Clown School Express: Playing Away Fears

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Through Play

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how challenging discipline situations can be met with play. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

***“All aboard! Welcome to the fantastical Clown School Express. This is Clownynella your Teacher. Anyone want to ride along and learn about Kindergarten, I mean, Clown School?”

Last week was the first week of kindergarten for my two boys. Kindergarten is certainly one of the bigger events in the early years for children and parents alike. Having just moved to Switzerland a few months ago, we have been dealing with many new beginnings, and this particular milestone was no different, first day jitters, tears, fears and worries were looming. My five year old had announced many times “I am not going, no way, no how. I will break the school with an Ax.”  I did not want to send my children to school unhappy, there had to be a solution.  One day as we were hanging out in the playroom playing with the train set we embarked on a train game with many stations, each one offering a chance to play and explore our feelings about this Kindergarten experience.

First Stop: Worrysville, the place where you can tell all your worries to Clownynella.

The boys and I had  already met their soon to be teacher and we knew her name. I made up a similar sounding name and had “Clownynella” ask questions to help find out what they might be worried about. Throughout our play, we drove the trains around the track and I listened. From this I found out their main worries were, speaking Italian, using the restroom, eating lunch and getting hit by other children.
Second Stop: Toilet-City, the place where you pee and poop like clowns.

While we pretended that the trains were arriving in Toilet-City, we practiced asking to use the restroom in Italian, the trains took turns using new weird toilets and going potty in all the wrong places, under the bridge, inside the tunnel, while being lifted by the crane. Giggles provide a fantastic way to work through fears and we giggled a lot!
Third Stop: Lunchsville, delicious meals at every corner.

Something new about going to the kindergarten here  is that the boys are supposed to have lunch in school. In our play, Clownynella prepared and brought all sorts of lunch options to each train, and the trains got to eat many favorites as well as absurd dishes like “Elephant Snot Soy Noodles” and also practiced sitting nicely, falling off their chairs and having and forgetting manners.
Both boys expressed wanting to be picked up right after lunch so in our game trains waited at the station for the big train to pick them up and the big train could not be late. Later, two trains got into a fight about dessert and hit each other; the hurt train went to hide in the tunnel and this actually brought about some real tears. This was fantastic, not because I like to see my boys cry but because crying is another way to release fears and tensions and really work through feelings. The best part was hearing the boys tell each other they would keep an eye on each other at Kindergarten and they held hands for a minute or so, then the trains had to go pee again and everyone was back to giggling.
I’m happy to report that kindergarten Clown School started off very well. We are lucky to have a “play based” school with a fantastic teacher who has supported our request to have the boys transition slowly and attend only in the mornings (although technically it’s a full day program) and trying occasional lunches as they get to know everyone.

My boys a.k.a. Clowns, after the first day at kindergarten!



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon September 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • On being a more playful parent — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine shares how the Playful Parenting book impacted her.
  • Parenting a toddler through play — Alicia at I Found My Feet lists some examples of how she uses play to parent through everyday tasks and challenges.
  • Splashing in Puddles — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares how she learned to get dirty and have fun with her little boy.
  • Say Please — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life explains how they taught their son manners by “play,” showing that actions speak louder than words.
  • No Nanny Needed — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life wishes parenting through play was her only responsibility during the day.
  • I’ll Run Away With Gypsies — Nikalee at Spotted Pandemonium maneuvers physical and emotional obstacles while spinning playful tales, jumping through hoops, and inspiring the kids to clean the living room.
  • A Promise To My Daughter — Lindsey at An Unschooling Adventure writes a poem for her daughter promising to use play instead of anger when facing difficult situations.
  • Parenting Through Play — Not Always Easy But Always Rewarding — Amy at Peace4Parents discusses how play hasn’t always come easily to her, the power of appreciative observation, and how her family learns together through play.
  • Imagination Plays a Role in Our Parenting — Tree at Mom Grooves shares how parents can use play to set the foundation for communication and understanding.
  • A Box of Crayons — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction talks about how a simple box of crayons has become a wonderful parenting and teaching tool.
  • The Essential Art of Play — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her favorite lessons available for young ones through play.
  • The Art of Distraction — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro shares a list of distracting alternatives to harsh punishments in tough parenting situations.
  • Grace and Courtesy Games at Home or School — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now has ideas for grace and courtesy games that help you encourage courteous behavior without reprimanding your child.
  • I am woman, hear me roar! — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares how one simple sound can diffuse an argument in an instant.
  • Getting Cooperation Through Play — Amyables at Toddler In Tow talks about respecting the worldview of a preschooler by using play to encourage connection and cooperation.
  • Playful Parenting = Extra Energy??Momma Jorje didn’t think she had the energy for playful parenting. See what she was surprised to learn…
  • Dance Party Parenting — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen learned how to be the parent her children need through play.
  • Wrestling Saved My Life — Wrestling is as vital to her son’s well-being as babywearing once was, finds Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • Parenting through play — By playing with her children, Tara from MUMmedia is given amazing opportunites to teach, train and equip her children for life.
  • Parenting Through Play Starts in Infancy — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Issa from LoveLiveGrow shares that though she only has a 3-month-old, playful parenting has already started.
  • Play Before Sleep — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how playing and singing with her son before he falls asleep helps calm her frustrations that tend to arise at night.


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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a Masters in Psychology and is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, and one cuddly dog.

28 Responses to Clown School Express: Playing Away Fears

  1. That is fabulous. Can you please come bring Clownyella and the trains here to help Mikko work through his preschool fears? 🙂 I love how you figured out the specific things they were worried about and then incorporated those into the play. What a thoughtful mama you are!

  2. Wow you are ertainly on the ball Mama! What a great idea to have them work through their fears in this way – just beautiful. I will definitely be using this technique as my little ones face new fears and challenges. All aboard!!

  3. It is so important to listen to what the issues are regardless of the situation and you did an awesome job with that! So often when we hear that kids are afraid someone just tells them that there is nothing to be worries about, but like all of us you don’t really trust someone telling you that when you don’t think they’ve considered what it is you’re actually afraid of!

  4. Wow, this is fantastic. I’m so impressed. I love the whole thing.
    I think you could get a children’s book out of this.

  5. Ok, is it terrible that the first thing I learned here is that they speak Italian in Switzerland?

    The second thing was: what a great way to role-play tense or frightening situations for kids! I love this idea. Especially when kids don’t want to talk. They always seem to let out all of their feelings when they are playing.

  6. Gaby, not terrible at all, Switzerland has 3 official languages, German,French and Italian, we live only a few miles from Italy so the area we live in is italian speaking. Thank you for the feedback!!

  7. […] Clown School Express: Playing away Fears — MudpieMama describes how she helped her boys confront their fears about starting kindergarten by playing with trains. […]

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The comment’s server IP ( doesn’t match the comment’s URL host IP ( and so is spam.

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