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Routines and Rituals, Tips for Early Childhood Educator

For most children in child care programs having a routine they can count on provides reassurance and a feeling of safety. For children who may have unpredictable lives outside of child care it is helpful to have a stable routine and classroom environment. You can create a sense of stability and security in your classroom in many ways. Having rituals for the children to follow daily is often a successful method in providing what children need to manage through the day. You may even consider giving children the power to help choose specific rituals for certain times of the day. This may help in the children following the rituals and understanding why they are in place. For example ask the children what they think the routine should be for transition from lunchtime to snack time – with your help they will probably come up with some great ideas.

For pre school children, transition times can often be the most difficult part of the day. Providing consistent rituals for transitions can often provide children with enough security to know what to expect at certain times. Here are some tips to help ease transitions time in your classroom:

  • Always provide a 1-3 minute warning and tailor the advance warning for individual children if needed. Because some children do not cope well with change in general, sudden changes can at times be
    traumatic and have negative affects in behaviour. If you have specific children in your program that do not handle change well approach these children in advance of the warning and provide an extra warning
    to them that there is going to be a change in what is happening. Sometimes even asking these children to help with transition chores can assist allowing them to make the transition with ease.
  • Have a chart of daily routines at the children’s eye level. If possible, use pictures of the children doing the specific activity beside the word or phrase it matches. This way children can easily identify each activity. Arranging these charts to read left from right means, you are also reinforcing a reading skill. Review the chart during circles and group times.
  • Review routines whenever possible to remind the children what to expect.
  • Have a bag of tricks. Having a bag of books a puppet or something the children will be attracted to will help if one staff is on the carpet receiving children while the other staff is assisting children in clean up. When you work as a team and divide the responsibility this way you may find that transitions become easier and children will have less negative behaviours.
  • Keep waiting times to a minimum. Sometimes the reason transitions are so traumatic for children, is that the wait time is too long . Divide and conquer! Divide the group if you can, to allow for easier supervisions and shorter wait times for things like washroom. And whenever possible, have one staff waiting to receive the children as this will alleviate many behaviours children get into when they are waiting for long periods on the carpet or in line during transition. For example after lunch instead of both staff trying to clean up and get bathroom routine finished, try having one staff on the carpet where the beds are and the other doing bathroom. Then, when bathroom routine is complete you can switch and get the lunch area cleaned up while still having one staff on the carpet.

During transition if the majority of the children are not able to keep on task, re evaluate the ritual ask your supervisor or a co worker to give you an outsiders opinion to help fill in any gaps that are keeping the ritual form being successful. If there is consistent chaos during certain rituals you may also want to “stop the world” and have all of the children gather around for an impromptu and quick circle time to review the ritual and its purpose. This can often give you insight as to why they children are not managing; they may not know what the expectations really are. It is important that when a transition time ritual is not working and there is chaos in the room, you remain calm and cool. The important thing is to get the children to relax and stop the chaos. Sometimes this can mean turning the lights off, ringing a small bell or clapping your hands until you have everyone’s attention. Non-verbal direction can work wonders. Lets say you are in the middle of clean up after a very active and full morning. There is paint and toys everywhere and it happens to be the one day that all of the children are in. Lets also say that typically most of the children are able to follow the routine or ritual of cleaning up however today the room seems out of control and chaotic and no one seems to be listening. What can you do to bring some order back to the room?

Nonverbal re-direction can work wonders. Plant yourself in the middle of the chaos, start clapping your hands in a rhythmic pattern or ring a bell – you will see the children will start responding by coming over to where you are. You can then address the room and help the children get back on track. This strategy works well with older pre school children. Younger children however may need a firmer form of re direction, where you may need to have one staff on the carpet and another physically brining the children over. The bottom line is sometimes you may have to stop the world in order to bring order back into the room.

Author: Sheela Visram, Child Care Consultation Program, Aisling Discoveries Child And Family Centre

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