Hey there! I’m Malia – your lesson planner, curriculum designer, and classroom cheerleader.

I started teaching back in 2003 and fell instantly smitten with students’ magical lightbulb moments.

I went on to earn my National Board Teaching Certification and my Master’s from Stanford University.

And then life took an unexpected turn…

I was on a year-long maternity leave for our second son and I was missing the classroom.

Maybe it was my newborn sleep deprivation or those extra cups of caffeine I was drinking just to make it through our busy days, but I decided to dive feet first into a brand new hobby…

I started sharing the games I was playing with our preschooler on my blog called Playdough to Plato.

And that blog quickly grew! Pretty soon I was getting emails and DMs from teachers around the world who wanted to help students make MORE progress with LESS planning time.

So I started designing teaching tools and trainings to help you do just that!

If I could add just one more hour to my day, I could probably solve a modern mystery… or at least cook a homemade meal every night.

But since we all have the same 24 hours in a day, let’s figure out how to make the most of it. Sound good?

I created this site to help you save planning time, stay inspired and give EVERY student bigger teaching results.

Because I believe that our students deserve not just a good education but an EXCEPTIONAL one.

I hope you’ll join our inspiring community of incredibly dedicated teachers so we can stay connected! Join our free VIP email list here:

Kindergarten Literacy Centers


  1. Hi Malia! I was so excited to read your blog. I have three children. The two oldest are teenagers. Our youngest was a “surprise” and is 3 1/2 years old. I never expected to have another child and look at him as a huge blessing to our family. He has brought such joy to our household with his wonderful personality. I have decided that this time around I am going to keep him home with me instead of sending him to preschool. He is my last one (I think ;)) and I want to enjoy every second with him until he starts kindergarten. I have been trying a very structured curriculum kit by Mother Goose Time but Jadon is really stuggling with the structure and I am not feeling like it is a good fit for us. I have been scouring the internet for fun ways to teach Jadon and that is how I stumbled upon your site. Jadon is very active and loves to play games so a lot of your activities are perfect for him! I am so excited to start the 10 week class! Jadon is still learning to recognize letter consistently but right now is really into reading and we are always pointing and naming letters and he seems to be picking them up quick!

    Love your site!
    Kiana Nafziger

    1. Hi Kiana,

      I’m so happy that you took the time to introduce yourself and tell me about your family. Thank you! Your youngest son sounds a lot like my 3 year old – active and always up for games. Jadon seems like a great fit for Plato Academy and I’m thrilled that you joined the class. Please keep me posted on his progress and let me know about any questions that pop up along the way in the comment section of each class. I’m off to visit your site now {Kids, Dogs and Ticks}. 🙂


  2. Malia – I am a mom of 3 – a beautiful 7 year old girl, and 2 super hero boys aged 4 and 2. Life is busy but wonderful and I anxiously await morning so we can play some of the “games” I found on your site tonight! He-he!! My 7 year old is still really struggling with reading. Honestly, she HATES to sound out words – and has just decided she is bad at it. We enrolled her in Kumon which seems to have helped some. Any thoughts about where I should START to try and help her? All of your ideas look so fun! We have tried so many things – but she just doesn’t enjoy it – and now it has become a confidence issue. Thanks for any advice you may have.

    1. Hi Haylee,

      Your family sounds amazing! I can only imagine that your super hero boys and beautiful 7 year old bring a smile to your face all day long.

      Re: helping your girl gain reading confidence. A couple of thoughts come to mind-

      1. She may still be struggling with letter sounds. Do you have a set of alphabet flashcards lying around? If not, write down all 26 letters in random order on a piece of paper. Then ask her to name all of the letters and give you their sounds. Once you know the letters that are still tricky, you can teach them to her using any of the games listed under “Fun with Letters” at this link:

      2. Sometimes helping kids gain confidence can be as simple as making a few small tweaks. First, I like to remind kids that readers read PICTURES too. Pick up a wordless book like “Wave” or “Hug” and use the pictures to tell a story. For example, “I see the gorilla walking through the jungle by himself. I wonder where his parents are hiding. Hmmm… Oh, and I now I see him looking at two snakes hugging in a tree. The snakes look so happy hugging each other. Look at their smiles!” Kids are often blown away that they can read without sounding out a single letter.

      And second, I call my kids “readers” as often as I can. When we are walking to the car I’ll say, “Ok readers, please hop in!” Or when dinner is over, I’ll say, “Please take your plate to the sink, readers!” Sometimes just hearing someone else call them readers helps kids believe that they really can do it.

      I hope that helps! Please feel free to send me an email or post a comment any time. And if your daughter is still struggling after you try these ideas, I’m happy to brainstorm some next steps too. 🙂


  3. Hi,
    My name is Renee and I am a stay at home mum from Brisbane, QLD Australia.
    I have two beautiful daughters aged 7 and 4. My eldest is in Grade 2 and my youngest goes to Kindy 2 days a week. She will be starting Prep ( 1st year of school) next year.
    I love reading your activities and look forward to starting some of them with my youngest child to help her get ready for school. I am also a qualified child care assistant and am doing further study to become a group leader . These activities will really come in handy when I start back at work next year.
    Thanks !

    1. Hi Renee! Thank you so much for taking the time to introduce me to your family and tell me about your child care work. It’s always fun to learn more about readers.

      Australia is one of my favorite places on Earth. I’ve been there twice now and hope to return again when my boys are a little older.

      I’m sending a warm, long distance welcome your way!

      Talk to you soon,


  4. Hello ladies!

    I am a 20 year old, currently doing my apprenticeship as an ECE in Junior Kindergarten, Senior Kindergarten split class. I want to thank you guys so much for giving me a few ideas on different activities that would work with some of my more unique students, I honestly cannot thank you two enough for the hard work you both do. I would honestly love to have teachers like you for my children when they get to school. Because I would be confident that they would not only learn necessities but also grow as human beings.

    Thank you again,


    1. Hi Danielle! Thank you so much for taking the time to introduce yourself. We’re thrilled to welcome another early childhood educator to Playdough to Plato and love knowing that the activities are helpful to you. Your students are incredibly lucky to have you!!



  5. Hi Malia- My name is Jo-Anne and teaching is my second career. I have been teaching in a large urban system since 2002 and have taught 2nd, Pre-K, 4th, K, 1st, and hopefully will be teaching Pre-K again next year. I have 3 college-aged and one who is already a teacher on her own. I love working with the young children, and love ideas that I have seen on your blog. I plan to work over the summer to plan out my lessons. I want to make them fun, creative, hands on, and developmentally appropriate.
    Thank you for sharing your great ideas!

  6. Thank you for the vet printables. I too am allergic to animals but have a daughter that is dog crazy. I must say at first I wondered if you homeschool when I because where being inventive and excited about seeing your childrens light bulbs going off. I do homeschool and was once an art teacher and art therapist. It is great you have such love for what you do.
    Good Luck

    1. I’m excited to hear that the vet printables will come in handy, Joy!! Thanks for saying “hello”.

  7. Hi Ladies,
    I am a 30-something mama, to a smart and handsome 5 year old boy. This year we started our home school pre-k. We were just getting our feet wet with the home schooling. I came across your blog and instantly loved the games and activities I was seeing for teaching. I immediately subscribed to your email! I am looking forward to trying out the games and incorporating some fun into our school work. Thank you for sharing your gift with us! Clearly you are blessed with an amazing talent!
    ~ Danielle

    1. Hi Danielle,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to introduce yourself. Your son is lucky to have such a hands-on, involved mom.

      I’m thrilled that Playdough to Plato’s activities have been useful! Please let us know if you ever need help brainstorming ways to teach a specific skill. We always love helping our homeschooling mamas. 🙂

      Talk to you soon,


  8. Hello everyone. I am a mama to two awesome sons one just graduated from Cal Poly Univ. with his BS in business and marketing which comes in handy for me advertising my preschool, lol. My other is still in college studying to be a Early Educator. Married for 26 years to my soul mate. I own and operate a Pre-K/Daycare facility in sunny Cali.. I have been teaching now for 25 years. I was so excited to find your site. I have been in such a rut the last year. You have just rejuvenated My brain and gave me the kick start I so needed. Can’t wait to implement so many of your ideas into my new program. You are a true blessing. I attached my link to my website but it is still in the works no words yet. Should be fully finished by the end of july. Thank you. God Bless.

  9. Hi Malia!
    I am a mama to a beautiful and smart almost-4-yr-old, and am excited to make more use of your site! It looks like a great way to teach young ones in a fun and “non-school” kinda way 🙂 Just what my daughter would gravitate toward, as I’ve tried teaching her things in a more structured way at one point and she totally didn’t take to it, whereas learning through play and hands-on activities do wonderful things for children! Thank you for sharing your love for teaching and creativity with the rest of us! 🙂

    1. Hi Tara!! I’m so excited to read that Playdough to Plato’s activities will be a hit with your daughter. Thank you for taking the time to introduce yourself and please let me know if any questions ever pop up along the way. 🙂

  10. Hello, i am a dutch mother with 2 kids. Resantly i lost my daughter. She was only 20 years old. I am a teatcher and my children in the class are 4, 5, 6 years old. Sorry, my english isn’t so good.
    I like your site. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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