Friday, May 25, 2012

Clean Up! - The Art of Getting Preschoolers to Put Their Things Away

Clean up!  It sounds like a simple request.  In an average preschool class, one or two children will be champions at cleaning up.  They like things in order and enjoy putting items in their place.  The rest of the class is usually not so inclined.  When they are asked to clean up, they walk in circles for a few minutes and then go back to playing with toys rather than putting them in their place.  You can observe the same behavior at home.  If you are lucky, one of your children likes to put things away while the others seem to be ignoring your request or, at the very least, procrastinating until they are threatened with punitive damages.  There are cute songs about cleaning up.  There are books, poems and TV show sketches.  Preschool age children usually like to please people; yet, when you ask children to clean up it seems as if you weren’t speaking aloud. 

What is it about those two words that seem so impossible to a preschooler?  The problem is that those two words represent an abstract command of at least five steps.  When you ask young children to clean up, you are asking them to:
  1. Go get something on the floor.
  2. Remember where that item belongs.
  3. Put the item where it belongs.
  4. Come back.
  5. Get another item and repeat.
It is developmentally appropriate for a 4-5 year old to be able to follow a 3 step direction that is given in concrete detail.  It is not realistic to expect any preschooler to remember the many steps involved in the request to clean up and to be able to execute them all without being reminded what comes next.  If you want preschool children to successfully clean up, you need to break the activity down into its individual tasks.  The next time you want your child to clean up, ask your child to:

1.    Pick up a specific item (Say “Please pick up the yellow lego.”)   
2.    Only after the child has picked up the item, ask where it goes (Say “Where does that belong? Where should we put it to keep it safe?”).  Most children will tell you or point to the correct storage place.  If not, show the child where the item should be put.
3.    Only after the child identifies the correct storage place, ask that the item be put there (Say “Put the lego in the drawer.”)
4.    When that step is complete, ask the child to come back and pick up another item that you specify
When teaching a class full of preschoolers, you can use the same method by inviting each child to pick up an item and put it away.  After those two steps are complete, you will need to ask each child to pick up another item and put it away.  You will need to use this method of specifying individual tasks many times before the words “clean up” come to mean the group of actions in the correct order.  Remember to only ask that your child follow the directions for cleaning up without offering what will happen after clean up is complete.  When you tell children that they will be able to go outside after cleaning up, for example, they will want to do what is more important to them – going out.  They will not be patient with the adults’ need to put things in their place.

Remembering that commands consisting of multiple tasks are too complex for a preschooler to execute successfully can help to alleviate frustration in many situations.  Think about how many steps are involved in the request to get dressed or get ready for bed.  Break down these requests into their individual parts to experience far more success with your preschoolers.  Be sure to remember to congratulate them when they do as you ask in a simplified and age appropriate manner.

Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Let Kids Be Kids – Put Down the Tablet, Appt Book and Pre-K Workbooks

Ryan has about 5 more minutes before he has to turn off hisiPad, get in the car and go to his acting class.  After acting class, he will tackle thatworkbook page and get ready for dinner.  Thissounds like a typical day for a teenager in 2012.  Sadly, it is also a typical day for many 3-5year olds.

We have forgotten. That must be the reason that so many young children spend their dayswith an adult’s schedule.  We have beendistracted by product marketing and standardized test makers.  We are ignoring what children need in orderto learn.  We have reprioritized to apoint where children are expected to perform more than pretend.  We have given into a society that says thedefinition of successful parenting is pushing children beyond their developmentalstage because everyone needs to be the absolute best at literallyeverything.  We have forgotten and it issad.

Technology – tablets, laptops, smart phones – are theproducts of creative, critical thinkers but they do not develop that sort ofthinking.   Applications are beingmarketed to parents and educators as tools that ensure more success inpreschool by encouraging children to read and write at a very young age.  The publishers of workbooks try to tell usthat they can do the same.  We cannotopen a child’s head and put knowledge in it. Early childhood learners need to construct their own knowledge.  Jean Piaget, the cognitive theorist behindmany of today’s accepted practices regarding child development, taught that ifyou teach a child something before they are ready to learn it, you deprive themof the opportunity to learn it completely. Babies cannot read but they can point to the picture that makes youreact.  They enjoy when you smile or clap– it is entertaining.  Preschoolers willwrite and read successfully when they are ready to do so.  Understanding the symbolism of letters canonly take place when a child is ready to understand that one thing can standfor another – a letter can stand for a sound. Copying letters and imitating an adult’s pencil movements aremeaningless until the child is ready for them to have meaning.  Preschoolers are egocentric and only careabout what matters to them.  When itmatters, they will do it more easily and with more depth of understanding.  It is a wonderful thing when you exposechildren to language arts skills and they suddenly grasp it.  They were ready.  Until then, keep in mind that children needto engage all of their senses to integrate concepts.  Write letters with them in shaving cream orsand or finger paint.  Read to them sothey can see your finger move along the page with each word and your lips moveto form the sounds.  To a preschooler,tablets, laptops and smart phones are toys and should be treated as such.

The use of many technological items is a solitaryactivity.  One person can use themouse.  One person can use thetouchscreen.  Have you ever reallywatched children sit together at a computer? They are fixated on the screen. They are sitting together, each fixated individually on the movement,colors and music coming from the monitor. Socialization, something that should be a primary goal of any preschoolprogram, can only come from social interaction. Children need to speak to each other, not a computer program.  They need to learn about things thattechnology simply cannot teach them – caring, sharing and finding their placein a larger group.

Children need time to explore their world on theirterms.  Schedules that include lessonafter lesson do not allow them to experiment and learn by satisfying their curiosity.  Lessons and sports are adult driven activities.  Adults decide what the children will do.  Adults cheer them on and encourage theirsuccess.  Team building, instructiveactivities have their place.  I doremember taking dance lessons as a young girl but I remember far more timespent sitting in the grass exploring nature, playing with my friends at theirhomes and riding bikes in my neighborhood. I remember my parents telling me to go play and indulging me when Iwanted them to participate in some pretend activity.  My fondest memories are not in the car goingfrom one adult driven thing to another but in the yard with my family andfriends.  It was okay that I went todance class but my neighbor did not. Everyone didn’t need to be doing everything.  We grew up, learned to read, went to collegeand have families of our own now.

We have forgotten.  Ihope you join me in a quest to remember.

Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Telling Time – A Preschooler’s Point of View

Have you ever told an upset preschooler that mommy will be back soon and noticed that this information isn’t calming the child?  Have you tried desperately to get something done and told your preschoolers that you will play with them in one hour just have them come back to you every five minutes?  Does your preschooler claim to have done one activity all day when they obviously did more than that? These scenes occur in most households because adults tend to forget that preschoolers cannot relate to the concept of time.

Time is an abstract concept and 3 & 4 year olds are concrete thinkers.   Preschoolers measure their days by relatable routines.  They find comfort in the expected.  In preschool, classes are much calmer when there is a routine that children can depend upon.  They learn very quickly, for example, that their preschool day will consist of circle time, center time, story time, snack time, playground and dismissal in that order.  The average 3 & 4 year old begins to develop an understanding of the words before and after.  A teacher comforting an upset child might say, “You will see Mommy after we have snack and play outside.”  The upset child can relate to each of those activities and use them as a sort of checklist that will lead to a reunion with Mommy.  For that reason, many teachers will hang pictures of their daily routine to provide students with a concrete, visual representation of the time between arrival and departure. 

Routines at home also help children to measure their days.  Children learn very quickly that the evening routine is dinner, bath, story and bed.   When your children ask how long until bedtime, you can recite the bedtime routine to help them understand what will be accomplished before you tuck them in.  The actual time spent on each activity can vary.  Other activities can even be added to the basic routine.  It is the sequence of the main activities that need to be consistent.  Remembering that preschoolers at approximately age 3 & 4 years old begin to understand the words before and after, you can add “play with Daddy” between dinner and bath.  Tell your preschooler that the bath will take place after playing with Daddy.  Knowing what to expect is the key for preschoolers.

A simple understanding of order is not sufficient for a child to understand the calendar.  Studies show that it takes approximately 150 hours to teach calendar to a 4 year old and approximately 5 minutes to teach calendar to an 8 year old.  Calendars can be used effectively to practice number recognition or even as a tool to learn that numbers and days occur in a predictable order.  Most early learners cannot understand the words today, tomorrow and yesterday.  Memorized songs that include the days of the week are just that – memorized songs. 

Children in this age group often report that they did one or two things all day.  Preschoolers are egocentric.  They remember only things that are important to them. Adults tend to think that because their children are young, their memories will be at their peak.  Preschoolers actually have trouble remembering.  Memory improves during their progression through the elementary school years as they become less egocentric.   Parents often get frustrated when their children will not recite every event of the day.  They will only recite events that were meaningful to them.  If your child says, “We did art all day” it really means “Art was important to me today.”  If your child recites a list of activities, you learn that many parts of the day were important to your child.  It doesn’t matter how many activities made the “Important to Me” list.  Whether it is one activity or five activities, the preschooler’s selective memory gives to a window into what made the biggest impression on your child.

Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.