experiences without providing any unifying theme, continu-
ity, or purpose. The situation described earlier of the teacher
who thought the child pretending to be a cat was having fun
and therefore learning is an example of a mis-educative expe-
rience. Dewey thought that rather than saying, “The children
will enjoy this,” teachers need to ask the following questions
when they plan activities for children:
n How does this expand on what these children already know?
n How will this activity help this child grow?
n What skills are being developed?
n How will this activity help these children know more about
n How does this activity prepare these children to live more
fully? From Dewey’s perspective, an experience can only be
called educational if it meets these criteria:
n It is based on the children’s interests and grows out of their
existing knowledge and experience.
n It supports the children’s development.
n It helps the children develop new skills.
n It adds to the children’s understanding of their world.
n It prepares the children to live more fully.
How can early childhood teachers be guided by Dewey’s
criteria for educational experiences? Do not accept “It’s fun”
as a justification for curriculum, but ask how an activity will
support children’s development and learning. Again, it is not
enough for an activity to be “hands on”; it must be “minds
on” as well. And teachers must invest in organization and