The Essence of Play
as a Catalyst for Joy and Playfulness

Engaging in a Dialog About Equity and Social Justice

October 19, 2022 through October 23, 2022

Featuring four areas of knowledge

Play
as
Creativity

Play
as
Inquiry

Play
as
Equity

Play
as
Community

The idea behind the Essence of Play Summit is to bring diverse perspectives and share knowledge and wisdom that will change and enhance the dialog about play as a catalyst for equity. We want to engage in dialog about the meaning of play in early childhood ecosystems and communities. We want to shift the discourse to address children’s right to engage in complex play authentically. We also want to continue to address the inequities that impact underrepresented, black, brown, and indigenous communities. 

Too often, children living in poverty or within underrepresented communities are provided with limited, if any, access to free and independent complex play due to its position outside or separate from traditional academic teaching and learning strategies. We must commit to creating ecosystems that promote joy, and playfulness. As a society, we have the responsibility to implement thoughtful practices that bridge the opportunity gap in underrepresented communities and change educators’ image of children as competent, creative, innovative critical thinkers and problem solvers. 

We want to ensure that the concept of play is not rooted in a Western-centric perspective based on a social construct of privilege, in which play is afforded to a limited population (demographic) of children, families, and communities. Let us acknowledge how various play perspectives have shaped and influenced our conversation about access, opportunity, social justice, and equity for all young children. In the words of my friend and colleague Maurice Sykes, “We must shift the dialog to ensure that educators bring playfulness and joy as they respond to children’s inquisitiveness.” 

Welcome to the Think Small Institute! The Institute was created by two industry leaders, each with 50 years of excellence in the early childhood education arena: Think Small and Redleaf Press. 

Together with the two organizations, the Think Small Institute is on a mission to transform how child care educators access supports to ensure children in their care are ready for kindergarten. One such way is by making professional development accessible, affordable, and on-demand. And online courses and trainings are just the beginning.

We are working hard to build a virtual hub to meet all your professional development needs by offering:

  • In-Depth, Live, Instructor-Led Trainings. 
  • Premium, On-Demand Courses. 
  • Tailored Trainings. 
  • Learning Communities. 
  • Facilitated Communities of Practice.
  • Free Education Summits with a World-Wide Reach.
Early childhood educator finds an on-demand, online professional development training at home from Think Small Institute.
Children playing outside during an activity from an online professional development course taught from Think Small Institute.

Online Professional Development


Think Small Institute's custom on-demand courses such as Ready to Roll: Plan, Prepare, and Practice for Emergencies in Child Care, provides online professional development at the highest standards.

On-Demand Courses

Original content you’ll only find here plus over 100 core courses. Browse these on-demand, high-quality courses designed to engage, enrich, and inspire.

View eLearning courses >

Instructor-Led Trainings

Live, interactive professional development designed by Think Small Institute. Limited sizes to ensure you receive personal attention and maximum engagement.

View instructor-led courses >

Think Small Institute's instructor-led trainings offer valuable knowledge for early childhood educators in Minnesota and around the world.