Following directions is a critical skill. This ability needs to start when your child is a toddler because it will be more important as he/she moves into the preschool years when teachers and caregivers are giving instructions that need to be followed. Toddlers, children 1 to 2 years old. are in the beginning stages of learning about their environment and interacting with others. At these early stages of their development, you can begin giving your children instructions so they are practiced in receiving them as they move into preschooler age (3 to 5 years of age). Giving good directions can help your child learn right from wrong as well as understanding what you expect from them.
Children who have learning and thinking differences have a more difficult time when given directions that aren’t crystal clear. As a parent and a teacher, it’s important to recognize that your child can receive, process, and follow directions better when you deliver them in specific ways. At Children’s Campus Greenville, our 5-star preschool, we are trained to give instructions using techniques that help children learn to follow them. Practice the tips in this article to encourage your toddler and preschooler to follow directions.
Begin an instruction by asking your child to pay attention to what you are saying. Something like “Michael, Look toward me. I want you to listen to me now.” This instruction tells the child that you need their attention because what you are getting ready to say is important. Some children have difficulty with nonverbal communication so having them look toward you will be more effective than looking you directly in the eye will be more effective. You will want to move into their sight line when speaking to this child.
When giving instructions, eliminate any distractions such as the television or a game first. You can ask the child to stop playing the game or to put down their book before giving directions..
This signals to the child that listening to you is important at this time. It may be difficult for your child to hear you and focus on what you are saying when there is something else going on that is calling their attention as well.
Children respond better when you use a normal, and even softer than normal, voice when you give directions. Yelling over the television or other noises in the environment can be competing for their attention and confusing. However, speaking in a soft voice allows the child to process what you are saying, while not having to process the level of your voice as well. Give directions in a calm and even tone so they can focus on the substance of what you are saying.
It’s important to allow your child a few seconds after you give a direction so they can process the message. Research has shown that waiting 6 – 12 seconds after an instruction gives time to let the message sink in for them to respond appropriately. It’s OK to repeat the direction if your child doesn’t begin to follow it after the “wait time.”
Be as direct and specific as possible when giving directions. Don’t ask. When you are specific it is much easier for your toddler to understand what he/she needs to do. When you ask instead of tell, it sets up the option that there is a choice of following the instruction or not following it.
Very young children understand better when you give directions using one at a time, if possible, rather than multiple instructions they have to remember. Then, as the child gets older, enumerating each instruction can be helpful when there are several actions you are giving them. Saying something like, “There are three things I need you to do. First…second…and third…” is helpful for the child to develop memory and keep things in order.
When you give direction to your child, it is important to be polite and respectful. This mirrors how they should treat others. Even though you are telling them what to do, you should say words like “please” and “thank you” to encourage them to be polite when speaking to others.
The importance of encouraging your toddler and preschooler to follow directions can’t be stressed enough. This skill is foundational to the child’s success in school and in life. At Children’s Campus of Greenville, we understand how crucial it is to begin teaching this skill early and the ways that are effective in doing so. We are dedicated to establishing skills that prepare children for success in the future. If you are interested in scheduling a tour of our 5-Star Child Care Center conveniently located in the heart of Greenville, we would welcome hearing from you. Please call us at 252-756-8200 or comp
The benefits of outdoor play for early childhood development are everlasting, which is why here at Children’s Campus of Greenville, we dedicate time to balancing both indoor and outdoor play as a part of our curriculum. If you are interested in scheduling a tour of our 5-Star Child Care Center conveniently located in the heart of Greenville, we would love to hear from you! Please call us at 252-756-8200 or fill out the form below to schedule a tour.