Preschool is the first early learning a child is exposed to. It should prepare them for future education and should establish many behavioral patterns that are expected of them, as they grow older. The most important of these behaviors for a child to learn is belonging to a community.
If a child feels as though they’re a part of a community, it will establish important lessons that include cooperation, communication, how to get along with others and how to share and be shared with. This early learning will provide children will lifelong lessons that will allow them to survive later in school, at work and in life in general.
Here are some strategies you can use to establish a sense of community within the preschool classroom.
Set up tasks as group activities
Whichever activities you have assigned to your class for the session, ensure you do not keep them to individual tasks.
Set up tables so that groups of children can sit at a time and enjoy the activity, working and playing side by side. One table may include pasting, set up four different places around the table to encourage the children to play together.
Another table may be used for puzzles, Play Doh play and another group situated on the floor at the building blocks.
Encourage the children to all work together, building block and roads and sharing and taking turns.
Within each activity, encourage the children to praise or admire their classmates’ work and vice versa. Encourage them to share and pass items to one another.
Games and puzzles should also be set up around a table. Once a child completes one puzzle, encourage them to pass it onto another child.
Group pretend play
Inside pretend play may include a pretend kitchen that is assigned to an area of the classroom. This can have a microwave and oven included and a table set up with cups and saucers. Encourage a couple of the children to create the food and serve to the other children.
Outside community play may involve all the children creating things in the sandpit. Items may include old pots and pans and spoons, designed to get sand and dirt in them. Have all the children create their sand food and creations together, standing together around a central table.
Preschoolers, or any children love music, song, dance and rhyme. Choose your songs carefully that allow group participation in singing and dance, for example musical chairs or “freeze” when the music stops. Have the children dance in groups whilst holding hands.
Encourage the children to respond to what they hear, the songs they know and allow them to do the actions if any.
A great song to sing with many children involved is “Miss Polly had a dolly.” In your preschool, if you have an area that has a crib and doll, you can purchase a pretend play doctors kit as well. Have one of the children play Miss Polly, another play the doctor and do the actions as they sing the song. Rotate the roles for each child.
Another great song is “Five Little Ducks” as you can have more children involved at once. Place five chairs in the center, each child acting as a duck. You can have one Mother duck assigned as well. As you sing the song, each child can go behind their chair when “only three, two, one and then none” ducks come back.
When choosing lessons with your preschool children, make sure the themes include group participation. For example, a theme of “The Sea” may include many types of shells to display and pass around, group singing about building sand castles together and books that revolve around playing at the beach together.
Your books that you choose in the classroom should also suggest helping and community within its pages. Choose books that involve children, help them to speak about what they’ve heard or to all chime in and call out answers.
Your preschool books should also include multicultural themes as well to include children of all races, shapes and sizes in society.
In my sons preschool they have a duck and some chickens. They are in the classroom from hatching and later leave the class as a group too.
Animals in the classroom allow the children to see them as “preschool” animals, those that belong to the school and to their community.
Work as a group
Depending on the age of the preschool group, as some are as young as 3 and can be as old as 5, you could set about a task a couple of times a year that encourage all the kids to work as a team. This can include a wall painting, a collage of drawings, paintings or photos or even other craft ideas.
To help the children learn and participate as a group, you could also encourage them to clean together. Have three children put away blocks, two put away books and so on. This will help the children understand that working together can get jobs completed faster.
Usually arranged by the preschool committee, out of hour group activities can be arranged to encourage a sense of community. So far this year, our preschool group is doing a working bee at the preschool, a “fish and chip” night where we all eat our food back at the preschool and many more events to come.
Having the preschool groups learn and grow together, become more acquainted with one another will encourage a community feel to the preschool, amongst the children, the teachers and the parents.
Creating a sense of community is integral for all early learning. Before preschool children are establishing this life lesson in belonging to a family dynamic, but at preschool they are soon learning new ways to communicate and learn. Establishing a good sense of community in the preschool is very important when learning lessons that need to be used throughout early childhood and then future adult life.