Are you thinking about working with children (as a teacher, psychologist, pediatrician... you name it)? I've worked for almost 10 years teaching very young learners, and I assure you, there are things they don't teach you about kids at university.
Whether you'd like to make working with children a full-time job, or just open to the possibility of making some extra income, these 5 things you should know about kids will help you make up your mind — and even improve your ability to work with children.
1. It's all about the differences
Children are different. They learn in different ways, and what one likes, the other might despise.
Don't expect children to behave in the same way every day, and above all, don't compare them. Just pay attention to each kid individually and try to connect personally with each of them.
2. Let them be themselves
Children like to be involved in the process of decision-making, and you should let them, as far as possible.
Let them choose games/books/any activities you're currently involved in.
Allow them to be creative and express themselves through dancing, painting, drawing, or writing without much structure.
Read this article to learn more about how to help children make decisions.
Which of the following should you NOT say to a child?
3. Show them you care
Children enjoy being the center of your attention, even the shyest ones.
Remember their friends' names or favorite TV shows.
Ask them about their day/weekend.
When working with more than one kid, pay them equal attention and avoid comparing their behavior or work to that of other kids.
Praise them and their work. Say things like: "I love what you did here," or "Your idea/painting/story/etc is very interesting, tell me more!"
Show them love and understanding. Try with phrases like: "I know this is important for you," or "I'm here if you want to tell me more about it."
4. Be patient
At a young age, children are starting to know themselves and their feelings. They need an adult's guidance and help in recognizing strong emotions. Be patient with children, especially during tantrums.
But...what does being patient mean?
Above all, don't get angry at them, and never yellat them. Try to understand why the child is reacting in a certain way, and accompany them in their emotion.
Try putting yourself at the child's height and making eye contact.
If you're interested in children's emotional development, read this paper from Harvard University.
Mark, age 3, starts having a tantrum. You're not sure why. What are helpful ways to react? Select all that apply:
5. Plan ahead based on children's attention span
Kids have a much shorter attention span than adults. In my time as a kindergarten teacher, I always kept extra resources in my bag, in case they got bored too soon.
Remember other factors may be important, such as if the child has slept or eaten well.
What should you expect?
There are different opinions, and as every child is unique, there might be differences. But in general, here's what to expect:
2 years: 4–6 minutes
4 years: 8–12 minutes
6 years: 12–18 minutes
8 years: 16–24 minutes
10 years: 20–30 minutes
Take this information into account when preparing an activity with a child. Don't expect a lot more, and let them surprise you for the best if they engage longer than expected. 🤗
Picture yourself in your prospective role working with children (as teacher, psychologist, doctor, etc.). Think about the following questions.