Tag Archives: daily schedule

Let Children Stop and Smell the Roses

Let the children play!Over the years I have observed in dozens of preschool classrooms, and there is a recurring theme that seems to appear in each room at some point: rushing the children. To start a task, to finish a task, to think about a task, you name it and they are told to do it quickly. We as teachers are natural planners, and as you know, planners have schedules and schedules are meant to be followed. So if there are 20 minutes set aside for circle time, as we watch the clock for 9:50, we are ready to rush the end of the story, ask the children to stop in mid-thought or sentence, and move along to the center time. As children are dismissed to go to the various interest centers, they are told to move along, they must not stop to play with toys, dance on their way to the table, or pause to admire a friend’s sparkly new shirt. As an observer, I have seen children working so diligently on a project only to be told, “That’s enough; you need to finish up.”

Children are naturally curious. So much of their learning comes from hands-on exploration and investigation. There is value in a preschool child taking more time at the art table to create a rocket ship than the 20 minutes the teacher has set aside. If we give children time to analyze, problem solve, brainstorm, and compare and classify, they will become independent critical thinkers. Granted, there is not always unlimited time, but allowing children to be creative, appreciate the details, and be active problem solvers takes time.

  • If you are doing a cooking activity and the children want to crack the eggs and stir the batter and you have the urge to do it so it gets done faster, resist the urge. Let the children teach you to slow down and live in the moment.
  • When you are walking outside and a child holds up the line as he kneels down to look at an earthworm, try to encourage his curiosity instead of extinguishing it.
  • If you ask a child to get an instrument out of the music box and he stops to shake, play and strum each one he picks up until he finds it, try to stop and listen to the music. He is learning about the world around him and all the possibilities.

We tend to say children are “distracted” when they stop to notice 10 different things while on the way to complete a task. Perhaps they are not distracted, but engaged in life and appreciating the details. Maybe we as teachers can benefit from small distractions as well.

We teach our children that if we don’t hurry up we are going to miss the next thing on the agenda. I truly believe that in the process of being rushed we are missing so much more. Next time you wait patiently while a preschooler puts on a feather boa, cowboy boots, two crowns, three necklaces and the perfect purse, try to remember how many times they have waited patiently for us. If we let our children stop to smell the roses, chances are we will learn to do the same.

Slow down!

It's okay if your day doesn't stay exactly on-schedule!

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?