Apply Now
Open Sidebar

Asking children to frown

May 3, 2021 | Nathan Johnson

Being three and four is a big job. There is so much to learn! Letters, numbers, drawing, cutting, building, singing, walking in a line.

But what is one of the biggest goals of preschool?

Understanding our emotions. 

— Identifying them, expressing them, discussing them, being aware of them. Feeling in control —  knowing what to do when you don’t. These are big goals, even for grownups! 

What is one of the ways we become more aware of our emotions, and of others? Through discussion, vocabulary building, conflict resolution, adult modeling, reading stories, and prayer time.

But nothing is quite as effective as

Dramatic Play…


For example, acting out the story of a very, 




Grumpy Bird!


The story starts like this…


When Bird woke up, he was grumpy.

He was too grumpy to eat.

He was too grumpy to play.

He was even too grumpy to fly.

“Looks like I’m walking today,” He said…

And so starts his journey. 


To be clear, this is not a book about how being grumpy is bad. In fact, the bird’s friends meet his grumpiness with kindness and he is given the space to be grumpy, until … well, you should watch.



Movie Link

(The children were excited to film, so Rodrigo could see it!)

During dramatic play, the children learn so much — about the expressive nature of emotions, how they change and don’t last forever, how to see how someone else might be feeling,  about how we all express the same emotion in different ways, how we can meet big, hard emotions with patience and kindness…

This will help the children as they grow to be more perseverent with hard work and new situations, work better on a team, navigate conflict, and feel good about who they are and how they feel. 

In dramatic play, children also learn a valuable way of storytelling! Involving sets and props and costumes, all the while developing and nurturing spatial awareness, gross motor coordination, working together, taking turns, sharing, being patient, putting words into action, and lots and lots of memory (the children would often provide the narration) 

And then there was the book itself!

For a book all about being grumpy, it sure made them happy!

The End. 

Nathan Johnson

Early Childhood & Lower School Visual Art Teacher

Nathan Johnson graduated in 2004 from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts (focusing on Illustration, Art History, and Puppetry), Theatre, and Elementary Education, followed by further time in Europe studying Art, and in Nova Scotia working with adults with developmental differences.

Happily back at his Alma mater (MSS class of 1995) Nathan has passionately committed his career to preserving the dignity and wonder of childhood. As children are more and more burdened with technology and privilege, he believes that in order for children to learn and grow, they must be given freedom within structure, choices with guidance, allowed to play, struggle, get dirty, and above all, to be taught that they are a beloved child of God.

When not in the classroom, Nathan can be found kayaking, camping, hosting a game night, wandering around New York City, making friends with strangers, and spending time with his 11 nieces and nephews.

Related Stories

May 17, 2023

Flying High in the Studio

Learn More
January 11, 2023

Mystery in the Studio…

Learn More
November 16, 2022

We Are Impressionists

Learn More