Philosophy for Four-Year-Olds

The way you measure a society’s soul is by the way that it treats its children.
Nelson Mandela

Issue No. 103 – 6th April 2011

Welcome to Kidz Newz especially to all new subscribers.  Kidz Newz is a regular newsletter with information and teaching tips for anyone involved with young children. You are receiving this because you have attended one of my workshops, purchased a book, or you have requested to be on the mailing list. Thank you. Please forward this to anyone you feel it may be of interest to. Feedback is welcome.

PD Update

ECCPA Conference (Early Childhood Conference of Performing Arts), Genazzano FCJ College, Kew, Melbourne August 20-21, 2011

Philosophy for Four-Year-Olds

Last weekend I watched a film as part of the French Film Festival here in Perth called ‘Just the Beginning’. It was a documentary showing an experiment conducted by the teacher to see whether four and five year olds could engage in philosophical discussions. The results were often hilarious, as you can imagine, but above all, were utterly amazing and insightful and showed an extraordinary emotional and intellectual development as well as articulation by the children over the two years. I recommend you not only see this movie if you can, but more importantly, implement the ideas. You may well be astounded at the children’s capabilities.

The teacher introduced the topic of philosophy to her then kindergarten class by asking how we know things, and moving on to where those ideas are kept, and finally, how those ideas come out. At first stunned by the questions, she told them we use our brains to have and store our ideas but she was able to elicit from the children that we use words that come out of our mouths to say what we are thinking. They were even able to come up with the words ‘reflect’ and ‘think’. She chose the same time each afternoon for her ‘philosophy class’ and lit a candle to indicate this was thinking time. At first the candle caused great mirth because it wasn’t a proper birthday candle, nor did it look like a candle in a church, so she explained it was a special candle to show something special was happening. At the end of the session she would blow out the candle to indicate the session was over, relighting it the next day.

Initially the children found it difficult to come up with appropriate answers, to ‘think’, but after a few weeks of the teacher persisting with the challenge, they started to enjoy the sessions and were more easily able to suggest answers to her questions. She discussed topics such as love, friendship, wealth, birth and death. According to one child, love was different depending on the people you loved. She said that she had a friend she liked very much so she loved her but it was not the same love as she had for her mother and father. When the teacher asked her whether she loved her parents more, the child said ‘yes’. Another child said love between boyfriends and girlfriends was when they kissed on the mouth, then they got married and had babies. Another child interjected and said that she kissed her parents on the mouth. When the teacher asked her if that meant she was going to marry her Dad the children all laughed, including the child being questioned, who said ‘no’, quite emphatically as though that were just ridiculous, but then added that Daddy didn’t need to marry her because he had Mummy. Grandparents apparently didn’t love each other (her I laughed!) because they didn’t kiss each other. Remember that these children are four!

Watching the children being children – grimacing, touching, shoving or falling asleep – was also very funny. The teacher handled every situation masterfully, including a scene when they were all filing outside to play and one boy hit another child. When the teacher asked why he had done so the boy said because he didn’t agree with what the other child had said. She was able to explain to the boy that we learn in philosophy class that it’s perfectly okay to disagree with other people, but we talk about our feelings, that there is no need to hit people because we disagree with them. It was interesting to see the ‘penny drop’ as the transference from lesson to life was realised.

I was pleased to see that the teacher used music for relaxation and for story-telling (Peter and the Wolf) and drama. She would also get them to draw or paint what they had been talking about in philosophy and what they were thinking. They gradually became much more articulate and insightful when explaining their paintings.

The camera crew secretly filmed the children at home and going home from school where they would initiate discussion about what had happened at school that day. They talked a lot about philosophy asking their parents questions but mostly telling them things, because the parents surely didn’t know! The parents were very grateful to the teacher because it meant dealing with potentially difficult subjects had been made so much easier.

By the time the children were approaching the end of pre-primary they were initiating the discussions, telling the teacher what they wanted to discuss. Obviously by now they looked physically bigger but their social, emotional and intellectual maturity was quite extraordinary. On the last day, some even said they would miss their teacher and their class when they went into year one but mostly, they would miss philosophy class. The teacher had been vindicated.

Employment Opportunity

Looking for a part-time teaching opportunity? Love working with children? Love teaching music and movement? I am looking for people to train to run Kidz-Fiz-Biz classes. I have had 25 years in this industry (23 specifically with children) and want to start up more classes again due to ongoing demand. Good income and lots of fun. If this is something of interest to you now or in the future, please contact me at or phone 0410 642 781.

Quotes of the Week

“Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.” ~ Robert Green

“Small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, great minds discuss ideas.” ~ Source Unknown



3-year-old Reese:
“Our Father, Who does art in heaven, Harold is His name. Amen.”

One particular four-year-old prayed,
“And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.”

A father was at the beach with his children when the four-year-old son ran up to him, grabbed his hand, and led him to the shore where a seagull lay dead in the sand.
“Daddy, what happened to him?” the son asked.
“He died and went to heaven,” the Dad replied.
The boy thought a moment and then said, “Did God throw him back down?”

A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said,
“Would you like to say the blessing?”
“I wouldn’t know what to say,” the girl replied.
“Just say what you hear Mummy say,” the wife answered.
The daughter bowed her head and said, “Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?”


Some comments from the last ECCPA Conference (I presented on relaxation)

“I enjoyed learning about the ‘wake-up fairy’ and how to help children relax. Very informative session.”
“I learnt to slow the pace gradually as well as lowering the volume and tone of the voice. Great ideas using music.”
“Relaxation is so important – we seem to be constantly filling the children’s days with more and more “up-beat” stuff, but the calm stuff is so important too! The time spent on each activity was long, but I appreciated by the end, that it needed to be.”
“Thank you!”
“Great ideas for Art/Music/Storytelling/props to encourage relaxation. Beautiful choice of music.”
“The most useful thing I learnt was which music to use in the classroom.”

About The Author

Marlene Rattigan B.A., Dip. Ed. (ECS), CELTA

Marlene Rattigan is an Early Childhood teacher, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and from 1987-2000 was a nationally accredited fitness leader. Her background is in music education. A keen interest in motor development in children led to the creation of Kidz-Fiz-Biz which she taught successfully for 13 years. Marlene also conducts workshops for children, teachers and parents at schools, in the community and at festivals. She has produced teaching manuals complete with audio CDs which are an extension of her ‘Kidz-Fiz-Biz’ program.

PO Box 6894, East Perth WA 6892, Australia
T: +61 8 9325 1204 M: +61 (0) 410 64 2781 E:

Enjoying Kidz Newz?

Perhaps a friend or colleague would enjoy it too!  Add their contact address and click “Forward”. (Be sure to include this entire message, including the subscription details) By doing this you will help us grow.

Looking for lots of ideas? Visit the Kidz Newz archive where you will find back issues of Kidz Newz.

Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our blog for more interesting information, articles and discussions or connect with Marlene on Linked In.


Until next time … continue being a legend in your classroom.

Marlene Rattigan, Editor
Kidz Newz

{tag_subscribe} if you would like to stop receiving these advices.

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00