Your Preschool Class: How to Teach Toddlers Patience

Your Preschool Class: How to Teach Toddlers Patience
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Patience Is a Virtue

From baby to toddler, a child is naturally impatient at times. A baby communicates by crying until the parent or caregiver meets his needs. As he grows, the toddler is learning to talk and knows what he wants and wants to be heard (often screaming and wanting immediate response).

Teachers and other caregivers have the role to find out how to teach toddlers patience. Toddlers will start to learn the meaning of the word “patience” as it is often used to let them know they need to wait for something. Learning patience will benefit toddlers by helping them be more flexible and even tempered at home, preschool and any new situation that presents itself. Patience also teaches self control and good manners.

Methods of Teaching Patience

Patience can be learned by a variety of methods. For toddlers that need help understanding the meaning of the word “patience,” it can be simply described as being willing to wait, being calm, having self-control and not complaining. Use the word in phrases, such as, “You need to be patient and wait your turn,” or “Be patient for 10 more minutes and it will be time to go outside.”

  • Be an example: A teacher can set an example of patience for the class by being calm and helping the class run smoothly. Having a class schedule can help a teacher point out to kids when activities will happen throughout the day and when they need to be patient.

  • Keep expectations realistic: Having them wait for short periods of time is essential to teaching patience. A toddler that is expected to wait too long can become upset and act out more.

  • Use a timer/clock: This is another way to help toddlers learn the concept of waiting. An egg timer works well for kids to associate how long they have to wait. A teacher might also include paper clock diagrams in the class schedule for a more visual approach for teaching the class to have patience.

  • Keep them busy: Helping toddlers to stay busy to fill the time they have to wait can help them be more patient. A child that is sitting idle while they wait will show more difficulty being patient. Try to get them involved in the current activity to help the time pass more quickly.

  • Praise and encouragement: Praising good waiting skills is one of the most effective ways to encourage future patience in children. Knowing their efforts are appreciated, they will try to have patience in other circumstances.

  • Offer assistance: Toddlers like to do things themselves, but when something is too hard they can get frustrated. Try to be attentive and watch when a toddler is starting to get upset and offer help.

Note: Keep in mind some situations shouldn’t require a toddler to wait, such as if she needs to go to the bathroom or is hurt and needs immediate attention.

Activities for Teaching Patience

A teacher can teach toddlers to have patience through class activities. Both working together by taking turns to help and waiting for the final result are effective ways to teach patience.

  • Follow a daily schedule: Having a set class schedule is an effective way to remind students of the day’s events. Kids that want to jump ahead to other activities can be reminded to have patience until it is time for the activity. Telling what needs to happen before that activity can give toddlers a better understanding of when it will happen.

  • Plant a seed: As a class, plant a seed in a pot and teach toddlers patience as they care for it and watch it grow over time. Once it begins to sprout, recount all the waiting that was done patiently to get to that point.

  • Make a treat: Plan to make a treat or snack as a class and explain how patience is needed to follow each step properly. Hurrying too quickly can lead to missed steps and a treat that doesn’t taste very good.

  • Playing games: Organize games for the class to play that involve waiting their turn. Sit in a circle if possible so each child can see when their turn is coming up. Remind them to pay attention and wait quietly for their turn. Pretend to go to a doctor’s office and have the students wait their turn to be seen.

  • Show and tell: Having the class bring something from home can encourage patience. After the object is explained, pass it around the class one-by-one until all the students have had a chance to see it.

Ultimate Benefits

Although patience won’t come overnight, by continuing to encourage patience and praising their efforts, toddlers will become more patient. Following guidelines for how to teach toddlers patience and finding class activities to support it will go a long way. As toddlers grow and practice patience, it will become a very important life skill for them in school, the work place, goals they have and a variety of other ways.


Picture credit: Deborah Walstad

Stewart, Charlotte. Education: Five Ways to Teach Preschool Patience, in

Parents: Now! Now! Now! How to Teach Patience to Kids

Parenting: How to Teach Patience on