One question that I get asked quite often by new teachers is how they can expedite building relationships with the children in their class. While relationship building and bonding can happen naturally, it often requires time and personal interaction. There are many actions that we can take to enable this to happen in a quick and smooth manner.
Forming a bond with your preschool children and getting to know your families is critical to a successful preschool year. Children can sense that a positive relationship is forming, which gives them confidence and security. If parents are positive and feel part of the preschool family, then this will flow onto their children as well.
There are so many ways to help bond with your class; these nine are the most effective and impactful in my experience:
Be Involved in Orientation / Interviews with Families
Orientation day is an opportunity for preschools to invite parents and children to visit the centre as a group and attend a meeting to gain information. This is often followed by an individual interview, so that the parents can share information about their child with the teacher. This is a critically important event that needs to happen as a precursor to the preschool year.
It is at the family’s orientation or interview that you gain the initial and important information about the child – their likes, dislikes, allergies, what they like to do or play with, who the important people are in their life and their special toys for rest time. Take the time to get to know each family as well as you can.
The information you glean from this exercise, as well As the rapport your build, will be invaluable and can then be incorporated into the preschool environment in the first weeks.
Take and Display a Photo of the Family
Another really important action step I take before preschool even starts is to take a photo of the family at the orientation or interview so I can display it in the room. Not only will having a photo of their family up on the wall make the child feel more at reassured, but it really helps you to be able to greet the child and family by name on the first day. This really helps families feel special and put parents at ease about leaving their child in your care for the first time.
Pronounce each Child’s Name Correctly
Make sure you know the pronunciation of the child’s name, as well as Mom and Dad’s names (or the appropriate guardian). If the child typically goes by a nickname or other name then please ensure that you know this before the first day of preschool. It will help reduce their sense of alienation and smooth their transition.
Plan Your Lessons Carefully and Play, Play, Play
In the first few weeks, I am careful to plan activities that will not tie up or require a staff member to be wrapped up in helping the children. It is important in these weeks to be very involved in playing with the children to get to know them. You don’t want to be running from one thing to another. Give yourself the time to bond with the children and get to know them as they play.
Adapt Your Approach as the Weeks Progress
I had one staff member who would have a child sit on their lap first thing in the morning. This became more of a routine. While this is supporting the child in the early days, as time continues it’s important to be interacting, talking and discovering what strategy is best to initiate next. Every child will be different, as will their comfort levels.
Accept that You Will Bond with Some Children Quicker than Others
Some children (as with people generally) are naturally easier to bond with. This might be due to personality, or as a result of their older sibling having already attended preschool; in which case you are already familiar with the family. Other children you may need to work harder to bond with. There is nothing wrong with that. Find out their interests at home and preschool and plan around this.
Use the Routines of the Day
Use all the routines of the day as an opportunity to bond and get to know the children. Sit with the children at meal times, for example.
If a child loves the sand pit then get in the sand pit to play with them. Even when playing with other children, you are still in the presence of this child – and that’s of primary importance.
Use Activities that Promote Interaction
These activities often distract unsettled children and gain their interest and attention:
- Reading a book in small groups
- Play dough: children love it and it always facilitates lots of conversation
- Playing with dolls and prams
- Block building, such as Duplo
- Home corner
- Recall things that you did together yesterday
Take the time to bond with your children and stay calm. Use humor and have fun together. Try to be in the moment and not to think about all the paperwork that is waiting for you!
Each Preschool year passes by before we know it. By getting to know our children really well as early as we can, we are all able to enjoy our time together just a little bit more and focus on what’s really important.