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A calm and peaceful environment in a preschool setting lays the foundation for better learning of both academic and social skills. Teachers can manipulate the environment through its layout and with different activities to ensure a serene classroom.
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Classroom Design Layout
When thinking of the classroom design layout, have a minimalist attitude. Avoid hanging up a lot of brightly colored decorations. The color can excite the children. Too many things on the walls are distracting. Instead, use cooler colors for paint, as opposed to a bright white surface. Then add softer paintings, such as those by Impressionists, to provide color without being overpowering. For those educational posters, place at them at the children's height, such as on the backs of shelves, and rotate them throughout the year.
Mood lighting also makes an impact on children's behavior. A bright classroom, especially with fluorescent lights, can be eye-opening and stimulating. If overhead lights are bright, try to turn on only half of them at a time. Supplement darker areas with lamps that have a soft light bulb. When possible, bask in the natural beauty of sunlight and keep the lights off.
Set up a peace corner, or resting area in the classroom. This should be well within the watchful eyes of the teacher, but away from the hustle and bustle of the class. Include large, soft cushions or maybe a cushioned rocking chair, next to large floor plants. Have a peaceful scenic print hanging at the child's eye level. Use a lava lamp or mini-waterfall or fountain on which children can meditate to relax. Consider including a small Zen garden. Make sure any item you use in this area is checked for safety during use.
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Add to the mood of the classroom with soft music playing in the background. Different types of music will speak to different children. The impact of the music will also vary from day-to-day. Some children do well with classical music, whereas others become over-stimulated with Mozart. Nature sounds and New Age music, such as Enya, can often keep children calm. Experiment with modern artists, such as Norah Jones, David Gray, and Imogen Heap. Others may do well with jazz, such as Vince Guaraldi (a.k.a. "Snoopy music"). Classic kids songs, on the other hand, can sometimes make them more active, unless they are doing something active like cleaning. Play with different types to see what works best for each group.
Some teachers like to add calming scents to the classroom, if they are subtle and tolerable. Lavender is very calming, and is available in sprays or diffusers. Aura Cacia makes two other calming essential oils. "Chill Pill" is lavender, chamomile, patchouli, and sweet basil. "Tranquility" is lavender, balsam fir, patchouli, chamomile, palma rosa, and geranium. Make your own spray by adding a few drops of essential oils to water in a spray bottle and spray the classroom and doorway before children arrive. Thieves Oil can be placed into a diffuser to both calm and cleanse the atmosphere. Some prefer the scent of vanilla.
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The teacher should also model calm behavior in the classroom. You can model this by using a quiet voice when addressing children. Get down on their level when speaking to them one-on-one. Instead of calling across the room to a child, physically get up and walk over to that child.
Provide ample opportunities for children to self-soothe. Have a "quiet rug" on which a child can lie down or practice yoga and deep breathing. Increase inner focus by having them carry a bell on a taped line without making a sound, or a cup of water without spilling. Children can also challenge themselves to balance a cork or other object on a spoon while walking across the room.
Demonstrate the concept of silence by playing a "Silence Game." When children are sitting at circle, have them silence their bodies, part by part, then close their eyes to listen to the environment. Start with 30 seconds, and gradually build up the length of time they are sitting in silence.
A soothing preschool environment also helps children who are engaged in their activities. Keep classroom activities interesting and engaging, so that they want to focus on their work. Practical life activities, such as cleaning, caring for plants, stringing beads, and tonging pom-poms keep children busy while deepening their concentration skills.
The benefits of a this type of environment in a preschool setting are a happy group of children who love to learn both academically and socially. Proper modification of the classroom environment and modeling of calming activities by the teacher will make this a feasible goal.
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Coventry, Andrea. "Calming Movement Activities for Children: Movement as Part of the Montessori Peace Curriculum". Suite 101. Retrieved 2-18-10 from http://lesson-plans-materials.suite101.com/article.cfm/calming_movement_activities_for_children.