It is a challenge to prepare for a preschool fitness program with young children. Parents have various expectations that are realistic to have fun but unrealistic thinking that this one class will prepare them for a particular sport or skill. However, I have found that even a hectic program for preschool students with special needs and their siblings can be effective if the following protocols are followed.
Preparation: Trainers or teachers need to have all the equipment ready. That means that the teachers need to get to the program early and make sure you are prepared for all the activities. Having a skeleton plan is helpful, not only for you but also all of your staff that works for you. I typically have a lanyard with a list of activities but I also explain that I may or may not go in that particular order of activities.
Teach Rules, Structure, and Expectations Early: From the first time you meet with both your staff and students, have a spot that they must go to and sit for just a few minutes. Take procedures early and often––and praise for a quick response to correct choices. When teaching directions for a skill, use as few words as possible. Also, engage learning with kinesthetic and verbal cues and have them repeat them visually, verbally, and hands-on with you. I took turns with capable children to help teach the activity or game to the other children. I would also do a lot of repeating with each student to make sure that they understood the directions and what was going on in that particular activity.
Alternative Plans: Sometimes, the best-laid plans can go wrong. For example, I conducted a program and the children who would have enhanced the program was not there. I quickly accessed that my plans were not going to work with my group so I made adjustments to the plans and activities. Having more than what you need is best when working with little ones.
Condensing and Getting the Bang for your Buck: As much as possible, use the same equipment for various activities. For example, use dots for beginning sitting positions, obstacles courses, and markers for standing in line and drills. Let the kids use their imagination and don’t be afraid if they use the equipment for something other than the desired purpose. As long as they are safe and having fun, parents are pretty content with that.
Have Fun and Laugh a Lot: Children should bring joy, not frustration to a program. Remember, they are only little ones and many of them are in the program to learn social skills and working with others. Parents are generally happy when they see even glimpses of their children following the rules and participating in activities that have a resemblance to particular sports.
Show Appropriate Behavior Visually: I like to show good behavior not only with verbal praise but visually with blocks showing the amount of good behavior, charts, and punch cards that the students can manipulate to show the amount of time that they made good choices. Many times, I would transition each activity to keep kids on task every five minutes for a forty-five-minute session.
Praise the Children, Staff, and the Parents: When you see a child making good choices or following directions, give them a high five and verbal praise. And get excited! Staff needs to be told that they are doing a good job, using initiative to suggest alternate activities and hard work. Parents, particularly those with children with special needs, need kudos too if their child is improving, no matter how little it may be. I have learned that you can always find something positive in any student. Thank the parent for any suggestions, help, and attention. Accept praise from parents as gold. With a special needs program, you can never shower staff with genuine praise. Your staff will make your program successful.
For more ideas on motivating your preschool student, check out my web page at Fit4Fun.
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