Winter is here in full-force and the zippers, laces, buckles, sleeves, snow pant straps, and finger sections in gloves create a unique type of snow-clothes-storm in our hallway. They also provide copious opportunities for teaching, reteaching and practicing self-help skills. I often joke that we’ll spend 45 minutes getting ready for 15 minutes in the snow… But, really, it’s the truth. And, in some cases, classes will repeat this process for a second or even third recess. That’s a lot time spent on clothing navigation…
We believe in that teaching self-help skills is a vital component of our preschool curriculum. There’s no magic to teaching children to put their snow pants on. However, there is magic in hearing a child exclaim, “I did it!” And, those three words make the challenge (and mayhem) of getting 12 children ready to go outside to play in the snow a worthwhile endeavor.
Pride in achievement is extremely motivating for all human beings – especially children. As children develop a sense of “I am, and I can,” they carve out a personal identity that will help them to become cooperative contributors in both home and school communities. According to Karen Stephens, sometimes parents have mixed feelings about children’s flowering abilities. On one hand, we applaud their determination to spread their wings. On the other, we cling to the closeness dependence offers. But, encouraging developmentally appropriate self-help skills helps children in the long run. They become more self-assured, accountable, and responsible as they forge toward adulthood.
However, let’s be honest. Teaching a child to dress in outdoor gear is hard… It’s also often frustrating for children (and parents). As teachers, we take a different lens. Instead of thinking about it through the lens of “We’re going to be late!” we see intentional opportunities for teaching. Let’s break it down: As children get ready to go outside, our faculty focuses on skills such as on planning and sequencing tasks. For example, when dressing you need to put on your snow pants first, then your boots, then your jacket, then your hat, and finally your mittens. Wait, it gets better… they also teach fine motor skills. Doing up buttons and zippers requires dexterity and strength in little fingers. We ease into this as we move towards winter with classroom experiences with things such as clay and LEGOS to build strength in the small muscles in their hands. We also ease into learning how to manage their gear in the same way you might learn to swim. We don’t go straight for the high-dive. We ease into winter gear by practicing buttons and zippers in the shallow-end of sweatshirts and lightweight jackets.
Our thoughtful approach helps to ensure that the children don’t become overwhelmed – and the crux of WHY we take so much time to get ready – sometimes twice a day… Being able to accomplish daily tasks such as dressing yourself builds self-worth and the feeling of being capable and competent.As adults, we must bring patience to the experience and know that children’s confidence grows through opportunities to try new things in a safe and supportive environment with lots of positive reinforcement. Next time you have a few minutes on a snowy day, come check it out. You’ll be amazed at our teachers’ ability to coach snow pant navigation, while simultaneously highlighting the nuance of finger separation when putting on gloves and teaching a science lesson on the cause and effect of snow-cuffs on the outside vs. inside of boots. Come and see firsthand our preschool snow clothes-vortex; it will blow your mind!