Parents of preschoolers can certainly attest to the need for structure when it comes to helping children learn how to accomplish tasks, follow instructions, and make good decisions. As adults, we can probably think back to our own childhood and cite specific examples of how structure helped us learn how to do all the many things we know how to do today. Children need our brain power, and they probably ask to “borrow” it more often than we even realize.
So, as children grow and begin to develop their own levels of independence, how can parents use structure in the most healthy ways without hovering and doing every task for them? Here are five scenarios where structure is important, while also allowing some room for children to develop their own thinking and decision-making skills.
Since meal times are routine, they require structure. While it’s good for children to get into the regular habit of understanding that they eat at least three times a day, parents can allow some independence for kids to practice feeding themselves, choosing foods, and even preparing and cleaning up.
Establishing a set bed time is not only a good opportunity to help children understand structure, but a good night’s sleep is a must for children to function properly throughout each day. A good way to allow some room for decision-making in this case is to allow children to be a part of the pre-bed time activities. For example, take a few minutes to read a book before bed or listen to some soothing music. In this case, the child could choose the book or songs.
A regular, structured bath time routine can be a great opportunity to allow children to practice self-care skills. As children understand that baths are an important and regular activity, parents can help them learn how to run the bath water, bathe and dry themselves, and help tidy up the bathroom area.
Play time is often best viewed as an unstructured activity, however, structured play time is the perfect opportunity for children to have fun while learning how to work together, follow instructions, and think logically. Children typically receive some structured play time at school more often than at home, but parents can do several structured play activities at home, such as simple board games, card activities, or even playing house, hide-n-seek, and other similar activities that allow children to have fun while maintaining structure.
Learning time is another activity that may happen more regulary during the school day, however, parents can lead children through structured learning activities outside of school by heading to the library and allowing children to choose a book, venturing to the park or zoo to look for birds or animals, taking a nature walk near your home and gathering fallen leaves, or even taking part in fun household activities like cooking or laundry. All of these are structured activities that leave room for children to develop some important cognitive skills.
At The Gardner School, students will experience many of these elements throughout the school day, which will help them maintain similar patterns at home as well. As an academically-focused preschool that works to help children be ready for kindergarten and beyond, The Gardner School’s programs enhance self-esteem, which is essential in the adjusting, exploring, and growing stages of child development. Learn more about our curriculum, teachers, and philosophies at our website.