Module 2: Working as an EYFS Teacher
The Role of the Early Years Teacher
Early Years Teachers are graduate leaders specialising in early childhood development, trained to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage for children from birth to five years of age. The significant role of the Early Years Teacher brings in-depth knowledge, skills and experience which are all-powerful contributory factors to improving outcomes for children.
Giant Leap Childcare and Learning Centre benefits’ from employing a trained graduate who adds value to the nursery team as she shares her leadership, skills and expertise whilst at the same time bringing in fresh and innovative ideas. Being an Early Years Teacher involves reflecting on current practice and re-thinking ways of doing things to improve procedures which in turn ensures we are always offering the best possible service to our children and families.
Young children’s brains are like sponges, absorbing knowledge and making new connections faster than any other time in life. We have got to challenge the misconception that learning can wait for school; pre-school years are a critical time for the brain to develop key skills such as speech and language. Understandably at Giant Leap we consider having an Early Years Teacher on board our team as an absolute essential to support and inspire team members, act as a fantastic role model and monitor the teaching and learning we offer all our children from birth to five years as well as the impact our teaching has on each individual child’s development.
Additionally, having an Early Years Teacher in our setting also helps considerably with children’s transitions from nursery to school. Training involves a school placement; as a result, our Early Years Teacher has direct experience of how a school works and how children can be best supported to make this important educational transition from Giant Leap to school.
An early-childhood teacher works with students who are between 3 and 5 years old. In general, she engages children in a variety of activities that are developmentally appropriate and looks out for each child’s wellbeing. However, the early childhood teacher has many other duties that she must fulfil to be successful in her role.
Develop Schedules and Enforce Routines
Young children need to follow a strict schedule that includes daily routines, such as going to the restroom, washing hands, eating lunch and snack, and participating in reading, math, science and music activities. Daily routines and activities keep the children occupied and productive and help them learn to function in a structured environment. In addition, an early-childhood teacher must develop a schedule that also allows for rest time and unstructured outside play.
Maintain a Safe and Comfortable Environment
An early-childhood teacher inspects the children’s environment to ensure the safety of equipment and materials. She removes or repairs any items that pose a threat to the children. She also fosters a safe and comfortable environment through clear, positive and encouraging words and actions to help the children feel comfortable and confident within their surroundings.
Provide Age-Appropriate Supervision and Discipline
Diligently supervising students in the classroom, during snacks and lunch, on the playground and during field trips, is another duty of an early-childhood teacher. If she needs to leave — even momentarily — she must find another responsible employee to watch the children. When children misbehave or otherwise break the rules, she disciplines the children in a firm but fairway. The teacher never resorts to any form of physical, verbal or emotional abuse as a method of discipline.
Plan and Implement Lessons
An early-childhood teacher recognises that the 3- to 5-year-old child’s learning occurs through both play and structured experiences that help develop the children’s language, motor and social skills. She plans lessons that allow for teacher-initiated and child-initiated exploration. The teacher works with groups of children or one-on-one, depending on the type of lesson and the learners’ needs.
Observe and Communicate
Observing the children’s behaviour and making notes is important so an early-childhood teacher can assess the progress of her students’ development. She communicates her observations to the children’s parents at regular intervals. If she becomes concerned about a child, she communicates with the parent immediately.
Address Cultural or Special Needs
Early-childhood teachers must strive to address cultural or special needs — emotional, physical or educational — of the children they teach. For example, if a child has a food allergy, the teacher must be aware of the content of the food the child is offered or is eating. Additionally, if a child belongs to a culture or religion that doesn’t allow her to celebrate certain holidays, the teacher must respect the child’s background and arrange for an alternative activity for the child.
Working with Young Children
- Working with Young Children (UK)
Babies and young children are powerful learners, reaching out into the world and making sense of their experiences with other people, objects and events. As they explore and learn, children are naturally drawn to play. Play is recognised as so important to their well-being and development that the right to play is set down in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), and play is a fundamental commitment within the Early Years Foundation Stage.
How play and learning are related, however, is not as straightforward as it may seem at first glance. There is a significant body of knowledge showing that many forms of play help children to learn and to become confident learners for the future. Research also shows that a skilled adult who interacts with children in particular ways to enhance their learning is a crucial ingredient in children making good progress.
It may not always be clear how these two elements work together – how play sits at the centre of Early Years provision, and how it relates to the role of the skilful practitioner. Many questions and uncertainties arise as practitioners consider the best approaches to play and learning for young children.
Thinking about Pedagogy
Being an effective adult in helping children to learn involves being both skillful and thoughtful. Many Early Years practitioners shy away from using the word ‘teaching’ to describe their work with children, perhaps because of the perception that teaching implies a particular ‘top-down’ or formal way of working with children. In fact, teaching is much broader and more subtle than that and covers the many different ways in which adults help children to learn. The more we are aware of our practices – what we do, why we do it, its impact on children and their learning – and the more we reflect, learn and develop our practice, the more effective we will be. This is developing our pedagogy.
Pedagogy is the understanding of how children learn and develop, and the practices through which we can enhance that process. It is rooted in values and beliefs about what we want for children and supported by knowledge, theory and experience.
Pedagogy covers many things that practitioners believe and know, and all the interactions they have with children, families and caregivers. The themes and commitments of the EYFS provide guidance across broad elements of pedagogy, including child development, working in partnership with parents, the importance of relationships, understanding the areas of learning, play, and establishing secure emotional and challenging physical environments.
Playful Approaches and Successful Outcomes
For babies and very young children, few would question the central role of play and exploration within close, respectful relationships to support early development. At these youngest stages throughout all activities – from changing nappies to walking to the shops – practitioners should also focus on their crucial role in interacting sensitively and skilfully to support and enhance learning.
Practitioners with children of nursery and reception age sometimes feel uncertain about providing an appropriate combination of child-initiated and adult-led activities, and balancing open-ended play and exploration and direct teaching in adult-led activities. The EYFS and the Early Learning Goals (ELGs), however, provide sufficient flexibility for practitioners to follow children’s interests, respond to their ideas for developing play activities, and provide structured activities (which can also be playful) to teach specific knowledge and skills.
Research on successful outcomes of Early Years provision – both in the short term and for later success in school and as adults – has pointed to some general guidelines. The best outcomes for children’s learning occur where most of the activity within a child’s day is a mixture of:
- child-initiated play, actively supported by adults
- focused learning, with adults guiding the learning through playful, rich experiential activities.
At one end, too little adult support can limit learning. While play without adults can be rich and purposeful, at times it can become a chaotic or repetitive activity which is ‘hands-on, brains-off’. At the other end of the scale, too much tightly directed activity deprives children of the opportunity to engage actively with learning. Effective Early Years practitioners will organise the time, space and activities in the daily routine to reflect the overall combination which best supports children’s well-being and learning.
As part of this general emphasis on combining child-initiated play and playful adult-led opportunities, confident and reflective practitioners will select the approach that is best for the developmental stage of the children, and for individuals and groups. For example, within a whole day, it may be that a period of free play without adult involvement meets a child’s need for space, independence and relaxation. This may apply particularly in an out-of-school club, for example, or for children attending settings for full days. On the other hand, short sessions of carefully planned, a structured activity can be useful in teaching specific skills, for example benefiting children with identified special educational needs, building vocabulary for children learning English as an additional language or demonstrating how to use tools or equipment.
How Children Learn
Knowing how children learn and develop is the bedrock of professional knowledge for confident Early Years practitioners, and supports them in making decisions about provision, practice and adults’ roles, which are then adjusted in the light of understanding specific children in the setting.
Messages from brain research
Neuroscientists study how the human brain develops and functions, and how human minds are formed. Their research shows that children are highly motivated, intelligent learners, who actively seek interactions with the people around them – from the earliest gaze of infants towards their caregivers, to the confident child who asks ‘Will you come and play with me?’ Children have ‘built-in’ exploratory tendencies, and engage all their senses to investigate and master tools and resources, to develop their skills, and to build their knowledge and understanding of the world. The freedom to combine resources in many different ways may be especially important for flexible cognitive development, by enabling children to build pathways for thinking and learning, and to make connections across areas of experience.
Theories of learning and development agree with these perspectives from brain research. Learning is both individual and social. Young children are not passive learners – they enjoy participating in ‘hands-on’ and ‘brains-on’ activities. They actively drive their own learning and development, by the choices they make, the interests they develop, the questions they ask, the knowledge they seek, and their motivation to act more competently. Children’s choices and interests are the driving force for building knowledge, skills and understanding: by working and playing with other people, they are constantly learning about themselves and their social and cultural worlds. Children build positive identities through collaborative, caring relationships with other people, by managing and taking risks, ‘having a go’, experiencing success, developing resilience, and developing ‘mastery’ or ‘can-do’ attitudes. High-quality provision helps children to develop positive dispositions which lay the foundations for becoming lifelong successful learners.
Practitioners have a key role in building the right conditions for learning. Firstly and fundamentally, adults ensure that children feel known and valued as individuals, safe and cared for. Their own rate of development is respected so that children are not rushed but are supported in ways that are right for each child. Children’s time must be managed so that they have the opportunity to become deeply involved in their activities and to follow their ideas through, including returning later to continue their explorations or creative expressions. Adults manage the pace of activities, planning varied and interesting new experiences to stimulate learning alongside opportunities for children to revisit, practise or enjoy a sense of mastery. With this groundwork in place, it is then the adult’s skilled interactions which will move to learn forward.
Practitioners build conditions for learning across the EYFS themes
Learning and teaching through play
Learning through play is one of the key principles of Early Years education, which is supported by a wealth of research. Play and playfulness are shared across all cultural groups, but with some variations according to the beliefs and customs that influence child-rearing practices. Family members and caregivers typically play with their children, and they devote a great deal of time to helping children to learn by teaching them:
- how to play, through structured games such as peek-a-boo, and open-ended activities such as sand and water play;
- how to pretend, by being imaginative, acting different roles, making one thing stand for something else;
- how to be playful, by demonstrating playful ways of interacting with others through humour, gentle teasing, jokes, mimicry, riddles and rhymes, singing and chanting, clapping games, and using materials and resources in imaginative ways.
In high-quality Early Years settings, children have opportunities to play as well as to experience a wide variety of adult-led and child-initiated activities. Practitioners build on children’s home-based knowledge and experiences and provide opportunities for progression, extension and challenge. These activities can also successfully build on the child’s innate joy in play.
Ideas of play, child-initiated and adult-led activities overlap and it is useful to be clear about what is meant by these terms, how they can work together to support learning, and the adult’s role in each.
Play is freely chosen by the child and is under the control of the child. The child decides how to play, how long to sustain the play, what the play is about, and who to play with. There are many forms of play, but it is usually highly creative, open-ended and imaginative. It requires the active engagement of the players and can be deeply satisfying.
Play engages children’s bodies, minds and emotions. In playing children can learn to interact with others and be part of a community, to experience and manage feelings, and to be in control and confident about themselves and their abilities.
There are many forms of play that support the EYFS areas of learning and development. Construction play, for example, involves spatial and mathematical knowledge, problem-solving and reasoning. Exploratory play with natural and man-made resources builds knowledge and understanding of materials and their properties and develops manipulative skills. Learning across all areas of the EYFS can be seen by practitioners who observe children’s play.
As children develop as players, the ability to pretend has special significance for children as learners. When a small child begins to pretend that one object stands for something else – such as a toy cow ‘eating’ the toy bricks – a key ability is being formed. The child is beginning to understand the idea of symbols, which eventually leads to being able to think in abstract ways. In time the child will be able to use words and images (marks, drawings, and symbols) to express ideas, predict or solve problems, instead of having always to rely on trial and error with physical objects. This supports the child’s development as a flexible, creative thinker.
Role-play involves the next development of this imaginative play, where a child is able to ‘become’ someone or something else. In taking on a role a child sees how it feels to have another point of view, and learns that the world looks different to different people. This brings the realisation that we all think, including the child, and this awareness of being a thinker and a learner is one of the strongest supports for successful learning. Children become more aware of their own mind, and that they can think of different strategies to try when faced with a task or a problem.
Practitioners cannot plan children’s play, because this would work against the choice and control that are central features of the play. Practitioners can and should plan for children’s play, however, by creating high-quality learning environments, and ensuring uninterrupted periods for children to develop their play.
Working with Young Children
When deciding if early childhood education is the right career choice for you, the first and most important question to ask yourself is: Do I like working with children? If you can’t answer yes, then this career may not be best for you. Working with children requires patience, dedication and sensitivity. Trying to keep up with them can be exhausting, but if you’re up to the challenge, it can also be extremely rewarding.
Young children are not like other students. Their needs are unique, and you must be aware of this. It is important to understand that you could be one of the first adults a young child has interacted with outside of his or her own family. The separation from their parents, in the beginning, can be difficult, and a teacher must help them through this transition. A child can become very attached to you as a “substitute” for their parents, or they may shun you completely. Great teachers are adaptable to the emotional reactions of their students. And when it comes to your students’ interactions with other children, this can be one of the first times they interact with children their age. A teacher’s role often becomes that of mediator when children have problems sharing or learning how to get along.
Furthermore, teachers in early education need to be creative and adaptive. They must think outside their own mature perspective and be able to place themselves in their students’ shoes. What motivates a very young child? How do you hold a toddler’s interest? How do you make learning fun? These are all questions you will have to ask yourself. Lessons in early education classrooms are very hands-on. They involve arts and crafts, storytelling, exercise, educational games and more. You need to be fast on your feet and highly adaptable to continuously come up with new ways to guide children through their early learning stages.
How Can I Become an Early Childhood Educator?
As an aspiring early education teacher, you need to have the right temperament. Patience, creativity, sensitivity, communication skills and ability to connect with children are arguably some of the most important qualifications. However, you’re also expected to have the proper schooling and credentials, and each state sets its own standards for what they expect from certified teachers. Before beginning your path to becoming an early childhood educator, you should find out what the requirements are for your state or school where you want to teach.
Because teaching young children is such a highly specialised field, some schools require a degree in early childhood education or child development. Many preschools set their minimum requirement at an associate degree, and most Montessori schools require a bachelor’s degree. Having a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education will generally qualify you to teach through the third grade. Of course, having an advanced degree such as a master’s degree in education or teaching in this field only improves your abilities, job prospects and opportunities for career advancement.
Where Can I Teach?
Preschool is not a daycare, contrary to some general misconceptions. Whereas daycare is often childcare without an emphasis on learning, preschool is a child’s first formal learning environment. Preschool focuses on cognitive and social development by stimulating a child’s curiosity and imagination. Children learn through sharing toys, taking turns, and interacting with their teachers and each other. The classrooms themselves are very lively, brightly decorated with posters of the alphabet, maps, number tables and student artwork. Classrooms must be interactive and stimulating to foster an exciting learning environment. Teacher-student ratios are also closely monitored to ensure close interactions, and class sizes are kept relatively small.
- Montessori Schools
Montessori schools are institutions centred around the Montessori method of learning. This method, founded by Dr Maria Montessori over a hundred years ago, emphasises the curiosity, creativeness and self-motivation of the child and stresses independence. This “child-centred” approach to education differs from traditional methods in several major ways. Perhaps the most notable feature of Montessori schools in the classroom itself, where multiple age groups learn within one environment. Children in Montessori classrooms range from ages two and up, with no distinction in education levels. Thus, an eight-year-old learns side-by-side with a three-year-old to simulate a real-life social environment and promote peer learning. Younger children learn from the older ones, while the older children are able to practice teaching things they already know.
Montessori classrooms are also designed to foster independence and exploratory learning. In these classrooms, students are given the freedom to choose what to learn and to set their own pace. The classrooms have multiple interactive spaces, each dedicated to a different academic area, such as language arts, math and science. Children are encouraged to explore these areas in the order that most interest them, and they often end up working closely with other students to explore these areas together. Despite the autonomy, teachers in Montessori schools are by no means passive or uninvolved. Rather, the teachers work alongside students, guiding them through their exploration of the classroom, answering questions and facilitating group work. They are highly involved in this self-motivated learning process.
Kindergarten is usually seen as the beginning of formal education, and it is fully integrated into the elementary school system. Kindergarten is public education and subject to state law (therefore, kindergarten teachers must be properly licensed and certified), though it is not mandatory in every state. Children enter kindergarten during ages five to six, and many states do not begin mandating education until age seven. However, whether it is mandatory or not, it is still highly encouraged. Though kindergarten is more formal, it still qualifies as early childhood education because students are under eight years old. They are still developing at a rapid pace, and kindergarten is important in easing their transition into elementary school.
Kindergarten focuses heavily on social development and peer-to-peer interactions, though there is greater emphasis on fundamental academics than there is in preschool. In preschool, children learn how to count, but in kindergarten, they begin learning about adding and subtracting. They learned colours, and now learn how to blend those colours to make new ones. And whereas in preschool they learned the alphabet, kindergarten teaches them how to spell and string basic words into simple sentences. Basically, kindergarten lays the groundwork for their formal education by introducing new concepts that develop into the different academic subjects they will learn throughout the rest of their educational career.
- Early Learning
During the first few years of life, a child learns a lot about themselves and the world around them, and parents are their first teachers. Parents teach them how to speak, how to walk, how to feed themselves. They teach them the alphabet, shapes and colours, and even how to count and spell very simple words. But for healthy development, children need active stimulation and interaction with others. This is where early childhood education is the most beneficial. It is in these classrooms where children apply what their parents have taught them to a practical setting and have their first interactions with people outside of their family. Beginning with children as young as two, teachers guide them through an important transition and oversee their adjustment. Early childhood education focuses on “learning through play” by providing a hands-on, interactive atmosphere where children learn about themselves through playing with other children. As a teacher of young children, you become somewhat of a surrogate parent, their first source of guidance in playing with others and forming friendships. You teach them how to share, how to take turns, how to have manners–lessons that stay with them and evolve with each crucial phase of their life.
Children this young also have more physical demands than older students. Many preschools incorporate a nap time into their schedule or are on half-day schedules to accommodate a child’s exhaustion after a long morning of playing and learning. Snack time is also built into these schedules, which serve as a great opportunity to teach your students table manners. Teaching young children requires nothing short of complete devotion and perseverance. It can be a daunting task, but to a truly committed teacher, it is worth the effort.
Teaching Kids Life Skills at an Early Age
Life skills are valuable lessons kids will use throughout their lifetime. But most kids don’t learn how to handle real-world situations until they’re in high school. Don’t wait until your kids are teens to teach them life skills. Get a jump start on teaching practical lessons to your children right now, starting with decision making and then building on each life skill lesson as your children grow.
Making good decisions is a life skill every child should begin learning at a young age. Begin with basic decisions like chocolate versus vanilla ice cream, blue socks or white socks, playing trains or playing cars. When kids reach elementary school age they can begin learning about the rewards of good decisions and the consequences of bad decisions. Walk them through the many steps of decision making. Help them weigh their options, evaluate the pros and cons of that decision and then let them make the final decision to see how things play out.
Health and Hygiene
Your kids are never too young to begin learning about health and hygiene. In our hectic day-to-day shuffle, we’re always telling our kids to take a bath, brush their teeth, wash their hands and change their underwear. We never tell them why, though. Explain why health and hygiene are always going to be crucial parts of their days.
As your children begin learning about this life skill, set up a chart that allows them to check off each task as they complete it. When these healthy habits are established over time, take away the chart and your kids will mentally go through the checklist throughout the day without you having to continually remind them.
Every parent knows how important time management is to keep your family on track. But it’s also important for kids to start learning time management lessons now.
Not only does teaching younger children how to measure time, stay on task and keep to a schedule help make your days easier, learning this life skill also helps them become masters of time so they can do everything from get up on schedule to someday getting to work on time.
Even the youngest children can learn how to prepare a meal in the kitchen. We’re not talking about a five-course dinner, of course, but you can teach preschoolers how to fix a sandwich and elementary school kids can be taught how to use the microwave. And from tots to teens, your kids can be your sous chefs when it comes time for you to cook.
As your children become more confident in the kitchen, they can add on other meal prep life skills like learning how to bag their own lunch, make healthy food choices, cook a simple meal on the stove with adult supervision and plan their own meals.
We teach our kids to count. We teach our kids basic math. We can take those lessons further and turn them into life skills they can begin using right now.
Money management is something adults have trouble with. Now’s the perfect time to start teaching your children about money, its importance and how to manage it so they’ll be better prepared when they start earning a paycheck of their own. Teach your kids effective money management so they can learn how to save, spend wisely, make a change and even understand that writing a check or using a credit card isn’t free money.
Sometimes it’s easier for parents to do all of the housekeeping themselves. It’s a missed opportunity for us to teach our kids how to keep the house clean, which they’ll eventually need to know when they leave for college and someday have a house of their own to take care of.
Start with age-appropriate chore charts that include learning how to make the bed, empty the dishwasher and dust. Also, think of the daily messes your kids make and how they can clean up after themselves. For example, keep a towel or sponge in the bathroom that lets kids wipe away those globs of toothpaste they leave on the counter. Since toys magically move from room to room in your house, keep a basket kids can throw them all in to take back to their own bedroom at the end of the day. Set a daily housekeeping schedule to make cleaning a part of their routine and stick to it.
If you have kids, you have a lot of laundries. Teaching your children how to wash, fold and put away their laundry is not only a life skill that will help them, it will also help you.
Toddlers can learn a lot by helping you with laundries, such as sorting clothes by colour and understanding textures. As they grow, kids can start putting the clothes in the washer and transferring them to the dryer. Elementary school children can then learn how to operate the washing machine and dryer and how much laundry detergent is needed. As laundry comes out of the dryer, you can show them how to fold their clothes and put them away. Pretty soon, they’ll be handling all of their laundries on their own.
“I want it! I want it! I want it!” How many times have you heard this when your kid’s spot candy, a toy, a T-shirt, a fish or just about anything else you can think of that kids think they’ve got to have right now? When we’re grown-ups we understand the value of the money and the importance of comparison shopping. However, we often overlook this valuable life skill we should be teaching our children.
The next time you’re standing in the store caught between a hefty price tag and a child demanding for you to fork over your cash, take the time to get your phone out and search for the item on a variety of shopping sites. Show your kids how much that item costs at other stores and what comparable items there are that may be of better quality. Maybe the one in the store where you are is the best deal and top product after all. But teaching kids to be smart shoppers and taking the time to comparison shop will help them save money everywhere they go while also making smart decisions on the types of products they choose.
Ordering at Restaurants
As parents, we tend to place our children’s orders at restaurants just to make things easier on the server. However, letting our kids order for themselves is fun for them and builds confidence.
Many restaurants have picture menus on the kids’ menu, so preschoolers can begin by circling or colouring what they want to eat. As that confidence grows, kids can begin verbally telling the server what they would like, from the entrée to the sides. Remind the kids to practise good manners by saying please and thank you after they order.
Kids can learn how to get ready on their own at an early age. Let them pick out the clothes they’ll wear the next day before they go to bed. Choose an alarm clock that’s easy for them to set. Layout their hairbrush and toothbrush. Use visuals to illustrate the whole process.
For example, take a picture of the alarm clock, their clothes, another one of their toothbrush, then hairbrush and even the potty to remind them to go before you head out the door. The pictures are daily flashcards until they get in the habit of getting ready all on their own.
Maintenance Around the House
Kids love to be your big helper and there’s always light maintenance around the house that they can pitch in to do. Easy tasks include showing them how to change the toilet paper roll or bag up the trash. Older children can learn how to change a light bulb, unclog a drain and change the vacuum cleaner bag.
Teach Preschool Kids to Count
Educators typically begin teaching counting concepts to kids in kindergarten and first grade, but you can begin teaching your child math skills earlier. The skills you teach your child can serve as a foundation the child can draw upon when teachers introduce math concepts in kindergarten.
Teaching children to count can be fun and easy by using simple strategies that will help your child develop a fondness for numbers.
Benefits of Teaching Preschoolers to Count
Teaching preschoolers to count will improve their readiness for other math concepts that will be taught in the future, such as addition and subtraction. When children are about a year old, parents can begin teaching them about numbers and counting by modelling these techniques themselves.
For example, tell your child how old he is while holding up the correct number of fingers. Then ask him to do the same. If your child is not ready to model this behaviour, simply continue to occasionally show him. Eventually, he will hold up the correct number of fingers. When he does, say, “That’s right!”
Remember to keep these teaching activities fun and carefree. The object here is to demonstrate and model concepts until your child internalizes them and can model them back. Pushing or scolding are not appropriate, as they will cause anxiety in your child and are to be avoided. Children develop at their own rates, and when they are ready, they will learn and respond.
Examples of Modeling Counting
There are many ways to model early number concepts and counting. For example, when you spoon out food on your child’s plate, count aloud the spoonfuls as you drop them on the plate.
When colouring, hand your child a crayon and say, “This is one crayon.” Give him two and say, “Here are two crayons.” Point to objects in your house and count them for your child. Make counting a natural part of your interactions with your child, and she will not even realise she’s learning.
Keep lessons short and look for opportunities to sneak in counting whenever possible without overdoing it. Preschoolers have short attention spans, so just be creative in finding opportunities without wearing out your child’s interest. You may find your child will want to count with you. When possible and safe to do so, allow your child to touch the objects she is counting as she counts or as you count.
Again, remember that modelling is the most important part of introducing numbers to your child, and don’t get discouraged if he does not immediately pick up on the task. Simply continue to model regularly, and your child will eventually begin to learn and demonstrate understanding.
While colouring, as your child begins to count by ones, you can ask him to place one object, such as a crayon, in your hand. Wait for him to respond. If he does not respond, pick up one crayon and say, “This is one crayon.”
Continue to demonstrate periodically. Eventually, your child will do what you’ve asked and will place a crayon in your hand. After he does this consistently, ask him to place two objects in your hand. When he does this consistently, ask for three and so on.
As your child does this activity, he is reinforcing counting skills and building the mental skills necessary to learn to add.
Modelling Counting for Older Children
For children who are 3 and 4 years old, you can practice counting with a number of common toys. Stuffed animals, fist-sized pop-beads, and stacking rings are good toys to start with.
You can also teach colour names as you count with these kinds of toys. When working with your 3- or 4-year-old child, it is important to keep the activity playful. Play and enjoyable interaction are the most important aspects of teaching and learning at these ages. Sneak the learning in at teachable moments rather than making teaching the focus of playtime.
Set Up a Reward System for Children
Preschool-age children are learning a lot! From potty training to controlling their temper, they are discovering what is expected of them and trying to do their best. Parents can encourage good behaviour by setting up a reward system that is sure to get their attention.
Why Is a Reward System Important for Preschoolers?
Here’s the thing about preschoolers. They like to do things their own way on their own time. So when you want to encourage a new behaviour — potty training, doing simple chores, or something of the like — a great way to do it is to set up a reward system.
A positive form of discipline, a reward system for children does not have to be complicated. It can be as simple as stickers on a chart or buttons or beans in a jar. Whatever method you choose, the object is to keep track of good behaviour, so your child will continue acting that way in the future.
How to Set up a Reward System for Children
Explain the concept to your preschooler
Before you start, talk to your preschooler about what it is you’d like him to strive for.
In my house, it was getting my three-year-old to pull up his own pants after he went to the bathroom. For others, it may be how many days she can go without a temper tantrum or for every meal she is able to clear her plate.
Whatever the behaviour, explain to your preschooler what you are looking for and what the ground rules are.
Set ground rules
In our case, my son could earn two stickers each time he went to the bathroom — one for pulling up his underpants and one for pulling up his pants or shorts. He had to pull them all the way up in order to earn his prize.
Talk about what it is you want your preschooler to do and what she needs to do to succeed. Some parents like to offer a grand prize — fill up the bean jar or earn 25 stickers and the child gets an additional reward. Do whatever works best for your family.
Create the reward system
Get your preschooler in on the process.
Gather up a poster board or cardboard, a jar, or whatever you are using, as well as markers and stickers and let your preschooler decorate. If you are making a chart, make sure the tallying method is clear so it is easy to keep track of any rewards your child earns.
Try to focus on one or two behaviours at a time
You may have a litany of things you want your pre-schooler to work on, but it’s a good idea to tackle only one at any given time.
If you are potty training and working on sticking to a bedtime routine, consider putting adding chores to your preschooler’s schedule on the back burner.
Having too many “to-do’s” on your preschooler’s list can be confusing (for you and him). It can also lead to many reward charts decorating your walls (although you might save money on the wallpaper!).
Payout perks promptly
Here’s the key to a successful reward system — it must be immediate.
Whether you choose to use a sticker chart or beans in a jar, make sure as soon as your child does the target behaviour those stickers or beans are in hand and ready to go. When they go on the potty or get through a meal without a temper tantrum they can be duly recorded.
Most preschoolers have no real sense of time yet, so by offering the sticker up right away, you are confirming their good behaviour and encouraging them to do it again.
In the same vein as being prompt, you need to make sure you are consistent in handing out awards. And don’t give one out if your child hasn’t done the targeted behaviour.
Teach New Skills by Acting out Scenes
It’s one thing for kids to hear parents give them instructions on how to do things differently, but to be most effective, they need an opportunity to practice. Role-playing provides them with an opportunity to practice new behaviour in a safe environment. You can offer feedback and coaching by creating role-playing opportunities.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to role-playing with your child:
Identify a Scenario
Pick a specific issue you want to work on with your child and identify a realistic scenario. For example, if you want to know how your 12-year-old would respond if a stranger knocked on the door when he was home alone, describe the scene to your child.
Choose Your Roles
Normally, it’s helpful to have your child to play the role of himself. If your child is really struggling with a specific situation, you can play the part of your child and let your child be another kid or the adult. Then, you can show your child how he could respond, before asking him to practice it.
For example, say, “Let’s pretend you’re the teacher. Say to me what your teacher usually says. I’ll pretend to be you.” Then, the model for your child some healthy responses. This can be an effective way to show your child he has many choices in the way he reacts or behaves.
Act out a Scene
Rather than sitting on the couch and talking about it, get up and actually act out the scene. Ask him to show you what he would do or say. Make it as realistic as possible.
If you’re helping your child discover how to deal with a bully on the bus, pretend you’re riding on the bus together. If you’re teaching your child about phone etiquette, call your child from another room.
When you’ve finished role-playing a specific scenario, provide your child with feedback. Always try to start with the positive. Say, “I really like the way you stayed calm when I was pretending to be a bully.” Praise your child’s efforts in participating.
Then, discuss what things your child could have done better. Provide gentle feedback about what other things could have worked. For example, say, “I think it would have worked better if you would have told the bully to stop picking on you first.” You can also ask a question to your child such as, “What do you think would have happened if you would have told the teacher?”
The point of roleplaying should be to help your child learn, so it’s important to practice more than once. Help your child experiment with new behaviour and different reactions until he feels confident about making healthy decisions.
Role-playing can enhance your child’s problem-solving skills and show him that there is always more than one way to solve a problem. Allow for some creativity and discuss the potential pros and cons of behaving in a certain way.
Even if your child chooses to respond or behave in a way that isn’t a good choice, it’s important to discuss the potential consequences. For example, say, “Let’s think about what might happen if you called the bully names.” This can help your child recognise that although it’s an option, choosing that solution may not result in the best outcome.
Teach Kids About Their Feelings
Feelings are complicated, especially for a 4-year-old who doesn’t understand why you won’t let him eat another cookie. And sometimes, it’s hard to teach kids about feelings because it’s a fairly abstract concept.
But it’s important to talk to your child about emotions. Educating your child about feelings can prevent many behaviour problems, like temper tantrums, aggression, and defiance.
A child who can say, “I’m mad at you,” is less likely to hit. And a child who can say, “That hurts my feelings,” is better equipped to resolve conflict peacefully.
Teaching your child about his emotions will help him become mentally strong. Understanding feelings is the first step toward learning how to manage them in a healthy way.
Teach Your Child Simple Feeling Words
Teach your preschooler basic feeling words such as happy, mad, sad and scared. Older kids can benefit from learning more complex feeling words such as frustrated, disappointed, and nervous.
A great way to help kids learn about feelings is to discuss how various characters in books or TV shows may feel. Pause to ask, “How do you think he feels right now?” Then, discuss the various feelings the character may be experiencing and the reasons why.
This also teaches kids empathy. Young children think the world revolves around them so it can be an eye-opening experience for them to learn that other people have feelings too. If your child knows that pushing his friend to the ground may make his friend mad and sad, he will be less likely to do it.
Create Opportunities to Talk About Feelings
Show kids how to use feeling words in their daily vocabulary. Model how to express feelings by taking opportunities to share your feelings. Say, “I feel sad that you don’t want to share your toys with your sister today. I bet she feels sad too.”
Each day ask your child, “How are you feeling today?” With young children, use a simple chart with smiley faces if that helps them to pick a feeling and then discuss that feeling together. Talk about the types of things influence your child’s feelings.
Point out when you notice your child is likely feeling a particular feeling. For example, say, “You look really happy that we are going to be eating ice cream,” or “It looks like you are getting frustrated playing with those blocks.”
Teach Your Child How to Deal with Feelings
Teach kids appropriate ways to deal with uncomfortable emotions. Kids need to learn that just because they feel angry doesn’t mean they can hit someone. Instead, they need to learn anger management skills, so they can resolve conflict peacefully.
Encourage your child to take a self-time out. Encourage him to go to his room or another quiet place when he gets upset. This can help him calm down before he breaks a rule and gets sent to time-out.
Teach your child healthy ways to deal with sad feelings as well. If your child feels sad that his friend won’t play with him, talk about ways he can deal with his sad feelings. Often, kids don’t know what to do when they feel sad, so they become aggressive or exhibit attention-seeking behaviours.
Reinforce Positive Ways to Express Feelings
Reinforce good behaviour with a positive consequence. Praise your child for expressing his emotions in a socially appropriate way by saying things such as, “I really like the way you used your words when you told your sister you were mad at her.”
Another great way to reinforce healthy habits is to use a reward system. For example, a token economy system could help a child practice using his healthy coping strategies when he feels angry instead of becoming aggressive.
Model Healthy Choices
If you tell your child to use his words when he’s angry but he witnesses you throw your phone after a dropped call, your words won’t be effective. Model healthy ways to deal with uncomfortable emotions.
Point out times when you feel angry or frustrated and say it out loud. Say, “Wow, I’m angry that car just pulled in front of me.” Then take some deep breaths or model another healthy coping skill so your child can learn to recognise the skills you use when you feel angry.
Teach Self-Care Skills to Children with Special Needs
In the special needs world, the most basic skills are called Adaptive Living Skills, or ADL’s. More advanced skills, such as doing laundry, catching a bus, or following a daily schedule, are sometimes called Life Skills or Skills of Daily Living. While these skills aren’t critical for survival, they are extremely important for anyone who plans to work and recreate in a modern community.
Everyone needs certain skills to simply get through the day. Skills related to eating, dressing, and personal hygiene are absolute requirements for anyone wishing to live even a semi-independent life. In addition to these very basic skills are the many skills we use each day to navigate life at home and in the community.
Most people learn ADLs and many of the skills of daily living at a young age. They learn through a combination of instruction, imitation, and trial and error. For example, a child may learn to bathe himself by remembering the experience of being bathed, by imitating a parent’s actions, and by discovering for herself that if you run very hot water for too long the water will be too hot for comfort.
Why Life Skills Are Taught Differently to Children with Special Needs
Children with special needs such as autism, learning disabilities, or ADHD, learn differently from typical children. That’s because of children with special needs:
- May not develop imitation skills until much later than average—or not at all.
- May not develop the ability to understand and express themselves with spoken language until much later than average—or not at all.
- May not develop the desire to “be just like” or impress someone else with their skills and abilities.
- May find it difficult to follow spoken instruction—particularly when the instruction includes multiples steps.
- May be unaware of what is “expected” or “normal” behaviour.
- May lack the ability to focus on a task for extended periods of time.
- May be easily frustrated.
- May have sensory or cognitive challenges that stand in the way of success.
If your child has some or all of these challenges, they may not just “get” daily living skills as their typically developing peers do. But that doesn’t mean they can’t learn most or even all of those skills with the right teaching approach.
How Life Skills Are Taught to Children with Special Needs
Teachers, therapists, and parents have developed a set of techniques that, together or separately, can be very effective in teaching life skills to children with special needs. And the good news is that these techniques can be equally effective for teaching just about any skill to just about anyone—no matter what their abilities or challenges.
Step One: Task Analysis. Task analysis is a process for breaking down any given task into its component parts. For example, brushing teeth includes finding a toothbrush, toothpaste, and cup, putting toothpaste on the brush, brushing the bottom teeth, rinsing, brushing the top teeth, rinsing again, cleaning the brush, and putting all the equipment away properly.
Step Two: Creating a Visual Guide. Many parents create visual guides to help their children with special needs to make sense of, remember, and get comfortable with the steps involved in a task. The visual guide can include photos or clip-art style images of each step in the process.
Step Three: Prompting and Fading. At first, a child with special needs may need a lot of help in remembering and properly completing each step in a task. Prompting may involve physical, hand-over-hand help. As they learn, parents will start to “fade” the prompts. First, they’ll stop using hand-over-hand help, and instead provide only verbal prompts (“don’t forget to rinse the toothbrush!”). Then they’ll start to fade even the verbal prompts. When no prompts are required, the child has learned the task!
Additional Teaching Tools
Depending on how your particular child learns, there are a few additional tools that may be helpful. These tools are especially useful for more advanced skills that require the child to interact with people and expectations in the wider community. These include:
Every task involves a series of steps that work as links in a chain. For example, you can’t brush your teeth until you put toothpaste on the brush. Some people prompt their child for each step in the chain, and then start removing links as the child learns. Finally, the child may be able to complete the task with just a simple reminder.
Social stories are a step up from the visual guide described above. Rather than simply listing steps, parents use pictures and words to describe “expected behaviour.” Most social stories are customised to the individual. For example: “Every morning after breakfast, Johnny brushes his teeth. First, Johnny knocks on the bathroom door. If no one is inside, Johnny can go in” and so forth. Parents can read the social story with Johnny as often as needed until Johnny knows it by heart and can complete all the steps without prompting.
Many children with special needs are visual learners, and most learn well through videos. Video models can be purchased off the shelf, downloaded from the Internet, or created for an individual child. They can feature actors doing a task, or they can actually show the child himself as he goes through the process. It can also be helpful to make a video of your child so that he can watch and identify any mistakes he’s made.
Older children, or children with milder issues, may benefit from mobile apps designed to guide them through specific activities or experiences. They may also benefit from basic calendar and scheduling apps that help them to organise their time.
A Word from Very well
All of the tools described above are used by therapists and teachers, but they are all easy to find or create, and intuitive to use. As a parent, you’re more than qualified to help your special needs child develop the skills she needs for independence!
Teach Your Kids Time Management Skills
Hurry up. Do you know what time it is? Let’s go. What’s taking you so long? Do you sometimes feel like you’re raising a bunch of dawdlers with no concept of time? Even the youngest children can learn how to manage their time to help them (and you) have minutes to spare in the day. Save your sanity by starting with 11 easy steps that teach your kids time management skills.
Make Time Management Fun
Grown-ups tend to associate time management with carpools, bedtimes, endless appointments and PTA meetings. The stress can make you want to throw the clock out the window.
Learning time management should be fun for kids, though. Use crayons to colour your own calendars. Add stickers to mark special days. Make it a game to see who can complete simple tasks around the house that usually take up a lot of time, such as brushing their teeth, putting on their shoes or getting their backpacks ready for school tomorrow. The more fun you make time management for your kids, the easier it will be to get them to understand time’s importance and how to manage that constantly ticking clock.
Start Before They’re Teens
Of course, you can teach teens time management skills too. But the earlier you start, the better for them and the easier your days will be.
Your preschoolers can learn through small tasks completed in short blocks of time, such as putting on their clothes or cleaning up their toys. Your school-age children can begin with a set start and end times they need to complete their homework and simple age-appropriate chores around the house.
Show Your Kids How to Measure Time
Even children who know how to tell time don’t necessarily know how to measure time. Help them out by setting a timer during a block of time when they’re supposed to be completing a task. Keep a clock close by and give them a verbal countdown as the minutes tick by so they can begin getting an internal feel for these time segments.
You’re not trying to teach your kids to live by the clock. Your goal is simply to help them understand what an hour, 15 minutes or even five minutes feels like. The next time you say, “We leave in five minutes,” they’ll know that doesn’t mean they have time to play with their toys, watch TV, and clean their room first.
Create a Family Calendar Together
Family calendars are the road map to everyone in your house’s commitments. One look and you know one of your children has scouts on Monday, the other has basketball on Tuesday and all of your kids have gymnastics, karate and choir practice on Wednesday.
The whole family should be involved in creating one document that keeps all of you on track. Banner paper is perfect for family calendars because it can be drawn on, coloured on or painted on. Make it a family art activity so that everyone can learn who has what commitments on which days. Colour-code your calendar so that every person has their own colour for their schedule. This simple activity helps children see days at a time in one place, so they can begin to understand what goes into keeping your family on schedule. Another bonus is you can use your planning activity to make the most of family time together.
Create Calendars for Each Family Member
In addition to creating a family calendar, each child should have his own calendar too. That way, he can have his own schedule to keep in his room that’s more detailed for his personal needs than the family calendar.
Break this calendar down by tasks for the day or week. Encourage your kids to use their personal calendar to add new tasks and mark off completed ones too. This can be everything from what it takes to get ready for a soccer game to what projects he needs to complete before the science fair.
Stay on Task
It’s tempting to let the kids have a few more minutes of playtime when they’re getting along so well. Or there are those days when you want the kids to spend more time studying, even though your time management plan calls for them to start getting ready for bed at 7:00.
As your kids are just beginning to learn about time management, stay on task. When time’s up, move on to what’s next on your schedule no matter how involved they are in that current task. Straying even a few minutes away from the schedule can throw kids off. Stick to your schedule, especially in those early days and weeks of learning about time management.
Don’t Overschedule Your Kids
One of the most common mistakes we make as parents is that we try to make sure our kids get to participate in every activity after school. What we end up doing is overscheduling the entire family to the point that our schedule can be packed every day of the week.
Do your entire family a favour and don’t overschedule your kids. Instead of learning about time management the right way, all they feel is a constant go, go, go that has them craving a few minutes of downtime. Overscheduling throws their clock off and yours too. Try to avoid it so all of you can get a better handle on time management.
Schedule Free Time
Making a schedule and sticking to it is important. Part of that schedule should include free time.
Those blocks of time to do nothing are great moments in learning time management. Solo playtime can be fun and unstructured, but it can also have a start and end time when your kids are trying to grasp the basics of managing their time. This also helps them learn that time management isn’t all about getting ready to go somewhere or finishing up a structured activity on time. Great time management also means you have moments to play.
Use Kid-Friendly Time Management Tools
From apps to colourful magnetic calendars, add kid-friendly time management tools to your lineup. The key is to use visuals and techniques that relate to your kids. Only you will know what works best with each of your child’s learning styles.
Apps can appeal to kids who love technology. Magnetic calendars for kids let your kids visually plan their days with colourful magnets for everything from sports practices to holidays. You can always get creative and make your own time management tools to work for your family’s unique schedule too.
Yes, you can reward kids for good time management and those perks can be great motivators. Rewards can be daily or weekly and you should decide on those rewards together as a family.
Be creative with your rewards. Sure, you can opt to give your kids time playing a video game as a reward. Even better, make it a family reward. A week of following that study schedule could equal a family night at the movies. Younger kids can focus on rewards in shorter time periods, such as playing a board game together for completing three or four goals on his schedule. The point is to turn those time management rewards into time well spent with your family as a result.
Depending on age, most children don’t see the big picture of priorities. Your fourth grader isn’t thinking about getting into college with every homework assignment he completes. Your preschooler isn’t picturing her scribbles hanging in a museum one day when she’s a famous artist. Their priorities are generally on the weekly, daily, or even hourly scale.
Help them organise their day using a first, next, last method. Kids should think of what comes first in their day, such as brushing their teeth. Then they can move to what needs to come next, like having their school books ready in the morning and completing homework before bed. Finally, they should plan what should come last in the day. They can brush their teeth before bed and lay out their clothes for tomorrow.
Helping your kids prioritise their day is something they can use throughout life and will help them get the most important tasks done daily and weekly while setting each one up to complete long-term goals as well. Start small with daily priorities before moving to weekly and monthly priorities. You’ll instantly set your kids up for success and soon have children who are masters of time management.
Requirements, Qualifications and Useful Skills
Qualifications give you the formal knowledge and skills you need to become an educator, teacher and leader in early childhood education and care.
They are the building blocks for being a quality educator and for developing quality educational programs that give children the head start they need in their life of learning.
And, along with qualifications, the personal qualities and skills you have to make a big difference in helping children love and want to learn every day they’re with you.
So, with this in mind, what personal qualities and skills make for a top-notch early childhood educator?
Be a good communicator
Be able to communicate with children at their level. Also, develop skills in communicating well with families about their children’s strengths.
Be passionate and authentic
It’s vital to be passionate about what you do and believes in why you’re doing it. Children will know if you love and believe in your job and will respond well to someone who wants to teach them.
Strong dedication and devotion to your work will lead to great learning outcomes for children.
Be practical and patient but also be willing to take risks
Being practical means, you know how to use the resources you have to support children to learn. Being patient is important for working within early childhood education and care system and working with children and their families.
Your willingness to take risks means that sometimes you’ll look for other solutions-things that might sit a bit outside the normal way of doing things to improve each child’s learning.
Any person working in early childhood education and care, including educator, teacher and leader, needs to deal well with change, whether expected or unexpected and whether positive or challenging.
Respect children and families
In early childhood education and care, it’s so very important to respect each child and their family’s uniqueness. Being aware of and working with the different strengths of each child can make you a more effective educator to support each child to learn in their own way.
You’re working with children and that means being able to think outside the square is key to developing and delivering great learning outcomes.
You must love to learn. Children will want to learn from someone who is themselves passionate about finding things out. Enthusiasm for learning is absolutely infectious.
An energetic educator will help children stay positive about learning.
Have a sense of humour
Learning should always be fun, and laughter can often help children learn.
You need to be able to plan well and stay organised. Children want predictable routines and seek interactions from you that promote a positive learning environment.