Renegade Stories: “I Stopped Stopping Play”

Beth made renegade changes at Bethie's Place with amazing results.

Beth made renegade changes at Bethie’s Place with amazing results.

I’d like you to meet Beth Wolff. She’s a play advocate from North Dakota who runs a daycare called Bethie’s Place. What’s marvelous are the CHANGES she made to her program after reading It’s OK Not to Share.

If  you like renegade ideas, but are nervous about trying them in real life, read on. Beth shares how she implemented renegade rules into daily life and made the transition to a child-marvelous program. Listen here to podcast interviews with Beth Wolff.

“I first read It’s OK Not to Share on a 17-hour road trip to Utah,” Beth told me. “I read the book twice on the way there and twice on the way back.”

When she returned she didn’t waste time. She sent out an email to the daycare parents saying:  “I’ve just read the most amazing book. Life is going to be different. You’re going to have to be with me on this. Trust me.”

And trust her they did.

It's OK small cover

Beth had been doing daycare since 1980 and acted as a mentor to parents. She’d stopped doing thematic learning and calendars with her kids long ago. But although she strongly believed in play, she found she’d forgotten the nature of true play. Over time she’d gradually become more rigid. She’d fallen into the habit of saying ‘no’ to play ideas and built her program around rules, partly, she says, because cookie-cutter training sessions kept pushing her in that direction. One rule led to another.

How did she make the transition from a rule-maker to a renegade? “I stopped saying ‘no.’ I stopped stopping their play.” That was it. She didn’t warn the kids or announce the change, she just stopped banning ideas and started following the lead of the kids.

What were the results?  “The kids came out of cover with their play,” Beth said. “I’m a much happier person. I laugh more. Life with Beth Wolff is a lot more enjoyable.” The changes in the children were particularly striking, especially their huge gains in social and emotional learning. Here’s what she observed:

  • Kids are empathetic at earlier ages
  • Kids are willing to take turns
  • Kids can wait
  • Kids trust each other
  • Kids know where the ice pack is
  • Friendships begin at younger ages
  • They don’t need so many toys

If you’re wondering how to make the switch, take Beth’s advice. Trust the kids. Trust your gut. Trust their play. Making the change to embracing renegades rules is easier than you think.

Ready to be inspired? Listen to interviews with Beth on the Renegade Rules podcast.

What about you? Have you had success adopting ideas  from IT’S OK NOT TO SHARE or IT’S OK TO GO UP THE SLIDE in your family or program?

Speaking up is hard to do, but that's called courage.

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2 Responses to Renegade Stories: “I Stopped Stopping Play”

  1. I love seeing the real-life applications of your theories, Heather. Great story.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks – real life stories are what it’s all about. And inspiration for more!