Little Ones Learn, Too!
If you have preschoolers in the family, they need to feel welcome in the “classroom,” too. This prevents resentment, frustration and – in the long run – unncessary interruptions. Here are some helpful tips:
Have a special session with your little ones ~
Day in and day out, our youngest child saw me spend quality time with his older siblings. For that reason, I felt it was important to have “class” with him, too. Though it was only for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, it was his special time with Mommy.
Sometimes we’d curl up in a comfy chair together and read his favorite books. Other times, we would color or build with blocks. I made it a point to wink at the older children and announce, “No interruptions, please. We’re having class over here.”
Include them in regular sessions when possible ~
If younger children feel welcome in the classroom, they are less likely to be jealous of the time you spend with their siblings. Constant reprimands to “be quiet” or “not now” will give them the impression that you don’t care about their needs. I allowed our preschooler to ride his tricycle at the back of the room as long as he didn’t try to distract us.
When he began counting by 2’s, I realized our lessons were “trickling down” to him. Since younger children love to sing, play-act, do experiments and art, let them participate as often as they can. You’ll have less whining!
Prepare a special corner when they can play quietly ~
A soft rug or carpet with soft pillows makes a good quiet corner. Include picture books, soft puzzles, small cars or dolls and/or quiet blocks. A favorite Teddy or stuffed animal will keep them company during rest or play. I kept activities on bookshelves near this quiet corner, and our son knew the rules: pick one activity and enjoy it, then put it back before getting another.
He also liked listening to special tapes (CD’s) through headphones. I made these especially for him, and started them with, “You are being such a good boy while we study,” or “I’m so proud of you for playing quietly.” I would then tell a story or read his favorite book, using a bell to indicate it was time to turn the page.
Train them to interrupt only when necessary ~
We practiced this several times just for fun, having the older children go out and come back in to demonstrate proper ways to interrupt. They would raise their hand or come up to tap me on the arm, an indication they had an “important emergency.” Just knowing you are readily accessible is a relief to your preschooler’s mind.
Welcome those first few interruptions with a smile and then go back to teaching. It may be your child’s way of testing if you really are available! Remember, good training takes time, but it pays off in the long run.
Allow them to ask questions ~
You encourage your older ones to ask questions, right? Part of the education process involves asking questions, and it teaches students to reason things out. If you constantly shush the preschoolers in your school, you are saying their questions are not nearly as important as those the others ask.
As with interruptions, allowing those first “test-the-teacher” questions may prove you really are available. If their questions show they’ve been thinking something through, respond, “I’m glad you thought of that!” If you don’t want to interrupt the flow of your older children’s studies right then, say, “When we have our special time together, we will talk about that, okay?”
Assess your classroom ~
This involves spending a little time on your knees. Yes, you can pray for wisdom and patience while you’re down there, but try to also assess the room from the level of your preschooler. How do things look from that point-of-view? Is the chalkboard (or any pictures and charts) too high for him/her to see and enjoy?
Must you, the teacher, be interrupted to reach for those things your preschooler is *allowed* to use while you teach the others? Assessing your classroom is a must. It may very well avoid many frustrations that are the result of poor planning.
Maintain a regular routine ~
When we allow crazy schedules to dominate our days, everyone suffers. Children – especially preschoolers – cannot be at their best if they are too tired or overly stimulated. Do you keep up a full-speed, constant pace day after day? Try cutting back on extra-curricular activities (or extra trips to town) in order to spend more time at home during this phase of your life.
Preschoolers are still developing a sense of awareness about the world, and home is one of their favorite places. Regular naps, sensible diets and plenty of fresh air and sunshine build healthy little bodies and minds.
Having preschoolers in the classroom does not have to be a problem. They will learn more than you think by observing from the sidelines. They will also bring a fresh enthusiasm to your learning new things. And last, but not least, they may very well end up being the brightest student in the family!