The Perpetual Preschool

Positive Guidance For Preschool Children

Positive Guidance Tips

Over 50 tried and tested ideas submitted by teachers
for teachers and parents of preschool children.

To get the kids’ attention I say “123 eyes on me” and the kids say “1-2 Eyes on You!” Works get and the kids love it.

At times I would have a difficult time getting the children to put their shoes back on. This was usually after we would play indoor games such as hopscotch, or dress-up. I came up with the smaller girls pretending they were Cinderella and I was the “prince” trying to see if the “glass slipper” fit the appropriate girl. Works great!

To get my children’s attention I sometimes use this simple phrase – 1,2,3 eyes on me! It works!

We took a pair of old Large size jeans and sewed the bottom of the legs shut. Then we stuffed the pants with batting and used Velcro for the waist so that it can be easily washed. The children always have a lap to sit on. We usually let the special line leader sit on it at circle time. It is also great for your library center.

We were having a problem with tattling in our 4-year-old Pre-K class so my assistant and I came up with tell the turtle. There is a big turtle on the wall at child’s eye level and if someone needs to tattle they can “tell the turtle”.

“Tattle Tell Thursday”

Several years ago, in my class of three-year-olds, the tattling got out of hand. One morning during our circle time one little boy started to tattle and I told him that it was not tattle tell day. A little girl then asked me when could they tattle. I quickly answered that they could tattle on Thursday. When Thursday rolled around, they reminded me while we were singing the days of the week song that it was Thursday and they could tattle.

I held to my word and let them tattle all day. After that week when a child would start to tattle, I would ask them what day it was and if it was not Thursday they would smile and go work the problem out on their own. After a few weeks, the tattling stopped even on Thursdays.

Several other teachers have adopted “Tattle Tell Thursday” with their classes and have been pleased with the results. Of course, we know that some tattles need to be listened to but a specified tattle day does eliminate all of the “little” tattles.

I recently attended a seminar by Dr. Becky Bailey. One of her ideas for behavior problems is to give positive choices. It goes something like this: “You may sit on the floor or you may sit in the chair, which would be best for you?”

Positive Guidance Tips

I’ve had experience teaching many different age groups. One way that I have found to get children to listen is to offer them legitimate choices. For example, if a child refuses to sit quietly during circle time I would say, ” You may either sit quietly or leave our group.” It is important for children to be able to make decisions and this method allows them to do that. It also works great!

In my preschool class of 4-year-olds, I find that sometimes one disruptive child sets off the rest of the class. To get the children’s focus back on the learning I do a rhythm game. I clap and do a beat on my knees etc…one child picks it up and copies causing the rest of the children to join in. I find that this allows them to have fun with me and reroute their attention to the lesson at hand.

If you have problems with young children hitting others, this is a cute song for the class to learn and it works.

(To the tune of “Brother John”)

Please don’t hit me. Please don’t hit me.
It’s not fun. It’s not fun.
You give me an owie. You give me an owie.
When you’re done. When you’re done.

One way to teach children to count and to get their attention is to tell the children that when you start counting 1-2-3 that means that it is time for all the children to come to the table and sit quietly for the next activity. I encourage the children to count with me. Once we have used 1-2-3 and the children have learned it then I instruct the children that we will now be counting 4-5-6 and then 7-8-9 etc. By the end of the year, the children have learned to count and it really does get their attention.

In our classroom, we sometimes feel the need to have children, who are having a difficult day listening or keeping their hands to themselves in need of some “space.” We try not to use timeouts and time with a teacher is not always a choice. We decided to have the child sit at a table and have them put together a puzzle. We ask the child to go to the table and please put the puzzle together. This allows the child to refocus and concentrate on something other than acting out. After the child has completed the puzzle, we then talk to them about what the right choices are in the classroom. This seems to be working in our classroom and I hope it works in yours.

Samantha the Story Mouse

Purchase a small stuffed mouse. You can make a little house for her from a shoe box. The first day of school at story time introduce Samantha. Can everyone see her Big Ears? Samantha needs everyone to be very, very quiet at story time so that she can hear the story. If you have a birthday boy or girl, or a special person that day, that child may hold the mouse, as you read or present your story. If children “forget” to be quiet, ask the student holding the mouse, “how does Samantha like it during story time?” Very quiet. That’s right!

I use games: one game I use is rocket ships to the moon. In this game each child colors a paper rocket ship that teacher provides. They write their names on the front. On a bulletin board, the teacher uses 5 (for kindergarten) white paper clouds stapled to a blue paper sky. On the beginning of the week, all rocket ships begin on the first cloud (at bottom of board) If the child has had a good day, his rocket ship goes up to next day’s cloud, this happens each day. The children who have their rocket ships on the last cloud gets to pick a treat from teacher’s treat jar. This may seem like a bribe, but let’s face it, we all work for rewards of some kind. Before I begin this, the class has a discussion about school rules, about being kind, listening, etc. This is the third year I have used this for a behavior modification and it has been very successful.

Positive Guidance Tips

At the beginning of the year, I let the children write the classroom rules to reinforce that we are a group and we work together. I stress that the safety of the children is what they should think about when writing these rules. To make them positive statements, rather than a lot of don’ts I have everyone do a painted footprint on a large sheet of paper and label it “Our Feet Can” – the children supply the rest (ex. be on the floor not on the furniture – walk in the classroom, etc.). We then do a handprint paper labeled “Our Hands Can” and we stamp lip prints on another piece of paper labeled “Our Mouths Can”. We hang these in our meeting area and refer to them all year long.

In preschool for 3 and 4-year-olds, I arranged my centers and used “teddy bear” shapes to show the children how many children were allowed in each center. For example, 4 in the home center. This cut down on many problems. I also limited my rules to three: Take care of yourself, Don’t hurt yourself, and Don’t hurt anyone else. But the main things for your class is to remember that planning is the key to keeping everyone, including yourself, happy.

Instead of calling attention to “bad” behavior, I “catch” the children doing things that are great. I have made them each a bear holding a honey pot. The honeypot has a slip where I can put honey sticks in. If the child has gotten a honey stick for at least four times that week they get to choose a prize or we might just talk about what behaviors they remember getting honey sticks for.

We use behavior bears to recognize the good choices the children make each day. In a handy spot, there is a pocket chart, each child has a pocket. In a treasure box, I have colored bears (enough of each color for every child.) There is a sign, “Today the teacher saw me….” and a set of bears that are the same colors as those in the box. Each color represents the desired behavior I want the children to learn, ie sitting quietly at the circle, using my words to work things out, put my toys away, helped at clean up time.

As I witness a child doing one of these behaviors they get to go to the treasure box and get the right color bear to put in the pocket. The parents then spend a few minutes at the end of the day with their child looking at the bears before putting them back in the box for use again the next day.

It doesn’t take long for the children to get the idea that they have to DO these things in order for them to get the bears. It also helps with name and color recognition. It’s a more positive approach to behavior management.

On the subject of classroom helpers, a couple that I use that haven’t been mentioned are botanist (who cares for any plants in the room), zoologist (who cares for any animals in the room) and postman (who delivers any messages needed to be given to the office or another teacher. The children love the BIG names they are given and they also have a new vocabulary.

One thing that always causes problems is children not minding their own business. We made a BB out of library pockets with each student’s name and one with mine. I made lots of copies of NOSES from a health unit. Each week the students received 5 “noses”. When they put their nose in someone else’s business they had to take a nose from their pocket and put it into the other students. At the end of the week, whoever had the most “noses” got a prize. We had a lot of laughs with this BB!!

For my class of 3 to 4-year-olds, I have found it very effective to use the following rhyme when I need the students’ attention. I say in a voice lower than my normal, “If you are here and you are listening to me, clap your hand and count to three.” As I get their attention I will change the directive to something more fun like tap knees or anything I think of on-the-spot. This keeps their attention and they are watching for the next change.

Positive Guidance Tips

To help my preschoolers behavior I made up a jelly bean jar. Each child has their own jar with 5 pieces of Velcro on it. At the start of the day, they all have 5 jelly beans Velcro to their jar, as the day progresses they lose the jelly beans for various behaviors. At the end of the day, they get to trade their jelly beans for real ones that are placed in our classroom jar. The jar has 2 lines drawn on it. One halfway up and another at the top. The first line is a popcorn party and the second line is a pizza party. As they reach the lines they get the corresponding party. They really like this and they learn how to help each other with their behavior. It really encourages teamwork.

I teach 3, 4, and 5-year-olds at an Easter Seals center. Most of the children on my roll are autistic. The SLP and I worked together to develop a visual schedule for the children. I have a picture of every major transition on a card. The card is attached to another piece of poster board with Velcro. As I am finished with circle time, I pull that card and put it in the finished slot. After removing each card there is a picture of a school bus which begins to take shape. When the school bus is completely visible then the children know that it is time to go home. I also have the same type set-up for brushing teeth and going potty. It is wonderful for the autistic children to know what they are to do, how long it takes and then what they will do next. I recommend this to any person working with any type special needs child.

To quietly gain your students’ attention raise your hand in the air and form an “L” with your thumb and index finger. This “L” stands for the words “Look, Listen, Learn”. As children see your “L” they are to raise their “L’s”. This is a quiet way to get your students’ attention.

No one likes to be singled out…even if there is naughty behavior involved. Two techniques that I have found valuable:

1. Instead of calling out the troublemakers name, say, “Boys and girls, let’s all remember that circle time is quiet time (we keep our hands to ourselves, etc.)

2. Another technique is to have the chatty student remind the boys and girls what we need to do at circle time.

When there is a lot going on in the classroom and I need everyone’s attention, I call out loudly “Everybody says ONE…TWO….THREE” while clapping my hands. Then in a normal voice say the same words while lightly slapping my knees. Finally, whisper the words while rubbing the palms together to make a “whispery” sound. By the second week of school, just about every child joins in the chant, and is quiet at the end of third, whispered round.

An idea that I came up with to solve behavior problems is that I always start my circles with lots of movement. It seems to settle the children down a lot. I found that the wandering bean bag really gets the children in my class motivated and ready to learn because they want to play it over and over again. It is the same version as the wandering ball but the children are less likely to bounce it off the wall. I am always down at eye level with my class and am constantly getting silly with them. If you get silly with them and do the movement activities with your class then they will show you more respect.

In my pre-K room (4-year-olds) we have a “square chart”. Every child has a personal goal they are working on (ex: being a good rester, hands to self, etc.). At the end of a day, if a child has met their goal, they receive a square on the chart. After any child earns 5 squares, they can choose a treasure from our treasure chest. When the WHOLE class has ALL earned 5 squares, we have some kind of party for a reward (pizza party, ice cream party, etc.) If a child is having a hard time with their goal, I just ask “What is your goal?” and most of the time they stop on their own. After a while, the children will remind each other of their goals, and will often congratulate their friends when they’ve earned their square! (Thanks, Miss Nikki for the GREAT idea!)

My co-teacher and I use a positive discipline approach method which fosters compromise and negotiation skills in children. We use a “friendship” bench. When a dispute occurs, sit both children down together on the bench. “We can not get up until there is a solution.” You may need to arbitrate initially-Then back away and let them problem-solve how they can make both friends feel better. If they can not come up with a solution, suggest some possible ideas for them.

I had a lot of behavior problems in my classroom at the beginning of the year and I tried everything- redirection, asking them to use their words, sticker rewards, and even the dreaded “time-out”. Nothing seemed to work for my children. I then tried a new idea. I had a pocket chart that I wasn’t using and it had just enough clear pockets for my 20 children. I had the children decorate a clothespin with their name, markers and small stickers. I then put their names on index cards and placed them in the pockets, clipping their clothespin to the front of the pocket. Every day, we go over our classroom rules (very simple ones) and discuss how we are going to be kind to our friends and follow our rules. If a child “breaks” a rule or hurts a friend, they lose their clothespin. The children can always get their clothespin back by following our rules or helping the friend they have hurt. At the end of the week, (Thursday), we have “Prize Box Day”. We have a treasure box filled with donated pencils, stickers, and McDonald’s toys or candy. Every child who still has their clothespin gets to pick a prize from the prize box. At first, we had several not getting a prize, but after a week or so, the children who were having the most trouble were reminding each other about losing their clothespins. My behavior problems have dropped drastically. I no longer have to be constantly reminding children to follow the rules or redirecting children from hurting each other. It has also helped the children learn to recognize their names. For younger children, pictures of them can be used instead of the index cards.

I work in a high needs kindergarten class that has its challenges. One thing that took me a long time to understand is this: When you are teaching the students in a large setting (ie, circle time) and there are a few children misbehaving it is not necessary to stop the entire lesson…..but it is equally important that you do not fall into the habit of ignoring small behavior as small behaviors lead to big behaviors. What you need to do is acknowledge the students WITHOUT looking them in the eye. The moment you turn to look them in the eye you are inviting conversation about the behavior and the student will begin to explain that so and so started it etc. I found that snapping my fingers and using hand signals such as stop or simply pointing to the child, without taking your focus off what you are talking to the class about works well. It seems like such an easy thing to do but try it. Not looking at the child directly takes a lot of concentration. A really good website on discipline can be found at

Here’s an idea for conflict resolution in the preschool classroom: Make photocopies (color if possible) of pictures of the kids you care for. Blow them up so that they are a little larger than the kids’ faces. Glue the copies onto cardboard or tag board–laminate if you would like. Use sturdy glue/paste to attach large craft sticks to each picture; use as a handle. These can be used as puppets/role play masks whenever there is a conflict. The kids simply use the pictures to reenact the situation and a different way it might have been handled. Besides using these as a conflict resolution tool, it can be really fun for the kids to pretend to be one another!

When I tell my class of three year and four-year-olds to do something such as line up, I always say,” When I call you please get in line.” I then recite the following rhyme that I made up:

If you have on red then you heard what I said (You heard me say get in line.)
If you have on blue then you know what to do (You know to get in line.)
If you have on black then your name must be Jack
If you have on green then you know what I mean (I mean for you to get in line.)
If you have on white then you know what’s right (It’s right to get in the back of the line instead of in front of someone else.)
If you have on pink then you know what I think. (I think you should get in line.)
If you have on gray then it’s going to be a wonderful day!
If you have on yellow then you’re a nice fellow.
If you have on brown then you’d better get down.

This rhyme has really helped my class of three and four-year-olds learn their colors!

It is especially hard to get a child with short attention spans (especially one with ADHD) to follow the rules. Sometimes children with such deficits do not hear things the same way you or I or other children would hear them. It is especially important for the teacher to establish eye contact, have the child verbally repeat the task given and make sure they follow through. Gentle reminders help as well as short commands, instead of giving a child a list of things to do all at once. Too many tasks can be overwhelming for a child, especially an ADHD child.


Instead of using “Time Out” all the time I got this idea from a friend and modified for my class.

Every child has a star with their name on it. There are 7 levels on the board. Each star begins on the middle level each day. With the caption “Will your star rise today”?

There are 3 levels up so when a child is “caught” being good I make a really big deal over moving their star to the next level.  The captions on each level are 1. Looking Good 2. Getting Better 3. You are a Super Star!

For negative behavior, I just quietly move their star down so as to not give the child so much attention for the behavior. They get a 1st warning, 2nd warning, and then Time Out.

Children who end on the Super Star level every day of the week will get a special refrigerator award. At the beginning of the year, I use stars with the child’s picture on it so they can recognize when their star has been moved. It works in my room. I have maybe only one time out a week if that. Most of the time they all end up a Super Star.

I’ve found that telling the children what they should do instead of what they shouldn’t do brings the act of obedience along much easier for the children. For instance, use words like this to teach your children…. “use your walking feet.” instead of “Don’t run.” “Use your inside voices.” Instead of “Stop screaming” and “Keep your feet on the floor.” instead of “Don’t climb on the couch.” “Sit on the chair.” instead of “Don’t stand on the chair.” “Run your truck on the floor.” instead of “Don’t run your truck on the table.” The best rules tell children what they should do, rather than what they shouldn’t do.

Always praise when you see good behavior. Always acknowledge them by name and always try to do it in the presence of the other children. Not only are you reinforcing that behavior but you show these little people that they can get their much-needed approval and acceptance from you. I think you’ll find the theory of “monkey see, monkey do.” really does ring true during these moments.

Make transitions from one activity to another fun for the kids by singing songs and playing games. for instance, something simple that we all have to deal with every day, clean-up time. We often sing Barney’s clean up song and for some miraculous reason, the kids have no qualms about cleaning up after themselves if they’re singing while their working. You can even make up songs as you go the kids don’t seem to know any different, and still seem to enjoy themselves. This goes for any kind of transition thru-out the day.

If you can’t get the kid’s attention you can also use flipping the lights on and off, so long as you teach them ahead of time what you expect when the lights are flipped. Of course, if any of the children are frightened by this method you shouldn’t use it.

I use tons of positive reinforcement. It is harder to notice the good behavior but gets the job done really.

At circle times I like to say “I like the way that _____ is sitting. Great job. I go around the group and everyone wants to hear their name so they settle down pretty quickly.

Encouragement Circle- I teach preschool with a class of 15; mostly boys. Sit in a circle, the teacher starts by rolling a ball of yarn to someone in the circle and then has to say one thing they like about that person. Then that person holds part of the yarn and rolls the other end to another until everyone has had a turn to roll the yarn. In the end, you should have a web that connects everyone.

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Positive Guidance For Preschool Children