversations about holiday excess can be found anywhere. Memories of Christmas starting in December rather than October are old news.

Over stimulating children during the months of October through December is a conversation I have annually with families. Preschool children have systems in their body growing at different rates. The noise of parties, the visual bombardment of decorations and the noxious texture of synthetic costumes can be complete overload to many children. We are aware of our children’s desire to have a calm and predictable environment. We remain a safe place where things are not over stimulating.

Teachers do not play with the young child’s object permanence by dressing up in a costume. Stories of family traditions and cultures are celebrated. All cultures are invited to share their holidays which reflects the natural diversity which Playgroup enjoys.

A tradition I am personally proud of is hand-making gifts f or parents. Each class puts time into making a gift for mom and dad. Planning of the gift begins early in the school year. Teachers consider each class and their family’s individual December traditions. The children delight in the process of creating gifts. Our hope is to focus on giving rather receiving. Through multiple steps and days of creating a gift for their parents, the children learn patience, process and selflessness.

I have a family who celebrates Hanukkah. After the first night last week I asked the mom what the children received. She answered, “We gave each other the gift of spending the evening drawing.” As social media puts it, Life Goals. At the end of our lives, our children will remember the quiet and thoughtful times we spent with them. This holiday season, I hope families reflect on our good fortune to have healthy and loving children—who will one day inherit our country. Children who will be men and w omen and reflect upon the quality of their childhood not the quantity of s tuff.

Lonna Corder
Executive Director, Playgroup


Health with Dr. Dana

lisadDr. Lisa Dana has been a local pediatrician for over twenty years and was a Playgroup parent for at least ten years. Dr. Dana serves on the Playgroup Board and advises Lonna on medical matters when needed.

Lonna asked Dr. Dana to give guidelines on sugar intake. Holidays bring extra sweets to our children’s lives. How much is too much?

Here are the new American Academy of Pediatrician recommendations on sugar. I actually think these recommendations are still too high:

  • Children over age 2 years should consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar each day.
  • Children should not drink more than one 8-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage per week.
  • Children under 2 years should avoid consuming any added sugar since they need nutrient-rich diets and are developing taste preferences.

Halloween has become a major event in San Francisco with many opportunities to dress up and have fun. It is not just the candy, it is also the juice, cookies and cakes served at Halloween parties. Enjoy the festivities but be mindful of how much sugar your child is eating. Show them what 6 teaspoons of sugar looks like. Remember that 4 grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon of sugar. Talk about how much sugar is in a cup of juice or a cookie. Help them make good choices!

Dr. Lisa Dana was born in Bologna, Italy. She attended University High School and went on to complete her undergraduate education at UC Santa Barbara. She attended Georgetown University for Medical School. She completed her Internship and Residency at the UCSF. Dr. Dana is on the clinical faculty at UCSF, and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She works as pediatrician at Golden Gate Pediatrics in San Francisco and Mill Valley.