3 ECE “Back to School” Strategies to Help Young Children Succeed

August 24, 2018

Early childhood educators can ease the new school year transition for young children and their parents using creative ways to integrate the children into activities and ensuring families feel comfortable by building trust through routine and relationships. It’s also important to create a culture where all children and families are accepted, including those with special needs and/or dual language learners.

This blog focuses on how positive guidance, an inclusive environment, and icebreakers can help children to transition into a new program and feel at ease with their new peers and teachers.

Kesley Shaw, senior manager of Instructional Design at the Council, suggests, “I believe that by using activities, positive guidance and inclusion it provides the child the opportunity to increase their social and emotional competency while at the same time promoting a caring classroom community for the child. Creating this type of classroom community is essential when it is the child’s 1st day of school.”

Foster Positive Guidance


Early childhood educators can create environment where positivity thrives starts with the little things during the everyday routine.

As Katorra Enoch-Longshore, the Council’s manager for Strategic Alliances, remarks, “Two things I found always worked when using positive guidance strategies is to offer the child specific choices that lead to logical consequences, e.g. selecting art materials, toys, etc. For this to be effective, try not to compromise on the agreement already in place.”

Use these tips and positive guidance as part of your “back to school” strategy to help all children succeed in the classroom and develop trust to help them feel at ease in a new classroom2:

  • Follow the recommended adult-child ratios and group size – Having the right group size per teacher can help develop attachment and trust between child and caregiver.
  • Maintain appropriate expectations for each developmental stage – Being mindful of every child’s age and development level can provide an open-minded perspective on appropriate developmental milestones.
  • Be prepared to help children cope with feelings – Giving one-on-one attention to a child who exhibiting negative behavior can help ameliorate the situation. Listening, talking to a child or simply helping to address their needs can foster more positive behavior in the long run and minimize challenging behaviors.
  • Develop relationships with families – Create a family welcome packet and hold an open house for families feel welcome. Always keeping in touch via phone, text, or email with the family to provide updates on their child’s progress can help ease the transition anxiety some parents may have during the first weeks.

Create an Inclusive Environment


CDA Candidates are required to obtain 120 clock hours of education based on 8 subject areas that include the need for acquiring knowledge on children with special needs.

Inclusion is not a choice of a preference, it is a social justice issue –all children with disabilities have the right to live, learn, play, and work alongside their typical peers. When teachers acquire knowledge, they develop empathy and awareness and become more comfortable and prepared to work with children with special needs and their parents,” says Vilma Williams, senior manager of Multilingual and Special Programs.

To welcome children with special needs into your program, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) encourages ECE programs and families to work together to ensure children have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs3:

  1. Partner with Families:
    Programs should ensure all families are knowledgeable about the benefits of inclusion and include them in policy development, advocacy efforts, and public information initiatives.
  2. Adhere to Legal Provision of Supports and Services in Inclusive Settings with IFSPs/IEPs:
    Local educational agencies, schools, and other local early intervention service providers should review their IFSP/IEP processes to ensure that inclusive settings are meaningfully discussed for each child.
  3. Enhance Professional Development:
    A high-quality staff should have knowledge, competencies, and positive attitudes and beliefs about inclusion and disability to foster the development of all children. Early childhood programs could consist of a skilled teacher or provider and an aide, supported by specialized service providers.

Have Fun with New School Year Activities


Children love any opportunity to laugh, be silly, and have a good time, and what better way to make new classmates feel comfortable than with activities to get to know more about each other and their new classroom. Kim Cephas, Council manager and ECE professional, shares some ideas on how you can incorporate some fun activities for new preschool students4:

  1. During gathering time have children toss a bean bag or ball to each other and share their name and one favorite thing they like.
  2. Name game chant – Children sing a song to the tune of a nursey rhyme and the child’s name is inserted into the tune.
  3. Give the children a “tour” of the classroom and explain the use and purpose of each area. (i.e.; this is bathroom, we flush the toilet and wash our hands after toileting, etc)
  4. Help children learn the rules through activities. (i.e.; while doing a cut and glue activity, explain to the children safety rules about scissors and using glue; explain the clean-up process after playing with play-doh).

Ideas adapted from: Khan, Tanya. “Teacher Ideas for the First Day of Preschool” accessed August 17, 2018. https://classroom.synonym.com/teacher-ideas-first-day-preschool-7842801.html

These tips can help you oversee how the new school year will go and how the children under your care will potentially respond. Fostering relationships since day one can encourage a positive start for new students. It can also bring perspective to current students who will be adapting to having new faces and personalities around the classroom. It is in your hands to make children feel empowered and confident about themselves, so they can freely develop and reach the necessary milestones to succeed as they grow.

1 Washington, V. (2017). Essentials for Working with Young Children (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: The Council for Professional Recognition.
2 United States Department of Education (2017). Early Learning: Inclusion Recommendations and Resources for Local Programs and Providers. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/earlylearning/inclusion/recs-and-resources-local.html#resources3 Khan, Tanya. (n.d.) Teacher Ideas for the First Day of Preschool. Retrieved from https://classroom.synonym.com/teacher-ideas-first-day-preschool-7842801.html

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