Colder temperatures can mean more time spent indoors. This can lead to challenging behavior in young children, especially when it comes to being stuck inside for playdates. As a preschool teacher of 3- and 4-year-old children at Shomrai Preschool, I have observed that at this age, children are at a stage of development where they are learning how to assert themselves with their peers.
Through play, children learn to negotiate, cooperate, and compromise as they work out solutions to conflicts that may arise. However, just as literacy and numeracy are learned subjects, these problem-solving skills must be taught as well. In my classroom, magnetic building tiles are a favorite manipulative that multiple children enjoy working with together. Each child usually has his or her own idea about how the structure should be built and what the end product should look like, which can cause an otherwise enjoyable activity to quickly deteriorate into conflict.
One way to guide children to problem solve is to help them see how they each contribute in building something together. I will tell children, “I see that you are both trying to build something. I like how Sarah used triangles for the top and David used squares to make a bottom!” After a few times of using this strategy, the children will often independently and effectively use this solution on their own.
Once their structure is complete, I like to help bridge their learning and ask, “What does your building look like?” The children usually arrive at a shared conclusion. In this case, Sarah and David noted that, “It looks like Noach’s teivah [ark]!” With a clearer idea of what they were making, Sarah and David continued to play cooperatively, delegating roles and working together to finish their “teivah,” of which they were very proud.
Learning social skills through play certainly benefits children in so many ways and will hopefully serve them well throughout their school career and beyond.
By Siena Ornstein
Siena Ornstein teaches 3- and 4-year-olds at Shomrai Preschool in Silver Spring, Maryland. She was inspired to become an educator by her mother and especially enjoys working with young children.