Teaching 2-year-olds is challenging in the best of circumstances, although a properly organized classroom alleviates some of the potential obstacles such as arguments over toys. Children of this age vary dramatically in ability levels, maturity and overall development, so the classroom must be safely organized with clearly established areas suitable for differing developmental needs, such as arts and crafts, sensorial activities, circle time, and pretend play.
Transitioning away from trusted caregivers and into the classroom is often a difficult experience for parents and children alike, so teachers might design a transitional area, helping alleviate some of the anxiety or chaos common to drop-off and pick-up areas. Setting up a classroom space allowing children to walk in freely, without the accompaniment of a parent, helps young children have a sense of control over their preschool experience and can help with separation anxieties. A swinging safety gate or half-door at the entrance of the classroom establishes boundaries, keeping children safe inside the classroom, while also allowing for quick access to bathrooms, if needed, for potty training children. Two-way glass is particularly effective for transitional areas near 2-year-old classrooms, allowing anonymous parental observations from outside the room.
Children in this age group learn by doing and by using all of their senses, so set up structures clearly establishing areas of the classroom that encourage pretend play and simple, interactive learning experiences. The classroom might incorporate sensory areas, such as sand boxes, sinks or other leak-proof buckets filled with a few inches of water, a table topped with clay and cookie cutters, or dress-up corners. A clear, shallow plastic tub filled with cool water and several plastic fish helps reinforce learning when teaching on a specific concept such as aquatic animals. Teachers might place toy dishes near a small bucket of soapy water when encouraging imitation of common practical activities, such as pouring liquids or washing dishes.
Although many 2-year-olds might enjoy the presence of other young children, most play is generally parallel in nature at this age. Keeping overall walking spaces uncluttered helps reduce congestion and minimize social struggles, and encourages children to play freely alone or with friends. Large open areas also allow for large motor skill activities, such as dancing and running. Conflicts are likely as young preschoolers learn proper social behaviors, but teachers can help minimize frustration by offering multiples of popular classroom toys and ensuring that toys are age-appropriate and free from small pieces.
Focusing on improving language and communication skills is critical when preparing 2-year-old preschool classroom goals. Age-specific books such as board books should be available for children to access at all times, although teachers might rotate different books in throughout the year to minimize boredom. A quiet corner of the classroom might be adorned with comfortable pillows or beanbag chairs, where teachers can model correct reading behavior by showing children how to properly hold a book and turn the pages. A clearly established reading program helps build a strong foundation for future reading and writing readiness, as PBS reports.
- Baby Center: Preschool Director/Teacher Interview
- KidsHealth: Helping Your Child Adjust to Preschool
- Healthychildren.org: Developmental Milestones: 2 Year Olds
- Scholastic: Staying in Control of Your Classroom
- PBS: Child Development Tracker
- The Hanen Centre: Water Play with Toddlers - The Hanen Way!
- Earlychildhood NEWS: Waterplay: Wet and Wonderful
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