Secrets of Preschool Teachers
We’ve all been there. It’s time to leave the playground and your toddler is pleading, whining and crying for just one more trip down the slide. You’re struggling to reign in one moody child, but somehow her preschool teacher has 10 kids on their toes marching in from recess without one whine. How does she do it? What’s her secret?
Teachers develop all kinds of tricks to help young kids learn and keep their classrooms in working order. Don’t feel bad, after all, daycare and preschool teachers have year after year of experience working with this challenging age group. All of that experience can lead to some pretty good advice for parents:
Secret #1: Say it and mean it.
So, what’s really the cause of your little one’s playground blues? Why does she listen to her teacher when it’s time to go, but always tells you “no”? The explanation is simple enough. The majority of teachers say it’s because they mean it. When your child’s teacher says it’s time to go, she means it. Teachers don’t give in to pleas and whines and they follow through with what they say. The best advice to make goodbyes easier is to give warnings. Giving a few gentle but firm warnings starting five minutes before it’s time to leave, and then definitively announcing it’s time to go won’t take your child by surprise. If there is still a fight, scoop him up without hesitation and leave. That way, your child will know that you’re serious.
Secret #2: Use praise, not treats.
Teachers can’t give treats to every child in their class. That’s one reason you hardly ever hear your child’s teacher promising a lollipop or toy in return for good behavior. Preschool teachers say that praise works just as well and sometimes even better. Kids this age love attention. It means just as much to them to receive applause or feel accomplishment as it does to receive material things. One trick to try is using a stopwatch to time them. Letting your child race against herself helps her hurry and feel the achievement of a job well done. You can write down the time it takes to pick up her toys or get ready for bed. She can compare her speed on different days, and maybe even push to best her best time.
Secret #3: Routine is critical for easy naps.
It may seem amazing that your child manages to nap with a bunch of other kids in the room when you can’t get a short snooze out of her in her own comfy bed, but preschools have an advantage over home. At school, your child is with a group of other children who are doing the same thing, so it’s just easier to go with the flow. While you can’t import 10 other toddlers to nap with your child every day, preschool teachers do have some suggestions. Create a routine: the same time, the same music, the same bed, and the same expectation: quiet or sleep. Cut down on distractions. You can also try running a fan or noise machine to block out background sounds.
Secret #4: Taking turns doesn’t have to be traumatic.
As an adult, you know you have to wait in line sometimes, and you’re comfortable with it as long as no one cuts in front of you. Kids have the same expectation of fairness, say teachers. Most will share and take turns as long as the system is fair. When two children are arguing over one object, talk about how fighting won’t fix the problem but will only make them cry and feel angry. Give each child a chance to tell his or her story, and then get them to agree that in the future they will ask nicely for the toy and relinquish it when they are finished with it. If this approach doesn’t work, you may have to formalize the sharing process. Give the child waiting for a toy (as well as the one already playing with it) an accurate measure of how long until it’s her turn, rather than saying wait until “later” or that she’ll get her turn “in a little while.”
Secret #5: Play may be all the education your preschooler needs.
Even if you decide to push some academics at home, the focus should be on learning through play. It’s easy to use letters and numbers in projects and games, but you have to make sure your child still knows that it’s a game, not a test.
Remember, one of the reasons your child can enjoy herself so much at school is because she has her own secret weapon: an amazing parent like you.