The philosophy that supports the practice of Anji Play is founded on the value of and ability of the adult to discover the child—see the child’s abilities, and record and reflect on them when possible—and then provide the physical and human environmental conditions for the child’s continued reflection and expression of ability.

The outcome of love—a safe, accessible, consistent, honest, open, predictable environment that is characterized by clearly articulated, simple and reasonable expectations and expresses trust for each person—allows for freedom and risk.

Self-determined risk, the natural trajectory of our growth and learning, is most often experienced as joy, and characterized by deep engagement.

When reflection is the core practice of adults and children, myriad opportunities for revisiting experience naturally create a structure for the continued growth of the child, adult, family, and community.


  • Bonds of trust and respect between children, their teachers, families and the environment.

  • Safety, broadly understood to develop from clear expectations, responsiveness, predictability, stability, consistency, honesty, and trust created by the adult for the child, is a powerful expression of love.

  • In Anji Play environments, love is the foundation for all relationships. Only in an environment that supports freedom and self-expression can the child engage in physical, emotional, social, and intellectual risk, continuously discover and pose questions, and challenge themself to the furthest limit. In Anji Play environments, not only do teachers love children as if they were their own, but the relationships between children, between teachers, between the school and the family, and between the school and the community are characterized by love. Love plays a critical role in establishing the Anji Play ecology, and influences Anji Play schools and the life of the community.


  • The experience of physical, intellectual, social, and emotional learning that takes place when we are uncertain about an outcome and make an attempt.

  • Doing something based on a prediction is risk. This is also the basis of deep learning, and central to the scientific method.

  • Without risk, there is no ability to solve problems. Without problem solving, there is no learning. Children select challenges according to their own ability, time, and place. In the exploration of the limits of their own abilities, children discover difficulty and solve difficulty. In Anji Play environments, the adult is present to observe, document, and support, but not to interfere, intervene or direct (unless there is specific danger to the child or the child has truly exhausted all approaches within their grasp), and, to the greatest degree possible, guarantee the child’s access to and enjoyment of physical, cognitive, and inter-personal risk.


  • The reward of self-determined discovery, growth, and learning.

  • Positive feedback and reward (internal and external) give us joy, and motivate us to continue pursuing joy.

  • Without joy, play can not possibly be true play. Joy is the outcome of self-determined participation in play, self-adjustment of the difficulty of play, and continuous reflection. The standard that adult’s should use to assess the content of any day is whether the child has achieved a state of joy in their activities. In their experience of joy, the child can be quiet or focused, they can be raucous or is the state of mind that nourishes the life of the child.


  • A deep connection with the world and all that inhabits it.

  • The experience of pursuing limitless depth is engagement.

  • True engagement arises from the process of a child’s passionate exploration and discovery of the physical and social worlds. Anji Play confers the greatest degree of freedom to the child, allowing the child opportunities to move within an open-ended space, to fully explore and experience the surrounding environment, and therefore fully engage body and mind.


  • The self-guided understanding, expression and development of complex thinking.

  • The story of our experience is reflection.

  • Reflection is the crucial process that transforms the child’s experience into knowledge. In Anji Play environments, the child reflects and expresses their daily experiences through a range of means, and continuously adjusts their own knowledge of the world on the foundation of their pre-existing experience. The teacher and parent, both through materials and environments, support the self-determined reflection of the child on the child's own experience, and through their observation of the child and exploration of their own memories of play, participate in the child’s reflection.