Frequently Asked Questions: Play-and-Learn

How will I benefit from this group as a parent/caregiver? 

Play-and-Learn groups are designed to support parents on the journey of connected and effective parenting in the following ways:

  • Having protected time to positively connect with your child via “I love you rituals” and parent-child floor time
  • Learning more about your child’s temperament, interests, and learning process through observing your child play in a group setting
  • Learning new strategies to engage your child in play and support your child in resolving conflicts through observing the facilitator with the group
  • Having the opportunity to practice positive discipline strategies in a safe and supportive environment
  • Reading and discussing articles on toddler topics with the facilitator and other parents, and sharing ideas, support and resources on particular questions and concerns

Each component has rich benefits for parents (as you can read in the testimonials). Most parents share that actually seeing the strategies that one may read or hear about in action is the most valuable learning opportunity. As a new teacher almost eighteen years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to observe wise, experienced teachers model conflict resolution, setting limits, and encouraging cooperation from young children. I am still greatly indebted to these mentors and I wanted to find a way to share these ways of interacting with the wider parent community. The Play-and-Learns have allowed for this opportunity!


How will my child benefit from participating in a Play-and-Learn group?

Play-and-Learn groups provide your child with an introduction to a structured environment, with an experienced teacher gently guiding them as they learn to play with other children.   Children (even as young as 12 months old) are encouraged to be problem-solvers and are given tools to participate in entering play, turn-taking, negotiating with friends, finding alternatives to hitting and/or finding a voice when they are being hit or having a toy taken from them.  The toddler years offer a crucial window for laying the ground work for this emotional intelligence, and self-regulation-the true keys to Kindergarten Readiness and whole life success!  The group also serves as a “warm-up” to a group setting, with circle time, gentle transitions, free play in designated learning environments (fine motor, gross motor, sensory, art, and dramatic play) as well as introducing the idea of group clean-up time!  


Are the methods research-based? 

All the methods we draw from are research-based theories taught in the academia of child development, and never pop-parenting or "celebrity parenting” ideas - although sometimes celebrities do catch on to these ideas and, for better or worse, turn them into trends (the RIE method was developed in the 1970's, but has become a recent celebrity trend). All the methods we draw from are taught within the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) accredited field of Child Development. Our trainers have a minimum of a BA in Child Development (though most have M.A.’s) and ten years’ classroom experience, as well as many post-graduate and continuing education hours.


Is this a RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) playgroup? 

This is not a RIE playgroup, though we do draw on some components of the RIE philosophy, namely restrictive intervention - meaning we watch first, see how the children are handling the conflict on their own and then offer support as needed. This is a basic philosophy of effective teaching, which empowers the children to be players in their own problem solving, and builds self-confidence through the basic belief that they are capable. Of course children cannot solve all of their own conflicts, and this is where the modeling comes in.


Why are there no drop-ins allowed? 

We do not allow drop-ins for two reasons. One is to create an opportunity for the children to get to know one another and feel comfortable with one another. Children interact quite differently with children they have never met before, versus children they are comfortable with - this allows them to really practice their emerging social skills as they may soon do in a school-like setting. Second, we do not allow drop-ins because the parents in the group begin to feel connected in this confidential and supportive environment to ask questions and share struggles. Out of respect for both of these connections, we do not allow drop-ins. When you join a Play-and-Learn, you will see the value of a commitment to this kind of class.



What do you recommend my child wear on outings?

Please dress your child in clothing where he/she can freely explore and get dirty without worry. We all know that San Francisco weather can be unpredictable from hour to hour, and from neighborhood to neighborhood, so we ask parents to be prepared. Sturdy, close-toed shoes are highly advised, and layers are recommended. On rainy days, we highly recommend that your toddler wear a quality rain jacket, rain pants and rain boots. On sunny days, please pack a sun hat/sunblock for your child. You might also want to bring a change of socks and/or a full outfit change for the ride home-if we come across a puddle or some mud, odds are good that the children will explore it!

How strenuous are the hikes/nature walks? Should I plan on bringing a carrier or stroller?

Our weekly excursions are more about the journey rather than the destination. Play-and-Learn Explorers is a child-directed program, which means that we will follow the children’s lead during the hikes. We will stop to pick up pine cones, touch the bark on trees, study insects and listen for bird calls. Sometimes children will asked to be picked up or carried; however, we will encourage children to walk on their own as much as possible, to gain the full benefits of exploring at their own level. It is helpful for parents to talk to their children about this expectation prior to the outings. Please do not bring a stroller or a carrier/hiking backpack for your toddler.

What happens on rainy days?

Play-and-Learn Explorers groups will meet rain or shine. Rainy days bring a new level of sensory exploration to the outdoors! However, we typically will modify the weekly activity slightly on days where there is heavy rain and will meet at the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park, where there is a library. We will have circle/story time in the library first and then go on a brief nature walk in the rain. We ask that children be dressed in weather-appropriate attire each week and encourage children to have rain coats, sturdy boots, and ideally rain pants as well on days when the forecast calls for rain. On sunnier days, we recommend sun hats, sunscreen, and layers.

In exceptional cases where inclement weather could pose a safety risk, a session would be rescheduled and parents would be notified by the instructor prior to the scheduled start time.


I have a toddler and an infant. Can I bring the infant along to our Explorers sessions?

Yes! Baby siblings are welcome to come along for Explorers sessions with older siblings. Please be advised that many locations are not very stroller accessible, so baby carriers (Ergo, Boba, etc.) for infant siblings are highly encouraged.