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A Can of Worms: Fearless Conversations with Toddlers (ROW)

by Nick Terrones
ITEM #: 3600581
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Toddlers ask big, bold questions every day. Teachers and caregivers give shape to the world as they respond to those questions. The conversation unfolds in an electric moment - an awkward, exciting, bewildering moment. We may be surprised or taken aback, but the disequilibrium is a gift. With courage and care, we can connect with children at the level of curiosity and meaning. Written with trust in the wisdom and capacity of young children and the adults who care for them, and with belief in what is possible when children and adults come together in these electric moments, A Can of Worms is a guide and support for celebrating these most important conversations. Have no fear! Take a deep breath, and respond.

A Can of Worms is part of the Reimagining Our Work (ROW) collection. Use the ROW collection to discover how early childhood educators in the field are reimagining their work and thinking alongside children.

Table of Contents:

  • Foreword
  • Author’s Note
  • 1) Stopped in My Tracks
  • 2) Thinking about Teaching and Learning
  • 3) Building the Foundations for Democracy
  • 4) A Tool for Teacher Research
  • 5) Writing a New Story about Education
  • What Does “A Can of Worms” Look Like?
  • About the Author
  • Study Guide


"The stories Nick tells touch on so many critical issues facing toddler teachers: the importance of establishing strong relationships with parents as early as possible; the importance of adults who understand and appreciate the gifts that toddlers present to us; how a topic that is magical and all-consuming for a toddler does not become difficult until it passes through the filters we have created as adults; the importance of transmitting a love for cultures and communities without transplanting a toddler’s values with our own; stories of risk and risk mitigation; of what critical thinking looks like in action in a classroom for the toddlers and adults; of what it feels like to be a male teacher in a toddler classroom...

But that is not what the story is...

Nick shows the reader how to transcend who you were taught to be, to become who you were meant to be! That is his story and with courage will be yours."

- Jerry Parr, President/CEO, Willow Tree Early Education Team

"Conversations with children about gender, race, and identity often feel intimidating for educators. We are all Nick with big questions about our abilities and wisdom to engage children in complex thinking. He offers tools to use, questions to ask, a model to embrace ambiguity. I am inspired to dig deeply into my own understandings, over and over, with this affirmation that it matters-to my students, their families, and to my own human spirit."

- Chelsea Myers, Early Childhood Educator, Hilltop Children’s Center and Educator Institute, Seattle, Washington

Related Exchange article from Nick Torrones for you to enjoy:
Rough-and-Tumble Play: A Way to Tackle Socially Constructed Norms

About the Author

Nick Terrones has been at Hilltop Children’s Center in Seattle, Washington, since July 2006. In that time he has worked with three- to five-year-olds, and currently is in his twelfth year working with toddlers and their families in the Raindrop Room. He enjoys the outdoors very much (backpacking/hiking and snowboarding), and anything that allows him and his dog, Ghenga, to romp around. Playing the drums, ukulele, guitar, and bass also keep Nick grounded. Outside of Hilltop, Nick is an active leader in the World Forum Foundation’s Working Group, Men in Early Childhood Education, which strives to promote gender balance in the education workforce.

ISBN: 978-0-942702-70-5