If preschoolers could keep a diary, I’m pretty sure it would show how busy they are all day long. Preschoolers are busy growing, busy exploring and busy learning. So, how would a preschool teacher describe their daily work life? “Busy” might be a bit of an understatement for them. After all, they are tasked with keeping up with (and staying ahead of) all those busy little hands and feet.
A successful teacher must be prepared, organized, and adaptable. What works great for one child might fail spectacularly for another. Kids (even very little ones) are individuals with their own distinct personalities, and they’re usually not afraid to show it. One child might run straight through the door every morning, barely looking back at mom or dad, while another goes through the agony of separation anxiety like it’s the first time…every day. And the teachers must adapt to each little personality – keeping the rambunctious, adventurous children entertained and engaged, while simultaneously soothing and encouraging the more timid, hesitant souls.
A major key to success in any classroom is preparation. At the Ministry Village Early Learning Center (ELC), each classroom and teacher has a daily schedule, as well as a weekly lesson plan, to help direct the class toward specific goals and accomplishments. The daily schedule ensures that each child’s time at the preschool is accounted for, and includes specific times for meals and snacks, bathroom breaks, indoor and outdoor play, lessons and rest. The overall structure will vary based on a child’s age (bathroom breaks for 2 year olds who are potty-training versus routine diaper checks for infants, or naptime for younger children versus quiet time for older preschoolers). Lola Mayes, teacher for 3 and 4 year olds at the Ministry Village ELC, says the kids’ behavior and ability to learn is so much better when they are on a schedule. “We, as humans, are creatures of habit, and kids are even more so,” said Ms. Lola. “They want to know what’s coming next, so having them on a schedule helps with transitions. The children have learned that when it’s time to go outside, they need to sit crisscross applesauce with their hands in their laps. So if one of their friends isn’t doing that, another child will encourage them to, because everybody wants to go outside to play.”
Numerous parenting experts suggest that routines provide a sense of security, certainty, and reassurance to small children; and often, routines help children thrive. They learn what to expect next in their day, and they can better manage the necessary changes and learn to adapt. Routines are even more important as children grow older and become independent. Creating a simple morning routine for kids (make bed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed), can help them gain independence and set them up for success – plus, it makes life a lot smoother for the adults in the house!
Daily schedules and weekly lesson plans are posted near each classroom’s door at the Ministry Village ELC. Take a picture of your child’s schedule so you can learn what the day is like after you drop him off. If your little one struggles with naps at home, but his teacher says he naps like a champ at school, talk to the teacher about any suggestions for helping your child transition between activities. Experienced teachers have learned many tips and tricks, and odds are, they will have a suggestion you’ll find useful. Use the weekly lesson plan to ask your child specific things he or she learned that day. “We are constantly teaching new Bible stories, letters, shapes, and more,” said Ms. Lola. “It helps a child succeed at preschool if their learning is reinforced at home.”
One important part of the preschool schedule and lesson plan is time spent in centers. For those who don’t speak fluent “preschoolese,” centers are specific activities located in designated areas of a classroom. Activities in each center are age-appropriate and focused on a particular skill. For instance, Language and Literacy Centers give children time to focus on learning a specific letter of the alphabet, practicing that letter’s sounds, looking at animals whose names begin with that letter, etc. In the Math Centers, kids count, sort, and learn more about numbers using blocks and other toys. In Dramatic Play Centers, kids play dress-up, put on plays with each other, and use puppets to act out scenes while exercising their imaginations. Some centers are designed for independent learning, while others are more teacher-led.
It’s important for adults to remember that when children are playing, they are also learning. Many skills are developed and refined through normal play. Stacking blocks teaches patience, motor control, and perseverance. Playing with clay or cutting paper dolls with scissors strengthens tiny hands and improves finger strength, which will help when the child begins learning to write. The teachers at the Ministry Village ELC incorporate time for their children to spend in each center throughout the day. Time in the centers helps kids develop social skills by learning to share and play together, explore their own interests, and practice new skills. “We adults know there are certain rules and norms we follow, and the kids are learning those social skills throughout their day,” said Ms. Lola.
As your child grows, don’t be surprised if their transition after school becomes challenging. It’s important for families to remember that your preschooler has been busy all day. What she has been doing has been important work for her developmentally. If your normally joyous and talkative child is suddenly cranky and on the verge of a meltdown soon after you pick her up from preschool, she may need some quiet time to transition back to your home atmosphere. Her brain is still processing everything she learned during the day. Offering a light snack might be helpful. Spending some time outside, even just 10 minutes, can also give your preschooler the time she needs to burn off that extra energy. Ms. Lola agrees. “Hands down, they love their outside time. They’re like little balls of energy and they can’t always get it all out during the day. Being able to run and yell and climb is something they need to do, and they absolutely love it.”
Bottom line – give your preschooler a consistent schedule and allow them (and yourself) some time to adapt to all of the changes they are going through. Growing up can be hard work. Before you know it, your little one will be running full steam ahead into childhood, and you’ll be doing your best “Little Engine” impersonation trying to keep up. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”
🍎The Ministry Village ELC’s first VPK classes will begin in August 2019, and VPK is free for Florida residents! For more information on VPK and how to qualify, visit the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County.
🏫We have current openings in our program for ages 2, 3 and 4! Call us today at (850) 378-8044 to learn more!
💻Visit our website at MinistryVillageELC.org for more information including rates and curriculum, and call us for a tour at (850) 378-8044. We’d love to meet you and your little ones!
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Ministry Village Early Learning Center
1724 E. Olive Road, Pensacola, FL 32514