More than ever I find that it is important to slow down not only in my personal life, but especially when working with young children. During my time in the classroom, I realized that the clock should have less bearing on the children’s day. This actually helped my day to go much smoother. I learned that consistency did not mean that things had to happen at the same time every day but that it was more about the order in which they occurred. Sometimes it was appropriate to skip typical events like a small group activity to allow freeplay to continue. It was okay if it took 15 minutes to get coats on to go outside if children wanted to do it on their own; even if it meant we would lose 15 minutes of our playground time. And it was okay if a diaper change had to wait two to three minutes because a child needed my help to calm down and feel better. Learning how to allow myself to let this happen naturally was difficult but I knew it was the right thing to do.
Lately, I have found myself giving teachers that I work with “permission” to adjust their plans for the day. Here are some opportunities that frequently pop up in early childhood classrooms that might allow some wiggle room to slow down:
- Read a book for the second, third or fourth time if the children ask. This can be more beneficial than stopping in order to do music and movement just because it is 10:15 a.m.
- Slow down to listen to what children have to say and have a conversation while they are building with blocks or playing in dramatic play. This is more precious than hurrying to clean up because it is time for lunch.
- Allow children to choose a book or two for them to look at to help them ease into nap. Taking turns reading to children can also help with a smooth transition to nap. Refrain from the expectation of laying down right away.
- When it is time to get ready for lunch, allow children to play up until it is time for them to wash their hands rather than having them stand in a line. Prepare the children for the transition by letting them know you are starting the process and again when it is time to clean up their work because they will be next to wash their hands.
The next time you go to get out the activity that you planned for Wednesday at 9:45 a.m., slow down, watch the children, tell them what your plans are and wait for a response. What do they tell you?