6 Ways That Preschool Teachers Foster Independent Children
Preschool teachers have a special way of making it look easy to manage dozens of children at once.
They are insanely outnumbered by little people who are super messy and demanding, but that hardly shows at the end of the day.
They have a smile on their face, and the children have happily had their fill of learning and playing.
Children are putting their toys away. They are on schedule. And they have all had lunch, painted, played outside, had circle time, and learned the letters in their name. All in three short hours.
So how do they do all of this?
Maybe a sprinkling of some magic pixie dust?
And a whole lot of success with empowering children to take initiative and be independent.
In a preschool classroom, children learn to take care of one another and how to do their part.
Here are some of the best ways that preschool teachers help foster independent kids who feel capable and confident too.
6 Ways Preschool Teachers Foster Independent Children
1. Children clean up after themselves
When there are coats on the floor, you won't see preschool teachers wasting precious time picking them up. They would be picking them up all day long if that was the case.
A preschool teacher simply says, "George, you put your coat away." And he does it -- right then and there.
I know. Sometimes it's so much easier just to do it ourselves. But honestly, it's so much better when we don't.
We shouldn't be doing things for kids that they can do for themselves.
There, I said it.
Anytime we are doing something for children because it's more convenient, it's more of a disservice to them.
If we want children to become capable and independent, we actually have to help train them up to be that way.
2. Children make choices
Teachers have mastered the art of giving children choices. Choices that they want the class to do.
All of the activities are carefully planned out, and the children get to choose what they want to do.
Teachers carefully arrange these on the shelves for children to see and choose from. Everything is within reach and easy to get by themselves.
When we give children the ability to decide on something for themselves, we are telling them that they are competent and able to make good decisions.
And when we create choices that we approve of ahead of time, we are being strategic and smart -- all at the same time.
3. Children learn to be resourceful
A Montessori teacher once told me that she had a rule when children needed help.
Before they could ask for help from a teacher, they had to try it themselves. And then they had to ask a friend for help.
Jamilla couldn't figure out how to get her coat to zip, and Ms. Melissa didn't rush over to help.
Instead, she asked Jamilla, "Which of your friends do you think could help you with your zipper?"
As Jamilla started looking around, Ms. Melissa told her to find someone who already had their coat on and zipped.
After Jamilla noticed Xander, she pointed to him. Once again, Ms. Melissa gave her some more instructions.
"What do you think you could say to Xander about your zipper?"
Jamilla asked Xander to help her with her coat and a few moments later she was all zipped and ready to go outside.
Instead of rushing in to fix the situation, Ms. Melissa gave Jamilla the tools she needed to find help.
Not only does this help Ms. Melissa because she won't have to zip 20 coats, but it also is empowering to Jamilla that she can find a way to get help solving a problem, and she doesn't have to rely on a teacher or another adult to help her.
4. Children take care of their classroom
Classroom job charts are sheer genius! Making a list of what needs to be in the room and delegating that task to an excited preschooler is a brilliant victory.
Classroom jobs are the version of chores at home. Except it is way cooler at school because children get to help their friends and feel extra helpful and important.
In my case, I know that my kids are much more willing to help out when it's their teacher asking them than if it's me. She probably doesn't get as many grumpy faces either.
Plus, classroom jobs are perfect activities to teach responsibility.
5. Children are allowed to take risks
One day I saw a brave preschooler climbing up on top of the playground equipment. The way that made my mama heart start to beat faster.
I glanced toward the preschool teacher outside. Ms. Shirley saw the child too and gave me a thumbs-up. She walked over and explained that the only rule was that if a child wanted to go higher, they had to do it by themselves. No teachers would help unless they got stuck and needed to get down.
Sure enough, the child went up and down and had no trouble.
I heard other children ask to do the same, and Ms. Shirley was true to her word. She said, "Go ahead and try it. You can go as high as you would like. But you just have to do it by yourself."
Many times, we think a child shouldn't do something, but they are actually fully capable. When we take a step back and let them show us their actual abilities, we are helping them see that they are independent children who are capable and strong.
6. Children become problem-solvers
The preschool classroom is the perfect place for children to practice being little problem solvers. There are plenty of opportunities each day.
In the preschool classroom, you will probably hear lots of phrases encouraging children to figure out answers to their problems.
"How do you think you can fix that?"
"Where do you think that might be?"
"What do you think would help your friend?"
From social situations to spills and missing pieces of a puzzle, all of these are opportunities for children to see themselves as problem solvers!
Helping kids develop into capable, confident, and independent children doesn't happen overnight. But by using these simple strategies from preschool teachers, we all can work together to help children learn to take care of themselves and one another.