How do I create a calm environment?

7 MIN READ

Routines create calm environments

What is your room’s routine? Is it written down so all educators and older children have a daily reference. 

Does it include time for:

  • Planned physical activities
  • Routines which make transitions smooth and predictable for children
  • Routines which include spontaneous or intentional teaching to promote learning outcomes eg when we clean the tables we go round and round in a circle, let’s help our friends and pick up 3 blocks each
  • Planning with the children to ensure activities are based on their interests or weekend activities
  • Helper charts which are referred to and used during the day
  • Free play inside and outside
  • Talking with children about what they have learnt today and what they liked/didn’t like
  • Completing portfolio documentation with children (children talk and write, educators record and underwrite for young children)
  • Writing the program with the children
  • Packing up/cleaning with the children
  • Singing, dancing, dramatic/imaginary play
  • Looking after plants/animals
  • Small and large group activities
  • Several different learning activities to maintain children’s interest/engagement

If you don’t have a written room routine, try writing one in half hour or one hour blocks. Make sure you cover all of the activities above, then implement and refine after reflecting with colleagues. If you do have a clearly articulated routine, what areas can you improve? Reflect with other room educators and focus on at least one area.

We often find that routines are seen as parts of the day where things have to happen, but unfortunately learning is often not one of them. In these cases routines are adult directed with specific objectives in mind, so that learning can start again when they’re finished. Wouldn’t it be so much better if we used routines to promote learning outcomes? There is no set time or place for learning. It can happen anywhere and anytime, especially for children when so many activities and experiences are new.

Assistant Professor Caroline Fewster says the challenge is to design routines and transitions with children rather than for children, creating a sense of community. This supports children to become progressively independent, develop their knowledge and skills and become members of a group.

She says “..generally we ask children to pack away play materials as a group and sometimes only four or five children actually ‘pack away’. (This may) be unfair to a small number of children and create a lot of packing away for …educators. Instead of expecting all children in the group to pack away…, each child could have a more precise role…Children may work together to complete a task… they have chosen themselves. A democratic pedagogy would advocate giving choices to children…”

Choices could include things like:

  • designing the morning tea table in a small team
  • setting the table
  • folding paper napkins for meal/snack times in many different ways
  • setting out the beds together with staff
  • dusting shelves with a fun duster
  • feeding fish each day
  • listening to a small radio or going on-line for the weather forecast to be able to tell the group this important information
  • using small baskets to collect a few items from the floor
  • watering plants each day
  • recording rainfall in a rain gauge
  • feeding food scraps to animals
  • putting food scraps in compost
  • making play dough, selecting the colour and texture each week
  • packing bikes, balls etc away
  • planning sitting arrangements for group time – children can cut out pictures and match them to each child’s name, to give each child a place to sit in the group
  • photographing routines to provide visible cues for children about what is expected of them
  • creating a ‘Packing-up Message Box’ – with messages for children to guide the packing up system – photo messages can guide the actual task.

Source Fewster C (2010) Designing routines and transitions with children in early childhood settings.

Consider designing a routine roster with photos of the activities, then allocate names to the jobs after discussing with children.  eg

Checking weather forecast Names of children
Feeding animals
Watering plants
Making play dough
Packing up

How might designing routines with children increase their interest and co-operation?

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