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No More Time Outs

Published in ChicagoNow, November 6, 2013 (Photo by Marco Nedermeijer)

My 4-year-old grandson who lives in another state wondered when his teacher would get her time out? After all, he got one for a major preschool offense – LOL during circle time. And a second time out for saying “pee-pee head” to a friend. His sweet young logic dictated that she should also get one the next time she made a mistake or raised her voice.

It’s stories like this that make me wish all preschoolers could go to schools like the one I founded and directed for 15 years, Cherry Preschool. As a developmental preschool, Cherry believes that stimulating and enriching play-based early childhood education provides children with many opportunities to:

  • Interact with materials and construct knowledge about their world

  • Form good problem solving strategies

  • Stimulate curiosity, imagination and greater innovation

  • Learn to take the perspective of others

  • Develop a positive self-image

  • Respect their classmates as unique individuals

  • Think independently and creatively

What it does not provide children with is the punishment, shame, and exclusion associated with time outs. The only time a child is removed from the group is for his/her own safety, the safety of others, or to give a tantruming child the opportunity to regroup.

Since my grandson wonders when teachers get their time outs, I guess his teacher should consider this post my time out for her. Perhaps she could take a few minutes to reflect on what constitutes developmentally appropriate practice when working with preschoolers. During her time out, I hope she will reflect on her behavior and consider some of the following:

  • Laughing and silly behavior are part of the joy of early childhood.

  • If you don’t want children to be distracted during circle time, be interesting and entertaining. Take your cues from the children. If they are becoming squirrelly, it’s likely the content is not engaging or they have been sitting too long.

  • Give the children assigned seats on the rug, as well as for snack time and lining up or choosing partners. I say this not to create perfectly quiet behavior. To the contrary, children jockeying for a spot next to a BFF leaves other children out, hurting their feelings.

  • If you can’t take some noise, you may need to get out of the classroom – this may not be the best age-fit for you.

Learning through play - the joy of a cardboard box!

Remember, play is the work of young children. And play is silly, messy, sometimes noisy, and above all fun!

by Laurie Levy
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