Posted on 12/21/2015 at 10:06 AM by Liz Determan
Choice Time where children participate in self-initiated play is an essential part in the preschool daily schedule, but it is also a time when children’s behaviors can become challenging. Though there can be a variety of sources for those behaviors, a good place to start looking for ways to eliminate those challenges is in the physical setting. Let’s look at what The Creative Curriculum for Preschool by Diane Trister Dodge, Cate Heroman, Laura Colker and Toni Bickart says on page 71 about what challenging behaviors can occur, what might be a possible cause and what we can change to the environment to reduce those behaviors.
Running in the classroom could mean too much space is open, the room is not divided into small enough interest areas and/or interest areas are not well defined. Use shelves and furniture to divide the space and avoid open spaces that young children just can’t help but sometimes run in.
Fighting over toys may mean that children are asked to share too often and there are not enough of popular toys. Whenever possible provide duplicates of favorite learning materials and as sharing problems occur utilize strategies for turn taking, such as using a sand timer or creating a waiting list for turn taking.
If a child has difficulty choosing materials to play with and ends up wandering around the room it could be because there is not enough materials to choose from that are interesting to them. It also could be because choices are not clear or the room is too cluttered. Get rid of clutter, simplify the arrangement of the room and add more play choices.
Becoming distracted and having trouble staying with a task can be the result of undefined or open areas that make it so children can see everything that is going on in the room or materials that are too difficult or boring to the children. Use shelves to define areas, separating those that are noisy and quiet; and select materials that are interesting and matched to the children’s abilities.
When children intrude on others’ workspace it could mean that space is limited or there is poor traffic patterns. Define the work areas and explore all ways to allow more space for children to work.
Finally, when children are misusing materials think about how they may not know how to use the materials appropriately and take the time to show how materials can be used. Also, if children are resisting cleanup it could be because materials are not displayed in an orderly fashion. Make a place for everything and use labels to show where materials go.
Look to The Creative Curriculum Volume 1 The Foundation and Volume 2 Interest Centers for additional guidelines for setting up the preschool classroom to avoid these behaviors (https://shop.teachingstrategies.com/page/73749-creative-curriculum-preschool.cfm). And always remember that it is best to first look at what it is that we as adults can do to fix classroom problems before we fault children for them.