As you know, working with children is never boring. Effective planning can save your sanity o the rough days and help you have a more positive impact on the children coming to your center. Planning allows you to develop programs that meet your needs and the needs of your clients. Clear goals and objectives, the cornerstones of planning, also make it easier for you to promote your program and recruit and utilize resources, either people or materials.
To be effective, planning should entail a four-step process: assessment, planning, implementing and evaluating. Assessment includes identifying the centerís overall desired impact on the individual childís growth. Assessment also means identifying resources staff, space, finances and materials. Surveying kids and parents on interests is often helpful.
After assessment, planning begins. Good planning takes into account the social, emotional, physical and cognitive needs of your children as well as staffing patterns, size of groups, time, space and resources.
For ease in planning, it is sometimes better to divide things into subject matter and events. One popular strategy for subject matter planning is theme programming. Theme planning involves choosing a specific topic and then planning a variety of activities that explore that topic. The themes can be explored with activities in theatre, cooking, stories, show and tell, guests, science, games, field trips or crafts. Activities can be conducted inside or out, in large or small groups or individually, at structured or unstructured times. Quiet, active and reflective experiences should be included.
For example, with snow as the theme, several weeks worth of activities can be developed. The winter homes of animals and insects could be the focus of a nature walk. Children can collect snow and look at crystals with a magnifying glass. How much water is in one glass of snow? How much ice is made from that glass of snow turned to water? How much does each weigh? Compare the contents of one glass of water and one glass of melted snow. Have visitors in to discuss their childhood memories of snow days. Poems, stories and illustrations about snow can be developed. Snowflakes can be cut. Clothes can be fashioned. My favorite snow story can be shared. The possibilities are only limited by the creativity of you, your staff and your kids.
Involving children in planning for events is also useful. The steps needed to produce the event will help you provide activities. Divide kids into committees, with older children acting as chairpersons. Provide some guidance, and let them go! Older children can be effective role models for younger ones.
Methods for getting children involved in an activity range from building it up ahead of time to having examples in sight to promote it. Having children participate in planning activities and using their input is another way of getting children involved. Stopping an activity before children become bored will save it to be continued again at a later date.
The last and often overlooked step in program planning is evaluation. Evaluation includes critiquing the mechanical aspects as well as the educational components of the program. What were your initial goals and did activities reinforce those goals? Were kids, parents and staff enthusiastic? Your response to these types of questions provides a baseline for your next programming effort.
Working with children is often challenging. Planning the program on a yearly, quarterly, monthly or weekly basis by involving your staff and the children will allow flexibility and provide an enjoyable learning atmosphere.