JUST Playing was written in 1974 in response to questions I received from parents about why they should PAY for their children to come to preschool and “JUST play”. As a first year teacher I struggled with trying to explain to them the value of play and the need to be patient in introducing structured academics into the lives of their young children. This narrative poem became the driving force in the development of our curriculum and philosophy for the next 25 years.  Close to 3,000 three, four and five year olds attended Children’s World (relocated and renamed Gateways to Learning in 1985) Developmental Preschool in Edmond, Oklahoma from 1974 until 1999.  An Olympic champion, a New York City composer, doctors, lawyers and successfull businessmen and women all began their school careers by “JUST Playing.”

JUST Playing was first published in our advertising/enrollment brochure. Gradually schools began to call and ask for permission to reproduce the poem for their parents.  From Texas to Colorado, from California, to Nova Scotia, the requests have come.  It has been used as a script for a play to open a Children’s Museum and as a Christmas radio commercial for an educational toy store in London, England.  It was published in the “Year of the Four Year Old,” an Oklahoma State Department of Education Curriculum Guide in 1996, used by Discovery Toys in a publication in 1997, featured in Early Childhood News Magazine in Jan/Feb 1999 and also published in Chicken Soup for the Unsinkable Soul in 1999. “JUST Playing “ has been translated into at least five different languages on the internet.  It seems to cross all cultural boundaries and continues to speak today as it did over 40 years ago.

Although many unauthorized copies exist, I purchased the copyrights to my work in 1979.  It is therefore unlawful to reproduce or distribute this poem without written permission from the author.

About Me

Anita Wadley Schlaht holds a B.S. in Early Childhood Education and a M.Ed. in Gifted Education.  She has 25 years of experience as a teacher/director/owner of Children’s World and Gateways to Learning Developmental Preschool.  She was a kindergarten teacher in the Edmond Public Schools for four years, was Program Director and Director of Grants and Special Projects for Prevent Blindness Oklahoma for 6.5 years and is currently Executive Director of the Edmond Historical Society & Museum.  Anita is looking forward to retirement in 2019.  She and her husband Kirby enjoy gardening, reading, music, sports, church activities and spending time with family. Anita is the mother of four grown children and step-mother to Kirby’s two daughters.  She and Kirby have seven grandsons and one granddaughter. She can be contacted at:


History of “JUST Playing”