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You Can't Say You Can't Play (Another Book Review) : Implications for Today's Teacher and Parent Too!!

Updated on September 12, 2012
Janine Huldie profile image

Janine is a published author in Only Trollops Shave Above the Knees, appears on The Huffington Post and at Confessions of A Mommyaholic.

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“I want it!! It is mine!” This was my 2 year old, Lily screaming as her sister and her cousin were playing with our IPhones (mine and my sister-in-law's) they had been using to make cupcakes and cookies too on the Easy Bake App. Lily was not being included because first the two girls are both three and she isn’t even 2 years old yet and second there were only two IPhones (yes even at this young age they love this technology), not three so the two girls were not including her and not wanting to share either. Two bigs issues with toddlers and pre-schoolers alike.

So guess what as a teacher who went to school and read countless books on these very timely and important subjects, I recalled a book that I did indeed read called, “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play,” by Vivian Gussin Paley on how young children will indeed exclude others during play and not share either, because in this very book the teacher had just that experience and came up with an ingenious way to deal with this.

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The Actual Book:

From her experiences with her kindergarten class Gussin Paley implemented the rule, “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play” for her all students to follow and even posted this on a sign in her classroom. In the beginning her students are still unsure, but for the most part are willing to try and obey this rule. They seem to still challenge it from time-to time, but when they do there is no indecision on the teacher’s part or her assistant’s part either. Now, when a student tries to exclude another student, the teacher or her assistant will tell the children they forgot the rule, point out to remind them and it seems to make these situations somewhat easier.

As the book continues, the teacher incorporates a cute fairy tale to drive her point home. The fairy tale the children are told is called Magpie. These stories seem to revolve around the character of Raymond and why he has been acting so mean to the other children in his class. It turns out Raymond’s mom is ill, his dad has been missing for a few years, and because of all this he was sent to live with his uncle. But Raymond didn’t want to live with his uncle so he ran away. The children are then treated to a story about Raymond and company’s adventure to find Raymond’s dad. They find his dad, rescue him and they all seem to live happily ever after.

In the midst of telling this story to these same children, they asked the teacher why Raymond’s schoolmistress never executed the rule of “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play”. The teacher, then decided to go back and rewrite that into the story from what her students now taught her (showing that teachers are constantly learning and evolving from and with their students). So now, everyone in the fairy tale also had to play with each other and could not exclude any of the children.

The teacher also extended this rule into the children’s storytelling exercises. Each time the children got up and made up a story with characters in it, they had to use anyone of the children for the characters, instead of just those students they would want to select. Once again, the initial reaction of the students was to try and resist having to do this, but in the end they all seemed to obey this rule for storytelling as well.

The latter part of the book actually deals with the implementation and the aftermath of “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play.” The kindergarten students seem to have accepted the rule for the most part and have adapted quite nicely to it. Also, in the Magpie fairy tale, all ends well, because the schoolmistress incorporates the rule “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play” into her classroom too. So now Raymond, Alexandra, Annabella and all the other children in the story too all play with each other and don’t exclude anyone also.

The final summation of the teacher is that she will in fact use this rule for years to come with her future classes too, but that it will be used from the beginning of each year now, even though she will not be able to see how the children change from not using the rule to actually following and obeying it like she did will this past year’s class.


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For Teachers:

In retrospect, this book really teaches such an important and valuable message whether you are a teacher, parent or both. As a teacher in the middle school, I have encountered this countless times, because kids will always try to not include each other and try to make someone feel as though they are on the outside looking in.

As a teacher, you just have to anticipate this and do your best to make sure that all students are included, especially during group work. I never let the kids pick there own groups and would work painstakingly hard to pick the groups beforehand.

From day one (at the beginning of the school year) I also always laid out my ground rules for my class and stipulated that this would not in fact be tolerated in my classroom. I would pretty much tell them they needed to leave it at the door, before they walked into my classroom.

Trust me, nothing is perfect, but as a teacher you have to do everything you can to make all of your students feel safe and comfortable in your classroom.


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For Parents Too:

As a parent, I have now learned that this important lesson from this book can indeed be extended to my own children and nieces or nephews too. From the earlier issue with Lily, Emma and their cousin too, I realized that even at this young age that sharing and not including one of their own did indeed happen from time to time.

This time it just so happened to be Lily, who was on the outside looking in so to speak. I immediately told the girls to either share the phones or no one was playing with them. I sat down on the floor at their level and asked them how they would indeed feel if I took the phone from one of them and gave it to someone else to play with while making them watch. I was told "sad" and "mad" too!! I then told them that is just how Lily feels and she pretty much told them by her words of “I want it” and “It is mine”. I explained that they need to take turns until their father (Emma and Lily’s) showed up and would let them use his phone too only if they were sharing nicely now. They were told they were each allowed two minutes before someone needed to switch off and I was setting the timer for this. The child that didn’t have the phone got to hold the timer to want for it to ring.

Summing It Up From the Original Problem...

Believe it or not with me being there and making sure that all went smoothly, they were fine. Thankfully, Kevin (my husband) got home quickly and we then had the third phone to play with too. But even at this early and young age the lesson needs to taught and instilled in them, because it truly is such a valuable one that they need to use in their little lives and in the future too, because they will be in school themselves in the not so far off future and indeed need to share and include all their future classmates too, as well as want to be treated the same way by these same future classmates.

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About the Author:

Janine is a freelance writer and mom of two. She is known for being a certified and licensed professional Math Teacher through NY State and has taught in both the middle and high school levels. She is also currently a stay at home mom of two beautiful little girls. You can checkout her profile and more real-life Math articles and her other family articles too here.

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© 2012 Janine Huldie

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This was a tough one in middle school, as you pointed out. There are always attempts to exclude someone and it is painful for those students who are on the outside looking in. It is an age-old problem that parents, and teachers, have to face.

      Great suggestions Janine; you continue to demonstrate why you were such a good teacher and will be again in the future.

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Bill, thank you so much for being able to give your teacher perspective on this timely and important topic. So very true that this is an age-old problem that as teacher we needed to face time and time again, but setting ground rules I found did help a bit. Thank you seriously for your continued support and for being so very kind to be always!!

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 4 years ago

      Tough love leaf at the door. Your review remind us of team player attitude. I think is hard to teach Kinder, if you are just there for a paycheck. Wondeful reminder, that will affect these future Citizens. Wonderful colors and nicely done Janine. Thanks!

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      I once had a girlfriend tell me that! I wish I'd of had a copy of this book to have shown her (although she'd of probably have hit me with it). lol

      Another great hub, Janine! And, in this one, I didn't gain weight or have a sport ruined! lol Great Job!

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Joseph, I thank you for your comment and agree that it is indeed hard to teach period if you are just there for a paycheck. I have taught all levels in my career and if a paycheck is all you after, you are in for a rude awaking. Thank you again though and very much appreciate it!!

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Richard, I have no words for what your girlfriend once did to you, but then again you are probably right you would have gotten hit. So I would assume you did the right thing, lol!! Seriously thank you for your comment and glad that this time out I didn't make you gain weight or ruin a sport for you!!! Thank you :)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      This is a good book that teaches empathy. Sometimes, we don't show enough understanding for another person's situation before slapping judgement on them. Thanks for a great share, I'm sure that it will benefit many people. Shared and tweeted.

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Michelle, thank you for your comment and agree with you that sometimes we truly just don't think or put ourselves in the other person's shoes often enough. That is what I loved about this book, because it truly did indeed do just that and was a great help even when I was first teaching and now has helped me as a parent too. Thank you also for the share and tweet too!!

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 4 years ago

      Rcrumple's comment has me laughing ^_^ Wonderful book review, you went above and beyond! I'm certainly going to have to use this! Thank you! voted a bunch and shared!!

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Sasha, seriously Richard's comment had the same effect on me too! Thank you for your kind words here and so glad to be able to help a fellow mother out and am sure you would be able to share some wisdom with me too :) Thank you also for the votes and share too!!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I caught this one earlier, but wanted to stop in again to leave my comment of support. Great hub and sounds like a great book full of helpful advice.

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Dianna, thank you for stopping by twice and for leaving a comment of support for me. I do hope others find this book as helpful as I have found as both a teacher and parent too! Thank you again, I really do truly appreciate it :)

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      hello Janine...the title is very catchy :)

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Myz, thank you for saying that :)

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      ignugent17 4 years ago

      Very good review Janine. You explained well how the book is important for the teachers and parents. Teaching small kids is not an easy task. Having rules in the class is really beneficial for the students and teachers.

      Thanks and have a good day! :-)

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thank you for reading and commenting too Ignugent17. I agree with you that it is not easy to teach young kids. Before even having my own kids, I worked summers teaching pre-school age kids swimming and sports and very true that rules are so very important and essential to help keep things out a bit. Thank you again and have a great day too :)

    • remaniki profile image

      Rema T V 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      Very interesting hub Janine. Found it very useful. Now that you have given some idea about this aspect to the little ones, they will understand better when they are in a bigger group at school and will know better what it is like to be accepted in the group. I am very proud of you because you think right always and want your children and students to be good individuals. Hats off!

      As a parent I have learned a few things from my children just as you said the author did from her students' opinion.

      Great hub Janine. Thank you. Cheers, Rema.

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Rema, I can't thank you enough for reading my article, for your lovely comments and for also sharing too. I do indeed hope my children will understand and know this concept well as they start school and am trying so hard to lay the ground work now. As a teacher, I have been privy to kids who were not taught this lesson and came to school being absolute nightmares and truly don't want my kids teachers to ever think that about my own kids. I know as much as you are taught as a teacher to be impartial, if a kid is a bit of a troublemaker from the the get go, you just can't help but have pre-conceived notions. Thank you again so much though Rema and do very much appreciate it greatly :)

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 4 years ago

      As a teacher, I always make it clear that all kids have to work together and help each other. Like you, I never let the kids pick their own groups. Interesting hub - found it thanks to billybuc :)

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Oh so happy you found this, because of Bill and glad you can relate as a teacher too. Very true about not letting the kids pick their own groups, if you were to let them, you are only asking for a disaster! Thank you so much for stopping by and for commenting too :)

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 4 years ago

      I absolutely agree. I'm glad there are other teachers confirming this.

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Oh so glad we do agree and also that there are other teachers out there on the same page as myself. Thank you again :)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Such a wonderful review yet again Janine.

      You are so very talented and here's to so many more hubs for us both to share on here.

      Eddy.

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Eddy, thank you so very much and am with you on this being one of many more to come for sharing :) :)

    • Ddraigcoch profile image

      Emma 3 years ago from UK

      I have never heard of this book Janine but sure as hell going to look for it now. My Head would love to borrow it from me if she gets any free time to read, she has this whole ethos to her running of a school and I know she will love it!

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

      It was actually a recommended read when I went for my Master's at NYU and must tell you it was one of the best reads they ever suggested. So think you and your head would totally enjoy this one. Hope you do read and if you do, Emma please let me know what you thought of it!!

    • Ddraigcoch profile image

      Emma 3 years ago from UK

      I will do Janine, as soon as can afford to buy it. I'll message you on FB when I going to get it, iykwim.x

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

      Oh awesome and look forward to it!! :)

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