Helping shy and withdrawn children engage

Preschool Teacher Tom Hobson shares advice for parents on how to help your shy or withdrawn child engage with other children
How to Help Your Shy Child Engage with Others
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Helping shy and withdrawn children engage

To me shyness is an emotion. We all feel it at different times in our lives and that’s how we talk about that at our schools is, “Sometimes, I feel shy.” I try not to label children with that, because that can be a debilitating label to place on somebody. Some children though are naturally more reserved, I think is the word I like to use, and they’re more observers. And they learn more from standing back and seeing what’s going on. I think there’s a prejudice – we all want our children to be that bold one who runs into the room and says, “I’m here! I’m ready to learn! Play with me!” Those are the children who are most likely to get hurt, they’re the children most likely to make mistakes and they’re the children that the observer children learn from. And so it’s important to have both kinds in the classroom. Our classroom, because we try to run it as much under democratic principles as possible, it is important for us to have everyone’s input in the classroom. In a play-based curriculum, this is great for the reserved children, because they can find their place in the classroom where they can have one-on-one with an adult, where they can express themselves, where they can explore things in their way and at their own pace. The one time during our classroom day, when the children are sort of expected to be in one place is during our daily classroom meetings, which we call circle time. And we are all sitting there together and we are taking turns in the classic raising your hand technique and you know, there is always some kids who raise their hand before they even know what they’re going to say and they would dominate that conversation if it wasn’t for me as the facilitator. And I’m not the leader. I’m the facilitator of this discussion, making a point of saying, “We need to include everybody in this,” and taking the time to be looking around and seeing by body language and other ways, because not all children… it takes them a while to learn sometimes, this concept of taking turns and raising hands. And taking the time to make sure you try to draw these children out so that they can participate and have an equal voice with their friends.

Preschool Teacher Tom Hobson shares advice for parents on how to help your shy or withdrawn child engage with other children


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Tom Hobson

Co-Op Preschool Teacher

Tom is a preschool teacher, blogger, artist, and author. For the past 10 years, he’s worked for the Woodland Park Cooperative preschools, teaching two to five year olds in Seattle, Washington where he lives with his wife and daughter. His award-winning blog, “Teacher Tom,” has earned him an international following as a leading proponent of a progressive, play-based curriculum and the cooperative model of early childhood education, as well as a fierce advocate for public policies that support the whole child and the teaching of democratic values to even our youngest citizens. His blog, like his classroom, is a place of exploration of the physical, social, political, emotional, and even spiritual world. It’s a place of experimentation, where the adults learn every bit as much as the children.

Tom is the author of A Parent’s Guide To Seattle, a regular speaker on early childhood education, a board member of the Fremont Arts Council, and a founding member of the Superhuggers performance art ensemble.

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