Why a Set Routine?
A set routine is a great way to commence the school day. School can be a scary place for some little ones. By offering the chance to learn a scheduled routine, you remove the fear of the unknown. Your students will come to learn the routine through repetition, which may make the transition time from home life to school smoother. If you have separate classes, set up both in the morning and afternoon, then these toddler "morning" activities would be used at the beginning of class time regardless of time of day. Keep in mind that learning a routine will take time, but eventually the students will learn what to expect from school.
Set the Day Straight with These Activities
Leaving mom or dad can be quite stressful for your students, and even the caregiver themself! Cover this possibility with parents prior to the first day at school, such as at orientation time over the summer. Preparation is the key, so no one is caught off guard by anxious behaviors a child may display. Share with your parents the teaching schedule you have planned. A common phrase shared by many teachers is, "the quicker the goodbye, the shorter the cry."
Find Your Heart: Prior to entering the classroom, have ready a board with the children's "hearts" on it. On each heart have the first letter of your students' names. Depending on age, some teachers have the child's photo along with the letter. Have the children find their heart and hand it to the teacher. The children will most likely need help with this letter recognition activity, but dramatic improvement will most likely be seen by the end of the school year. This welcome activity will also give the teacher a quick reference on who is there that day, or who might be running late.
Toddler’s Choice: A terrific way to start the school day is letting the child choose what they want to do by allowing for free time. By devoting time to individual play, your agenda becomes flexible with students arriving late. Have different types of toys and play areas available for the child to choose from. Again, in addition to aiding skill acquisition, play time is a great time to channel the child’s focus away from the caregiver dropping them off.
Transition: Playtime often becomes chaotic, especially with toddlers moving from one play area to another. A helpful activity for both you and the student is a transitional one. Use a "piggy-back" song to signal the end of Toddler’s Choice and to begin the transition to the next activity. To promote routine, use the same songs everyday. Common choices are songs about cleaning up and gathering together.
Circle time: Once gathered in the same room, have the children sit in a circle. To accomplish this, some teachers have rugs available with individual patterns on them that form a circle which a child is to sit upon.If this is not an option, you could mark out a circle with tape or stickers where a child can go and sit down.Much can be accomplished with circle time activities. Common ones include taking attendance, sharing how they are feeling (happy, sad, mad), describing the weather (sunny, cloudy, snowy, rainy), and introducing the topic of the day.
Group Work: Activities focusing on group work tend to lean towards dancing, listening to a song, creating crafts, reciting poems, and singing, which are all geared toward the lesson topic of the day.
Break for Snack Time
A smooth transition from these toddler morning activities is to schedule a snack break. Your little ones have been quite busy by now, and, aside from being hungry, they could probably use some down time. Many teachers offer story time to continue this quiet time. Now with your toddler morning activities complete, you are well on your way to another successful day at school!
- Author’s Own Experience