Is Your Child Slow to Warm Up?

The Hopkins early childhood programs are filled with exciting opportunities for children of all young ages. As parents we are delighted by the variety of playing and learning activities. Not every child reacts the same way to our classrooms, however.  You may have a child who is not inclined to jump in and participate at the art table or during song time. Parents can sometimes become worried that a child who isn’t in the middle of all the activity is learning less than his peers, or not getting the most out of the experience.

The Value of Watching
The early childhood staff for Kaleidoscope preschools would like to offer insight into the child who is “slow to warm up”. The teachers in the preschool programs often meet students who are not yet ready to jump in with both feet; some children would rather take time to get comfortable and learn by observing. The teachers know that the student is not going to have fun in the classroom if he is pushed into activities.  There is also comfort in knowing that lots of children learn from watching, especially at the younger ages when they are not yet used to the routine of preschool. If your child is experiencing a drop-off school for the first time, be patient with him. The difference you will see in his willingness to participate over the course of the school year may be remarkable, once you have had the chance to see the year with hindsight. The year of growth and maturity in the child, as well as their improved understanding of the systems of the school day will result in a much more confident and participatory student!

The Teacher’s Strategy
When a teacher sees that a student is not participating as actively as others, she takes steps to encourage participation by building on the interests of the child. The teacher will observe the child and see what sorts of toys and activities he enjoys, and then build on those things within the classroom to encourage more exploration and interaction with others. For instance, if the teacher sees that a child enjoys playing with a race track during open play, she might dip racing cars in paint and use them as paintbrushes in the art corner. In addition, if the teacher sees that a child hesitates to do an activity the group is working on, she might alter that activity slightly to suit his interests and keep him engaged. Lastly, a teacher may create small groups for activities rather than have the whole group participate. This encourages interactions on a small scale, and can help a hesitant child feel comfortable with a smaller group of children.

How Can A Parent Help?
You can support your child by not pushing him to participate if he isn’t ready. Instead, convey the message “I know you will do this when you are ready.” This shows confidence in your child’s ability to approach something new in his own time.

Lay groundwork for familiarity by setting up some play dates with preschool friends. These play dates can be very simple – a meeting at the local library or park for an hour – and they help your child get to know his peers on a more intimate level.

Try your hardest to be on time to class each day. For the child who is slow to warm up, it is doubly hard to join activities once they are already happening. By being on time or even a bit early, your child will have the chance to get into the room and settle in before being expected to participate.

Sometimes a child is not participating because they have not yet mastered the skill required to do so. Talk to your teacher about skills you can work on at home. For instance, it may help to be singing the songs your child hears in school while you are at home. It may help to have your child use a child-safe pair of scissors for cutting to help him learn this skill. Your teacher can direct you to activities that will help build the skills your child needs to build confidence in the classroom.

Realize how much learning is going on even if your child is not participating in every activity. Learning how to be part of a classroom, interact with new friends, follow directions and structure, and be focused on others for hours is so much social work. This may be taking all the energy your child has. Be proud of his ability to handle the school day, and be confident he will have energy for other things as he masters all these foundations.

Trust Your Child
Very often, your slow-to-warm-up child is doing what feels right for him when he hesitates to participate in the classroom. Trust that he will follow his interests and his curiosity as he becomes more familiar and comfortable with his school. In his own time he will take part in the activities that feel most meaningful to him.

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