We support children each day in our classrooms as they learn to follow simple directions and to take care of their own needs as they are ready and able. Our goal is to increase each child’s independence and confidence through daily experiences. As an example, I want to share with you how this might look at snack time with our four-year-olds.
Our teachers will ask our children what they need for the snack they are about to enjoy. As they think about it, they may answer that they need a napkin, cup, or spoon. Then, as snack begins, it is their responsibility to pick up these items and take them to the table. We try to give short, concise directions and illustrate by holding up the items they will need. A teacher might ask, “What will you need to open your snack?” or “What will you pour your milk into?” If they arrive at the table without a necessary item, they can go and retrieve the missing item. They are responsible for opening any snack packages with scissors, and for helping clean up after snack is over. Their competence in these skills is increasing each day with practice. Soon they will begin pouring their own cups of milk or water at snack times.
At home, you can also play games where you give directions. We recommend one- and two-step directions for younger children, and three to four steps for older children. You could give your child jobs to carry out, such as putting napkins at each place setting or helping wiping off the table after a meal. Many children enjoy helping with “big” jobs they see adults do. (If you walk into our Panda classroom on any given day, you will see a merry group of children sweeping and dusting by choice!) Just remember that the focus is on learning to follow simple directions – to listen and follow the steps. Your child’s competency at placing napkins or wiping off the table comes in time. Practice and patience are key to teaching and parenting for this age. Keep up the good work!