Social distancing is just wrong in early childhood. You know it. I know it. But what if you are mandated to do it?

Recently, I was on a Zoom call, and an educator told us about her colleagues who had made taped squares in their rooms. In those squares they put a chair with a plastic box of materials to play with. I nearly jumped through the Zoom screen. “Are you kidding me?!” 

Children deserve better from us than this. I get it. It is hard. But taped squares? Are we that limited on creativity?

It is time to be WARRIORS of Wonder, my friends. The children are calling our names and it is time to step up and deliver WONDER, no matter the circumstance. NO TAPED BOXES. How would you feel? One of my mottos around anything I do and provide for children: How would I feel if this were being offered to me? I will forever be in gratitude to the Reggio Emilia Approach for the truth that children are full citizens NOW. Not at 18 years old. Now.

How can we bring joy and wonder in social distancing? The reduction of materials?

  • Be innovative with how you establish isolation areas. Look for materials outside of our industry.
  • Stop thinking “isolation space” and start thinking “play invitation.”
  • Engage with what you set up. Sit down on the ground and play with your play invitation. How does it feel? How can you make it even more wonder-filled?



Oil drip pans are a staple in my classroom. These are so versatile and economical to buy. They are great for magnet play. AND they are big and offer amazing wonder-filled spaces for play!

Look at the way the oil pan provides a little reflective quality. Doesn't this feel better than a taped square? Oh my gosh! We should outlaw taped squares. Children deserve more than that.

Need block materials that can be cleaned? I love translucent plastic cups in bright joyful colors. They come small as shot glasses, in fluted shapes and even jumbo size!


I have always used boot trays to set up small worlds. And now, they make amazing isolated play spaces. Boot trays come in so many different styles – from copper to sturdy molded plastic. They are made to endure the wear and tear of daily use.

When you think “play invitation” instead of “isolation area”, the possibilities open up! Bring your A-game! Be a Warrior of Wonder!

You can even use a boot tray or oil pan for two children by putting a child at each end. This allows for socializing.

You can set up any play invitation on a boot tray or oil pan – even dramatic play!


Bath mats are another incredible play surface that often gets overlooked. For infants and toddlers, it provides a wonderful change of texture and tactile experience. It is another great way to establish play areas.

Bath mats are super easy to clean, roll up, and store. You can often find them at very economical prices.

Just like the oil pans and boot trays – you can use bath mats anywhere in the classroom you need to establish a safe play space.

Remember – early childhood educators teach for the child, not the circumstance.

You got this!