Preschool-aged children are sometimes observant and full of wonder, other times impulsive and, well... downright clunky. The funny things they do might be fabulous fodder for a sitcom, but when it comes to life in the classroom, there's also a need for order. Establishing classroom rules and being consistent with them are important lessons for preschoolers. When young children know what to expect and how to succeed in their surroundings, their social skills and emotional development improve, and behavioral problems decrease.
Keep It Simple
Remember the good ol' Golden Rule? It still applies -- treat others as you would like to be treated. When setting rules and discussing established rules with preschoolers, examine and explain how specific behaviors will affect others' safety and feelings and how behavior will affect school property and others' belongings. And state rules in the positive -- tell little people what you want them to do rather than what you don't want them to do. For example, tell them to walk rather than yelling "stop running" as they dash away from your grasp.
Rules for Safety
Expect young kids to be responsible for the space around them and establish a clean-up rule. Teach children that leaving toys, spilled water, sand or beads on the floor could cause a teacher or another student to trip and fall. Another important safety rule is hand washing -- who knows where those grubby little paws have been! Establish a routine of having each child wash his hands upon entering the classroom in the morning and enforce hand-washing repeatedly throughout the day. Tell children they must have "quiet feet" in the classroom -- running is for outdoors. Walking keeps the teacher sane and is safer for everyone in the classroom.
Rules for Feelings
Teach children social skills with rules about personal space and proper use of materials. Set and enforce a rule that forbids students from touching another child's work or belongings without an invitation to do so. Each child has the right to work and play and read and draw without another child obstructing his progress or taking his materials. And establish a guideline for language -- "inside voice" reminds kiddos to use normal speaking voice and kind words in the classroom and to save loud voices for the playground. When participating in a group activity such as circle time, allow children to share their ideas one at a time and remind them not to talk over one another.
Rules for Belongings
Teach children that the materials and objects in the classroom each have a specific use and purpose and that if they have an idea for how to use something for other than its intended use, they must ask the teacher for permission. Display small parts and collections such as blocks and train track pieces in a clearly labeled tub or bin. Label each container with a word and an image.