As an educator, I want to set children up for success. However, I do know that failure happens and I am prepared to handle the turmoil that goes with failure. You aren’t here to read about failure. You want your 5 ways to set children up for success! Let’s define a few words first.
Success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
Children/Child is defined as a young human being below the age of puberty or below the legal age of majority.
So, how exactly do we set children up for success given these definitions? It starts by cultivating an environment aided to their needs and development at that time. Which means as children change and grow, so should their environments. Children grow so much between ages 2 and 3! From an increase in motor skills, language skills, critical thinking, and size! Their learning environments need to reflect that.
To me, success in early childhood promotes development, independence, and problem solving skills. With these three goals in mind I have come up with 5 generalized ideas that help set children up for success.
5 Ways to Set Children Up for Success
When designing a space for children to learn and grow in, we need to think about the age, the space itself, and how you want children to move and engage with the space. The environment is the third teacher and we need to use it as such! Check out my inspirational spaces.
When thinking about the age it is best to think about what developmental stage they will be in. For toddlers, they are craving independence, they are walking and talking, and should be able to sort and count a bit. The design of the room should reflect that, but also reflect development just outside of their development to encourage success in difficult skills.
The size of your space should reflect how large your shelving units and tables are. If you have a small space, crowding it with large furniture will make it seem smaller. On the flip side, filling a large space with small furniture will make the room feel large. It can be very overwhelming for small bodies to have too much or not enough space.
While designing think about how you want children to interact with materials. Shelves should be large enough to store materials, but short enough so that children can reach all around. One rule I learned in college was “Anything you don’t want children to have should be out of sight.” If you are putting things up for show and get upset when children touch it- take it down. To promote independence I always try to have shelving, tables, and chairs at their level and have all materials open for everyone to use
The color palette when designing also plays a huge part in the success of children! Colors can make people act out more, calm down, and feel certain emotions. Having a majority of the room being neutral colored allows the natural pops of colors stand out. A neutral room also promotes calm bodies and minds which is a big plus to help children become successful in their activities and interactions with children an adults.
When designing a room children to interact with the best way to help them be successful is to keeps things at their level with materials that they can use.
I don’t know about you, but as an adult, I love my routines. I enjoy knowing how my day will go and children like that to. Some centers run off a strict schedule, which is fine. I, however, enjoy the loose schedule with a basic outline of what we are doing.
Routines give adults a handle on the day and let children know that generally, nothing will be a surprise. To help children, routines can be posted in the classroom which helps children and adults know what’s happening. If you are deviating from your routine, let the kiddos know ahead of time so they can prepare for the change.
Routines are different for every center and every home but are vital for each to run smoothly. They allow children to explore and delve deep into play because they know they have time to do so. Having a routine with wiggle room allows children to try new things and take their time trying, failing, and succeeding, such as getting a coat on. Children always get a huge smile when they are able to do their coat without help. Independence for the win!
This one is probably the hardest to maintain but is one of the most important. Just as children like routines, they also like rules. Having and sticking to rules lets children know what to expect from the place and most importantly from you.
Often times we are sending mixed messages to children and giving them too many chances. If we want children to be successful we, as adults, need to set the boundaries and stick to them. This is most important when you are first meeting a new kiddo. It is hard. I struggle with this at times because I want the child to like me, but I know it will be best for them if they learn the rules early on. Even though I set my limits with the kiddos, I do know that they like me and trust me.
If you are wanting something to be off limits, don’t bring it out or let the children know right away. If we are letting children sometimes play and sometimes not, we end up confusing them because we aren’t being clear with out boundaries. Have you ever had a boss that set a boundary and never followed it? Was it frustrating and confusing? That’s how children feel when our boundaries aren’t clear. Boundaries should be set and followed for children to be successful.
Giving children warnings is great. My limit is 2. I kindly ask the child to follow whatever rule (walking feet please). If they choose not to listen, I kindly ask again making sure to say “next time” and give them a consequence (they get to sit by me, I get to help them walk, etc.). If they still choose not to listen, I follow through with my consequence. This last part is the hardest to do because children don’t like it. I am okay with them not liking me in that moment becasue I need to let them know my boundaries. I am not going to repeat warning 2 over and over and not follow through.
Truthfully, children will enjoy you more when they know what to expect from you. They can trust you and trust your words and for young kiddos, trust like that is SO vital. Here are 10 tips to help enforce rules and manage behaviors.
I prefer to use the word “materials” over “toys” because a lot of toys have one purpose where as materials have many purposes. I enjoy materials over toys because they can last through ages and developmental stages whereas toys are only there for a short time. This is my preference and it aligns with my teaching philosophy and beliefs in children.
Materials, or loose parts as you might see them around the internet, promote creativity, independence, and can be used inside and outside! Loose parts are things such at tree cookies, unit blocks, rocks, ladders, balls, hoops, bowls, etc. These materials can be utilized it many different ways. Since they can be used many ways that leads children to be successful because children are able to choose what happens.
Have you ever seen a child try to figure out how to use a toy but they didn’t know how? Have you ever told a child “That’s not how the toy works”? Do you remember trying something new and becoming frustrated? Or having someone tell you that you are doing something wrong? Children develop the same emotions we do, they don’t like be belittled any more than adults do. Which is why loose part materials help children feel successful.
Loose parts help children practice gross motor skills, fine motor skills, problem solving, comparisons, predictions, cause and effect, and so much more! Junk Yard Playgrounds are becoming more popular because children love it and parents love seeing their children be successful (I hope!). These “junk yards” are full of loose parts!
Rules are important, but your attitude as an adult is the most important. Adults influence children more than we realize. Children pick up on our emotions and reflect their emotions based on us.
When an adult’s attitude towards children is viewing them as incapable, they are already being set up for failure. When an adult’s attitude towards children is viewing them as capable, they will be set up for success. They will know that you trust them and will be there if they need help.
If you are finding yourself become frustrated with a time of day, a material, or a specific behavior take a minute to reflect on it. What is going on about this time of day/material/behavior that frustrates you? What can I do differently to help myself and the children.
Often times I will tell the kiddos why I am being short with them, “I am very frustrated right now. I am frustrated because we are inside and have extremely loud voices right now. When our voices are loud, our friends can’t hear my words to keep them safe.” We’ll take a second to chat about it, and usually the behavior isn’t a problem. For me, it helps if I take a breath and am honest with the kiddos. I want to show them how to handle rough emotions.
It is also important that we don’t take our frustrations out on the children. If I am short or make a mistake I do own up to it and apologize to them. I follow my steps on saying sorry so they can see it in practice. The expectations I set up for them, I also follow. Why should I expect something from children when I’m not willing to do it either? When adults change their perspective on children a whole different world opens up.
As I wrote in my previous post, I am an advocate for children’s rights. I want to open the dialogue about how we view children, what they are capable of, and what they deserve.
These strategies can be used at home too! Set their room up so that their furniture is at their level with materials that are age appropriate and can be used as they get older. Follow through with your threats, give a reason for a “no”, have them on a routine and tell them when you’ll deviate from it. Most importantly, remember that they are just children. They are learning and growing every single day. Often times, they aren’t acting out to be vicious. They are acting out in a way to get their needs met.
Thank you so much for reading! Let me know in the comments ways you encourage your children to be successful!