In my years in the field, I have been in calm and relaxing classrooms where the noise level was just right and the children and child care providers seemed happy. I have also been in classrooms where it was very loud and the children were very active, and neither the child nor the provider seemed content. In most situations, it wasn’t the children causing the chaos, but the environment.
To have a peaceful classroom, there must be structure and predictability. Children will do better and be more successful in the classroom if they know what will happen. Keep in mind that some disruptions from the daily schedule are appropriate when they are lead by children’s interests, like going outside after the first snow fall of winter or listening to a parent visitor who has come to sing songs.
Try to keep a balance of “active” activities and “non-active” activities when you’re planning your day. If you take the children outside to play and then bring them in and expect that they’ll be ready for a nap, they will have a hard time calming their bodies. In this situation, you should have a “cool-down” activity such as reading books or doing yoga. Transitions can also be a time where children become restless so plan for those times, too. Talk or sing with children and limit the “waiting time” as much as possible.
Never underestimate the importance of free-choice! Children love to explore at their own pace and decide what to do next. Some programs I’ve visited implement a “center management” system that helps children remember how many children are allowed at each center at a time, which also reduces volume level and stress! Put up signs that indicate the amount of children allowed in each center with large polka dots. It will be easier for you, and for them, to keep track.
Keep your voice and body low when speaking with children. This not only helps to keep the room calm, but also helps to keep your conversations with the children private, especially when they need a little redirection. Remember also that too many displays on the walls can cause over-stimulation, especially for those with sensory issues. Even the color of the walls can affect a child’s stress level!
Sometimes life happens and we don’t have as much control as we’d like in our classrooms. However, these guidelines will set you up for success and a better chance of having a calm classroom where children are best able to learn.