There’s so much learning happening all the time in a preschool classroom. It’s a busy, busy place!
Simple day-to-day activities provide learning, too
As educators, we spend a lot of time planning developmentally appropriate activities depending on a child’s interests and needs. But often it’s the simple day-to-day activities that provide the richest opportunities for learning. Watering the garden, getting dressed after rest time, setting the tables for lunch or cleaning up. We often forget to slow down, be present and take advantage of the many learning opportunities within everyday activities. But remembering to do so can be a wonderful gift for our students, providing them with opportunities to do the same.
Children are naturally observant, and curious about the tasks that they see adults doing (those ones we often consider to be tedious and boring!) They see these tasks as important work, and want to join in too. For example, washing the dishes, tidying up, or sweeping. While specifically planned activities for children are important, there’s just as much learning to be found in these daily tasks.
How to promote independence
Here are a few examples of routines and activities that are valuable opportunities to promote independence:
Dressing and self-care
This is one of the hardest for adults, as often we want to rush children through the process so we can get everyone outside to play, or onto the next activity. But kids enjoy dressing themselves, and it’s an important skill to learn to do on their own. Plus, mastering all of those buttons and zippers is hard work for little fingers, and requires lots of practice.
This year in our classroom, at the beginning of the day we have a table set up with chopping boards, knives, peelers and fruit. The children can choose to come and help prepare the morning snack (which involves cutting fruit such as banana, or peeling carrots). An adult is always on hand to help if needed, or to offer advice about holding the peeler or knife. This is one of those tasks that could easily (and quickly) be done without the children, but the real-life learning that happens (fine motor development and coordination, discussions about healthy foods, and persevering with a challenging task) is worth the time.
Taking care of the worms
At one preschool I taught at, we had several worm farms. The children took the job of feeding and caring for the worms each day very seriously. They would check that only ‘worm-friendly’ food was in the scrap bucket, (no oranges!), and cut the banana skins up into small pieces so the worms could digest them easily. They also learnt important skills, such as how to take care of living creatures, and how to make a contribution towards sustainability.
We can develop kids’ important life skills
So while it might be quicker and easier to rush in and do a lot of these tasks ourselves, resist the urge! If we as educators plan enough time in the daily program so that children can be more self-sufficient, not only do we support their independence and help to boost their self-esteem, but we assist them to develop important life skills too.
This article has been written by Wenone Hope (Blue Mountains, Australia).
Wenone was born and raised in the farming region of Wagga Wagga, Australia. She now finds herself teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) in the Czech Republic. A teacher for 12 years, she has a background in Early Childhood Education and has also done postgraduate studies in Special Education and Early Intervention. Wenone is an Early Childhood Consultant at Lipa Learning, and has also been a Preschool Educational Leader in the Blue Mountains and a Primary School Educational Director in Canberra, Australia. She’s an advocate for inclusive education, where diversity in the classroom (and life!) is celebrated. When she’s not in the classroom, she’s out in nature, playing roller-derby, traveling, or enjoying a good book.