Why there is nothing in your child’s folder…

They work day ends and here you are picking up your darling little child from a great day at preschool. You look at the bulletin board for any news and then check their personal folder for that days art project. Nothing there. No apple picture with a small worm sticking out in September, no coloring book picture of a pumpkin in October, and now with November approaching… will there be the traditional hand print turkey for your refrigerator art wall at home?

No. Probably not. 

Why is that? Because your little child wants to play with play dough, create masterpieces each day with paint on their bodies, discover the different properties of the all so mysterious shaving cream. They are building something even better than that cookie-cutter art project that you have seen on Pinterest. Today I will share the secret as to why sometimes there is nothing in your child’s folder.

It is simply because they are creating and learning at a much larger capacity! Here is some insight to Ms. Julie’s Sunbeam classroom and the outlook on the empty folder syndrome that consumes her class. Sit down, brace your heart for some growing room as you melt at the sight of all of these busy-bodies at work.. or at play, I mean.


We hear the words “Emergent Curriculum.” They sound great, worldly even, and give you the feeling of “I want that for my child,” and yet we have a very vague concept of what it truly means. Emergent curriculum allows us to focus on what is important to the children and build upon it. Humans learn best when our emotions are involved at a heightened level and those emotions are activated when we are doing something that is meaningful to us. With Emergent curriculum our children are learning and retaining more about the world around them because what they are choosing to participate in something truly special to them. This cannot be provided by a cookie cutter 3 step process for a piece of art work. This type of learning can only be discovered through naturally curious play and exploration.

The idea of a weekly set curriculum…

“This is what I will do if they don’t come up with something better (but they always do).”- Ms. Julie

Exploration Outside. 

And Discovery Inside.

The other day our Sunbeams had the chance to use various materials to create something wonderful. Ms. Julie dreamed up the perfect woodland scene that would soon unfold before her. She set out blue crystals that she assumed would become the flowing stream.. little wood pieces that would possibly become woodland explorers, and materials to create the perfect forest.

The Sunbeam class excitedly explored these materials and made…. Cupcakes.

To Ms. Julie’s surprise, her woodland scene had become a bakery and she had to resist the temptation to demonstrate the bucolic scene she’d envisioned because to them cupcakes were much more meaningful and they allowed themselves to think outside of the box to create the perfect (non-woodland) scene.  That’s the beauty of open-ended materials – the childrens’ imaginations soar.

This is an every day occurrence.

Sometimes when curriculum says… discover the blending of colors and what mixing can create. They do.

But when shaving cream seems more enticing than the mixing of colors… Logically it only makes sense to dump out your sensory bin contents and discover the properties of shaving cream instead.

“Color mixing shaving cream with colors turned into a full sensory bin of shaving cream because THAT IS WHAT THEY WERE INTO!”-Ms. Julie


Just like you would see at home, each day brings its joys and its set backs. But what if we can look at each set back as a new adventure in this journey of discovery? Then it is all joy.

Because why not?!

Why not turn a pencil holder into a play dough dispenser and play dough as a pencil holder?

Explore the extraordinary options and instead of mixing things up, let’s let them explode.

img_4812Sure wish I had a video of the screaming and jumping up and down each time the vinegar touches the baking soda.

Long story short…. The reason behind there being nothing in your parent folder today is because your kids were interested in something else and they were learning more than they ever would sitting at a desk and re-creating a project on display. And they LOVE it this way!

Thank you Ms. Julie for your honest and emergent approach that truly reflects the children in your class and for being such a role model for all ECE professionals. It is all about the process vs. the product. Meeting the children where they are at developmentally and building on their interests, scaffolding and constructing learning through play is the absolute best way to engage young learners. And get them excited about life-long learning and discovery. It is all about getting on the ground to play with them, not watching them play. We wouldn’t change that.

So let’s all embrace the empty folder!


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