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A Quick Note on Choice- from Preschool

Curious black child in red cover touching chin and looking at camera with interest while standing on sunny street

During college, I had a summer stint as a preschool teacher. I loved it.

The small school was run by some sweet older women, and it took me some time before I understood their salient intentionality.

During our preschool day, we had structured time and a good deal of planned unstructured time. During structured time, we might be reading together or snacking together or in specified rooms for planned activities (painting, storyboards, counting, building, etc.).

During unstructured time, the kids got to choose whether they wanted to be indoors or outdoors, active or calm, interacting or independent.

It turned out that a lot of the preschoolers were so used to being on a schedule- being driven to and fro, planned play with other kids, sports practices for them or for siblings- the scheduled whirlwind of life in a family.

Unscheduled play was for practicing decision-making.

Kids would often ask us “What should I do now?” We were never to answer with a direction or decision but “What do you want to do? Do you want to read, paint, play outside, build, draw, climb, ride a trike- what do you want to do?”

It sounds so simple, but many kids were paralyzed by such decisions. They were so unused to deciding for themselves that many were quite upset when they realized we really would not tell them what to do. We could talk them through how they might choose, but should not not lean towards a choice, not make a choice. They always got better at it, but the teaching was always a process.

Scheduling eliminates this choice training.

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever got from parents I so admire: Let your kids get bored.

It seems like we might even need to schedule boredom time. Okay- however it happens. But, let them be bored and choose their way out of it.

A teaching moment. Many teaching moments.

“What do you want to do?”

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