Laughing, learning, and playing is all a part of a preschool day. We become preschool teachers because we love being around young kids. Their natural interest in learning, sweet friendships, and silly sayings keeps us coming back every morning!
But what happens when our days aren’t as great as we had planned? Sometimes children don’t show interest in our activities. Sometimes the best of friends have a hard day sharing space. What feeds into the differences in our kids’ behaviors every day?
The foundation of a happy and successful school day is a schedule and routine. When we stick with a daily routine, our kids come in knowing that they will have all of their basic needs met. If a child hasn’t slept well the night before, if they are hungry, or if they are missing a family member (maybe one parent is out of town), they will communicate their needs through behaviors. Basic needs include food, shelter, sleep, love, and support. If they hadn’t had their basic needs met that particular day, then we will see varying needs and behaviors at school.
A daily routine includes snack time, nap time, music time, free play time, large circles, small groups, inside time, and outside time. As we meet our student’s basic needs within their daily routine, they will be able to participate in a variety of daily activities and lessons that we have created for them.
How do we know what to do when? How much time do we give to each section and how do we transition our kids to the next activity?
For the past 18 years, I have been working in preschool classrooms as a teacher, director, and consultant. I have played with a variety of routines and have come up with a routine that has worked in many situations.
8 am: Drop off and inside free play.
8:30 am: Snack time
8:50 am: Bathroom time
9:00 am: Circle time
9:20 am: Small group time
9:40 am: Free indoor time
10:30 am: Snack time
10:50 am: Bathroom time
11:00 am: Outdoor play
12:00 pm: Story/music time
12:15 pm: Lunch
12:40 pm: Bathroom/nap time
2:30 pm: Snack time/ bathroom time
3:00 pm: Outdoor free play
To meet children’s basic needs throughout the day, bathroom times and eating opportunities take place every two hours. This allows children to feel comfortable throughout the day, supporting positive behaviors and positive social development.
The NAYEC (National Association of Education of Young Children) recommends that free playtime have a minimum of 45 minutes allotted. This allows children the ability to dive deep into imaginative play, advance social skills, and fully experience new situations. Indoor and outdoor free play offers children a variety of options and is a great way for teachers to observe the interests of the classroom and the learning style of each student.
As you think about the routine that you are going to create for your classroom, remember that as long as you stick to a schedule that meets children’s basic needs, your students will have a happier, healthier experience.