How to deal with the crazies

So, my dear husband pointed out that I really should have written this post a long time ago...like in the beginning of November. What can I say, I think of things later than I should sometimes.

Around November 20th, things at the children's centers seem to go haywire. Anyone not agree with me? If you raised your hand, you either don't work in a preschool or haven't worked in one long enough.

Why do things go crazy? Let me list the reasons:
  • Left over candy from Halloween is still hanging around
  • Thanksgiving candy and treats are starting to make their way into the homes
  • Quickly followed by (or overlapped with) the Christmas candy and treats (or whatever other holiday is around this time of year, everyone has some extra sugar floating around)
  • Relatives are coming around from out of town and spoiling them rotten
  • Which leads to late bedtimes
  • Just the excitement of those relatives is enough, even without the spoiling and late bedtimes
  • The WORLD is covered with excitement: upbeat music/fancy decorations/north pole characters/etc... everywhere you look: stores/television/radio/billboards/etc... They can just anticipate the excitement
These things are enough to put an infant or toddler into constant insecurity not knowing what to expect. We know all children need predictability, but especially infants and toddlers who can't even understand when you explain what is happening.

These things are also enough to put a preschooler into over-stimulation mode. You know what happens when they get to that stage? MOST preschoolers will get wild, bounce of walls, and have a difficult time settling down (I say most because I know of one child, aka my nephew, who actually is calmer when he is overstimulated. It's very rare).

So, for preschool professionals, how do you handle this in the classroom? Up the ante for time-outs? Yeah, I think you all can figure out what I think of that idea (oh, for you new readers, I am greatly opposed to that idea).

Put on a video and hope that will calm them down? Hm, again, greatly opposed to that idea. Actually, this is the opposite of what you should be doing.

Have big huge parties in the classroom, do cooking projects of sugar cookies and gingerbread houses, and make more excitement for them? Do you really think I'm going to say yes to that?

No, what you are going to do will be based on your age group. First, infants and toddlers:

The most important thing you are going to do with these young ones is to go overboard on the calm and remain consistent. Don't let things backslide even a little. They need that consistency. Stick to your daily routines and do your absolute one hundred and ten percent best to keep the staff constant in the classroom. They need to know that there is some place where things are constant and secure for them.

It's not a horrible thing that there is so much stimulation going on; they need to learn to deal with changes. But they also need to be given a break away from it as well. The classroom is the best place to maintain consistency and security for them at this crazy time.

Now, let's look to the older children. Again, part of what is going to help is the consistency. The rules must stay the same. The staff should stay consistent as well. Yes, we all like to take time off and, at times, we all get sick; but really think about it before calling in or asking for a day off. Is your co-teacher going to be out already that day? Then make every effort to come in.

The next thing you need to do is have many activities that get rid of that extra energy. Plan activities inside and out that will use lots of gross motor skills. Parachute games, bean bags, dancing with ribbons, table hockey, leap frog, twirling, etc... This is the time to take walks around the building and, if possible, around the neighborhood. You may even need to extend your outdoor time to be longer than usual.

If the weather doesn't permit you getting out and about, put the furniture up against the walls and bring out the tumbling mats, crawling tunnels, and other large movement obstacle course things. If you have a long hallway, close it off and all the children to tumble, flip, kick balls, and get out energy there.

Do cooking activities...of lots of healthy things! Baked fries, mashed potatoes, vegetable stew, etc... Healthy items to help clean out all that junk they are eating outside the center. They don't need another junk food cooking activity. This is also the time to bring in the nutrition portion of the curriculum. Teach them what they should be eating; that sugar is okay, just not too much.

Let's be honest here, those classroom parties are not for the children...they are for you! Nix 'em. Sure, have something as a center after hours in which the parents come and have a good time together. It's a great community opportunity; families coming together. But keep it out of the classroom. You aren't adding anything to their life experience, and that's what we are here for.

Last, you need to have at least four places in your classroom set up for quiet alone time where children can go to get away from it all. Those places should have pillows, books, writing tools, puzzles, etc... It should be space for no more than two children at a time, and at least one should be for no more than one. Bring in a large refrigerator box, put it on its side, put some pillows and blankets, and books inside, and allow only one at a time.

Those children who need that quiet time will need this space. Without it, you will be tempted more than once to put them on a time-out; and we really want to avoid that at all costs.

You need to channel more patience in the last two months of the year than any other time. On top of that, you have your own stresses outside of work. I understand that. It's so easy to let your quality in the classroom slide; but this is when you need to be at your best.

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