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Rethinking Kindergarten Readiness

Deeply passionate about early education, Denita Dinger promotes cultivating curiosity and autonomy in young learners by fostering environments rich in opportunities for play and natural growth—guiding principles she lives by to help ignite a love for lifelong learning in children.

Denita discusses the often-misguided focus on kindergarten readiness and how it can detract from the truly valuable skills of perseverance, independence, and teamwork. She emphasizes the importance of going beyond traditional academic metrics — allowing children to lead their play, take risks, and naturally develop critical thinking and motor skills at their own pace. As Teacher Tom and Denita share their insights, they delve into the harmful impact of fear-mongering in education and the importance of creating learning environments that foster genuine curiosity and lifelong learning.

Teacher Tom’s Podcast is all about taking play seriously. In each episode, Teacher Tom inspires early childhood educators, parents, and other listeners with information, techniques, and best practices to provide children an authentic play-filled childhood. 

“This idea of kindergarten readiness or school readiness is getting in the way of true readiness, of empowering children with the skills that they’re going to need much, much longer”— Denita Dinger

Denita Dinger has traveled the globe since 2009 leading empowering and inspiring keynotes and workshops to all sorts of adults with children in their lives. As her work with children in her former family child care program — and current, child-led, multi-age school — has evolved, so has her message. What began as her first consulting company, Play Counts, evolved to a name that better reflects her message: Listen to the Children.

Denita’s work includes operating Kaleidoscope Play School (a three-morning-a-week, child-led, ages 2-10 school), coaching, keynotes, workshops, and online training. She doesn’t just talk the talk; she walks the walk. Her trainings are inspired by what she learns from children. She has co-authored three books: Let Them Play: An Early Childhood UNcurriculum, Let’s Play, and Let’s All Play.

“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 blog, 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, Teacher Tom 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. Teacher Tom came into teaching through the backdoor, so to speak, having enrolled his own child in a cooperative preschool, where he began working daily in his daughter’s classroom as an assistant teacher under the tutelage of veteran educators — although he’ll be the first to tell you that most of what he learned came from the children themselves. When it was time for his daughter to move on, he “stayed behind.”

Today, Teacher Tom shares his play-based pedagogy through online e-courses for early childhood educators; produces online early childhood conferences; consults with organizations about his “Family Schools” program; and inspires early-years audiences around the world (Greece, UK, Iceland, Australia, China, Vietnam, New Zealand, Canada, and across the US) both virtually and in-person with his engaging views on early childhood education, play, and pedagogy.

He was pressured by his blog readers into authoring his first book, aptly named Teacher Tom’s First Book, and is thrilled about the 2023 release of Teacher Tom’s Second Book.

Resources mentioned in this episode:
Teacher Tom’s website:
Denita’s website: Kaleidoscope Play School
Denita’s Facebook Page: Listen to the Children
Denita’s Intagram Page: @listen.tothechildren
Denita’s Linkedin Page: Denita Dinger
Let’s Play: (Un)Curriculum Early Learning Adventures Book
Peter Gray


Host: Teacher Tom Hobson
Producer: Michi Lantz
Supervising Producer: Cynthia Lamb
Audio Editor: Marvin del Rosario
Executive Producer: Danny Iny
Music Soundscape: Chad Michael Snavely
Making our hosts sound great: Home Brew Audio


Music credits:
Track Title: Blueberry Jam Jam
Artist: Simen Andreas
Writer: Simen Knudsen

Track Title: Childlike Wonder
Artist: Reveille
Writer: Brendan St. Gelais
Track Title: Tick Tock
Artist: Ivy Bakes
Writer: Erick Pena


Special effects credits:
24990513_birds-chirping_by_promission used with permission of the author and under license by AudioJungle/Envato Market.

To catch the great episodes coming up on Teacher Tom’s Podcast, please follow us on Mirasee FM’s YouTube channel or your favorite podcast player. And if you enjoyed the show, please leave us a comment or a starred review. It’s the best way to help us get these ideas to more people.

Episode transcript: Rethinking Kindergarten Readiness (Denita Dinger).

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