The children are seated for lunch and as I am pouring the milk, halfway around the table, a child shouts, “I want milk! I want milk! I want milk!” I stop pouring and calmly explain that she doesn’t need to shout because I am coming around the table to pour everyone milk and I will be pouring her milk in just a moment.
It is time for a little art. The instant that the paintbrushes and other supplies are placed on the table, A child reaches over the table, grabs several paintbrushes and hoards most of the supplies to where he is sitting. The caregiver states, “Let’s leave the supplies in the middle until we talk about what we’re going to do…”
A two year old snatches a book away from another two year old and throws it across the room.
Does this spell out: “misbehaving children”? NAW! This spells out: “OPPORTUNITY”! A huge (and I mean HUGE!) part of what we do in the preschool years is to teach children how to control their behaviors and emotions–also called self regulation. Self regulation is about managing emotions, maintaining focus and ignoring distractions, taking turns, inhibiting impulsiveness, and cooperating. When is the prime time window for teaching all these glorious skills? You got it–from birth to five.
How important is it for children to have the skills of self regulation when they enter a formal schooling environment?
*Studies point to a correlation between self regulation and higher math and literacy scores in kindergarten children
*Psychologists find the qualities of self regulation to be at least twice as influential as IQ for both academic and life success
*A study by an Oregon State University faculty member shows that preschool age children who do not master basic self-regulation skills such as paying attention and following instructions may fall behind in academic subjects including math and reading.
*Children who had the greatest self-control in primary school and preschool ages were most likely to have fewer health problems when they reached their 30s.
How is self regulation addressed at The Stone House? It is actually addressed at every moment! We take off our shoes before we enter the house. We wash our hands before we bake. We wait until everyone’s sitting and ready for lunch before we sing our blessing song. These routines are all about self management and following directions. And one of my favorites? I like to leave the carton of eggs on the table when we are getting ready to bake. That’s right–just a little extra dose for gaining the necessary self control.
Adding the element of play to the routine everyday directions increases the challenges for the children to remain in control. One moment a child may be “taking care of her pet tiger who’s pretending she’s really a dog” (I know, it was confusing to me, too) The next thing that happens is the dog/tiger has become loose from it’s leash and is terrorizing all of the bystanders. The bystanders start screaming and running away from the thrashing dog/tiger. You could see where children are constantly challenged to keep their play in check. Play also involves the children to be motivated and copperate with others.
So although you might be focused on having your child learn concrete things such as numbers and facts, this is all secondary to the children knowing how to manage their emotions and behaviors. We know this. This is the reason why the Principals and Directors will “accept kids from the Stone House anyday”. This is why any teacher of Stone House children will remark at how polite, considerate, and cooperative the children are, and how motivated they are to learn. I’m not bragging, I’m just saying that we know what we’re doing 🙂