Every day at preschool, teachers gather the entire class together for some fun community time: circle time. Often, the schedule for the day is presented, a special book is read, fingerplays and songs are sung; there may perhaps be a game or a question of the day to discuss; there is, always, lots of conversation. Different teachers have their own rhythms, routines, and preferences with this gathering time. Most teachers build in a great deal of flexibility in their circle time plans, because every day brings surprises due to different moods (both children and adults), unexpected interruptions, or just because.
I think circle time builds the foundation for my class as a community. It is so important to simply gather together, to get to know each other, to learn the give and take of people together.
Circle time (or, more accurately phrased, "gathering time") is another bridge between home and preschool - something teachers do at school that families could continue doing at home.
I sometimes hear parents say, "Oh, she's so little, we would never make her sit with the family." Or, vice versa, when the child in my class is the oldest in the family, parents might say, "I'm really frustrated at how she won't sit still with us, she gets down from the table."
Remember, if your child's teacher is gathering the children every day, your little one is able to sit, wait, listen, and talk together at home, too. This is an expectation that is important to repeat at home, helping your child with his/her self-control. That being said, keep in mind your child's age, temperament, mood, and any other extenuating factor. Help them be successful and don't expect it to be a success every single day.
Here are some ideas to help it be more successful for your little one -
- let them hold something in their hands,
- let them have a job or task (for example, help set up, hand out things, or call everyone together) ,
- let them have a shorter participation time,
- let them sit and play with something else, quietly, alongside the gathering (they'll still be listening!).
All you really need to do is establish the ritual - create the opportunity to come together. A great time to get-together is a meal that everyone shares, but there may be another ritual time, for example, book reading or storytelling or an evening game before bedtime. When you gather together, be sure to give everyone a chance to talk (and everyone learns to listen to one another). Make it a daily event! It is important to gather together as a family. You will never regret laying the groundwork for family discussions when your children are very young - and it will serve you well as your children grow.
Another gathering time ritual that you should consider introducing while your children are young is the "Family Meeting." The idea of these weekly sessions was introduced by psychiatrists Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs, who emphasized authoritative parenting versus the extremes of autocratic or permissive parenting. There is a lot of info about family meetings available on the internet (see the links I have provided) and there are many excellent parenting classes that offer training about this important ritual. I took a class through my local Y many years ago. These meetings provide a calm forum for discussing the family schedule, upcoming events, possible conflicts, hopes, and expectations. Begin this ritual when your children are young - when your children want nothing more than your smile and attention - so that it is routine and entrenched when they are teenagers. Remember,
Little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems.
Here's hoping circle time is a "trick of the trade" that you might consider using at home!