If it's a struggle any time you take your preschooler to a public event, you may wonder how a day care provider can manage a trip with 25 or so.
Rest assured: There's no magic involved, just some basic principles you can apply whether you have two dozen kids in tow - or just one.Expectations are a key. When children are expected to behave well, they usually will. But consistently good behavior takes a consistent and careful kind of child management.
Very young children love to go places. Trouble is, they are not always able or willing to mind their manners. It takes a watchful adult to remind them immediately and vigorously that certain behaviors are unacceptable. That elicits respect.
If you teach children to respect you, they will mind. Fear and threats do not produce respect; they evoke tears and stubbornness. They produce the kind of trying behavior that makes parents and providers chill at the thought of a public event.
So don't throw tantrums at children. Instead, take a misbehaving child firmly aside, bend down to his level and get eye contact. Then say, "We don't push." Enough said.
When embarking, remember that children should have fun on the trip as well as at the event. If your travel time is less than 30 minutes, you will have fewer problems. As with any preschool activity, 20 minutes is optimum. If you can't avoid a wait, take your music book and sing songs with finger plays or do circle time.
Always train children to form hand-holding partnerships when they go anywhere: to the playground, to lunch, to the bathroom, to anywhere outside the day care. You will have fewer problems in pairs than in a single line. Single lines are not for preschoolers. Children stay busy taking care of a neighbor, and they are more inclined to good behavior than kids in a single line.
Choose seating that is age-appropriate. Folding chairs, straight-backed chairs and soft furniture are simply wrong for little kids. When you call about an event, ask about seating. The best seating is on the floor. Few children can fall from the floor. Sit with them so you can reach them all.
Expect that some children will lose interest during the event. They will turn to the first available toy - the next child - and start poking. Move the first offender immediately to another spot as a show of seriousness. It does deter.
Use short verbal reminders: "Kyle, stop," "Brenda, hands in lap," "Susan, face the stage," "Chris, sit," "Michael, heads up," "Katy, bottom on carpet," and "Alyson, where do you belong?" Precede every correction with a name. Correction means a provider means business.
Never bring anything - toys or books - or every child will want one. Remember: You didn't bring them to play; you brought them to watch the event.
Providers can be stern one moment and kind the next. Children who know that also know that correction comes from the same love source a compliment does.
If you need help picking good day care, you can order Judy Lyden's booklet, "Looking for Day Care," by sending $3 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Day Care, Features Department, The Evansville Courier, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, Ind. 47702.