Preschool teachers and champions for play, Sherry Hutton and Donna Burns have a mantra, ‘make it irresistible!’ Sharing their passion for active learning, their blog, ‘Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning‘ is proving irresistible to educators the world over. Ingrid Maack reports.

A group of preschool children at St John’s Anglican Kindergarten* in the Melbourne suburb of Croydon engage in an impromptu weaving game. Armed with a box of coloured wool, they gather interestingly-shaped sticks and begin to weave a spectacular web.

They add plastic grasshoppers, spiders, beetles and centipedes to the mix and then continue their investigation outdoors, busily working in teams to weave a giant web around trees and an A-frame in the preschool’s playground. The play continues for several days as more children are drawn into this investigation—this web of intrigue!

But it doesn’t stop there. The teacher’s photos and observations are posted online, generating a flurry of ideas and information exchange between a growing online community of parents, childcare workers, preschool and primary school teachers, and students of early childhood education.

Having taught together for a decade, Sherry and Donna, like many others, turned to the internet for teaching inspiration. Both were surprised, however, by an apparent lack of Australian content. With this in mind, they set about creating their own online community.

Wearing what they describe as their ‘technology training wheels’, they engaged the help of a local web designer to help create the site (see it at, deciding a blog was the most interactive format. Irresistible Ideas ‘went live’ in September 2009 and has had a constant stream of posts ever since.

One year on, and Irresistible Ideas has attracted over 62,500 unique visitors with more than 52,000 pages of content being viewed in that time. The blog has 1,300 registered members, 1,500 Facebook members and was recently named on an international list of the ’50 Best Blogs for Early Childhood Educators’.

A blog is short for ‘web log’ and is an online journal that is intended for a public audience. Blogs are frequently updated with text, photos and links and are forum for discussion and learning.

Using their own preschool’s play-based program for inspiration, Sherry and Donna have turned the webcam inwards, so to speak.

‘The blog is a reflection of what we do at our kindergarten. What you see is our planning, execution of the program and outcomes of the activities.’

Reluctant to paint themselves as gurus, the pair says it is not always easy to come up with new programming ideas on their own—it is the blog’s subscribers who help them come up with new ideas, sharing reflections and inspiring one another.

‘The blogging community around the world has one thing in common — we are all very willing and eager to share our information and ideas. The “world wide bloggo-sphere” is well respected as being a generous and supportive community.’

Irresistible Ideas celebrates and promotes the role of play in early childhood education and care. It is well known that children learn at their own individual pace through the natural process of play. At St John’s Kindergarten there are extended periods of non-interrupted play. And the site’s tagline, ‘No play, no learning — Know play, know learning’ certainly sums this focus up.

‘We are very confident that our play-based teaching is the correct way to teach our children so that when we read about other educators’ experiences, we don’t question so much as reflect on our own practice.

‘We think the name of our blog says it all…We are not trying to preach to the converted, but we are hoping to help spread the word to parents and educators nationally and internationally.’

Supporting sustainability is also a priority at St John’s, particularly when it comes to sourcing art and craft materials for play projects. One of their favourite places to visit is ‘Reverse Art Truck’ (, a non-profit organisation that collects rejects, seconds and factory off-cuts for schools, centres and preschools.

‘It’s all irresistible junk to us… There are barrels lining the isles full of all sorts of bits and pieces— plastics, tubing, rubber, tape, leather, fabric, bottles, lids, containers, foam, cut outs, cardboard.

‘We also go there for all our wood like the timber we used recently for woodworking.’

Interestingly, the children at St John’s Kindergarten are often pictured using real tools to support their play such as glue guns, hammers, irons, drills, nails and screws.

Bookmark these blogs

There is a growing online community of blogs for early childhood teachers. Here are some of Donna and Sherry’s favourites:

This article first appeared in Rattler Magazine, Issue 96, Summer 2010

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