- Bring more play into the classroom. You do it already, but keep being creative. Word games, number games, role-playing, singing, and dozens of other methods allow you to mix the emotional, social, or cognitive challenge with fun. The more you encourage creativity and tap into the child's sense of fun, the easier it will be to introduce even greater challenges. Sometimes we use recess or free time as currency in a reward system - "Your table will have no recess if all of these blocks are not cleaned up in five minutes." This punishment reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the value of play in a child's development. We would never withhold a lesson in reading because a child had not managed to finish another assignment.
- Help educate parents about the power of fun. If you sense that parents are pushing their children too much and too early, pass this information along. Tell them about how important solitude and play are to creativity. Help a parent understand that if she provides a safe, nurturing, and enriched environment, her child will do just fine. The playful, creative child who comes to love learning is more likely to achieve and succeed than the anxious, pressured 5-year-old child who knows that "grades are important."
- Don't be afraid of unstructured time. Young children learning social skills need to learn to negotiate, compromise, persuade, and cooperate. When allowed to play, children will do all of these things with each other. When two 5-year-olds argue about how to divide an uneven number of blocks while building a "city," they are learning how to negotiate, compromise, and work together. If the teacher steps in and referees each conflict, they will not practice those skills.
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