Do you have a mix of preschool age personalities this year?
Do the children seem to blend perfectly on one day and other days everything and everyone just seems sour. How can you inspire the hearts and minds of your preschoolers no matter the mood?
These techniques help address the different needs of the three basic temperaments. By understanding temperaments, we can better support children to develop their sense of self as well as nurture them to be patient and kind towards each other.
But First, What is Temperament?
A child’s temperament is a description of the way the child approaches and reacts to the world. All types of temperaments have unique strengths. We can not change a child’s temperament, but we can support a child in learning how to navigate the many new experiences they encounter with their unique temperament. In fact, even as adults, we have a basic temperament. So, as you read the temperament types, think about which you might be.
The Three Temperaments You Might Recognize
Flexible or Easygoing: These children may sound very easy, but they need your support just as much as any. You may notice that this type of child is not always aware of personal preferences or feelings. Although, this type of child is not a behavior problem, their lack of self-awareness can get in the way of truly engaging with all you have to offer.
Active or Determined: These children experience their emotions intensely and may seem to over-react to what seems like small issues. Remember their emotions are more intense to start, so their emotions are more difficult to manage. These children require flexibility and patience as they need a little extra time to learn the social “rules” of being a member of a group of children.
Cautious or Slow to Warm Up: These children take some time to feel comfortable in a new environment, and hold back until they have observed a predictable routine and have a sense of the new people. They may be slow to join the group experiences.
How to Support the Flexible and Easy-Going Child’s Feelings, Likes and Dislikes
- Start the day with a short, warm conversation or exchange to help a flexible child settle into the day.
- Provide help with discovering their own likes and dislikes, and advocating for themselves.
- Ask many questions about their preferences to cue them to begin to think about this for themselves.
- Coach these children on what to say when someone takes a toy, and tell them “It’s okay to speak up and tell others how you feel. You are an important member of the group.” This has the added benefit of providing less flexible children honest feedback to help them learn how their behavior affects others.
How to Support the Active or Determined Child Engage in Learning
- Do lots of sincere, eye-to-eye conversations. Get down to their level, to be sure they hear you, and provide calm reminders just before transitions. Remind an active or feisty child what is coming, and check understanding of expectations, in a very non-judgmental, matter of fact tone. This is how we do it. Make it private. Give them a 5 minute window. Show belief in their ability to be successful. Think teaching, not discipline.
- Label what the “Active or Determined ” child appears to be feeling to help them recognize their own feelings. “I see that you are angry about not having that car to play with.” How about if you ask, “How much longer do you need that car?” Then support the child in getting a turn.
- Arrange the room and outdoor schedule to have lots of opportunities to move, while playing, creating, and problem-solving. Try this Butterfly Dance.
- Arrange the room to have a quiet area to have a “calm down” spot to help transition from high emotion times.
How to Support the Cautious, Slow or Temperamental Child to Be Open to New Experiences
- Have a predictable routine and post a picture schedule to remind them and help them feel safe in knowing what comes next. Try this free picture schedule to support this temperament type.
- Have a drop-off ritual because these children often have trouble letting go and entering the day. Bring an item from home to keep in a cubby, or exchange a simple drawing to or from the parent to keep in a cubby.
- Sit near this child to provide security, but resist too much dependence. “I will be watching!” “Go ahead and choose a hat in the dress up”.
- Identify among staff members who might be best to be a primary support.
- Avoid pressure and give them time to be comfortable. Provide a chair behind the group at circle until “warmed up”.
Be sure to talk with a parent about their child’s temperament and talk together about the clues as to which temperament best matches their child. Figuring this out will help you be proactive about providing a little individualized TLC to get a child’s day started off on the right foot.
Remember, children are born with their temperaments. They didn’t choose it and parents didn’t create it! It is our role to support all temperaments and show respect and empathy for all children.
Need support? Contact the Experience Curriculum Team at
(800) 523-6933 or firstname.lastname@example.org.