Lisa Holewa was amazed by how easily her daughter’s kindergarten class moved from one project to another. There was no whining, no tantrums.

At home, Holewa’s daughter dawdled or tried to negotiate when changing tasks, and Holewa assumed it was because she wasn’t firm enough. But the teacher, Joan Rice, simply had the five-year-olds put their unfinished projects in a “Not Done” pouch — giving them a signal that they would get to return to the project.

“That’s the moment when I thought there’s really something magical going on here,” Holewa said.


Holewa, a former reporter for The Associated Press, went on to write, along with Rice, What Kindergarten Teachers Know: Practical and Playful Ways for Parents to Help Children Listen, Learn and Cooperate at Home.

The book, released Tuesday by Penguin Group’s Perigee division, is aimed at parents of children three to six-years-old, with help from other teachers across the United States, Holewa’s pediatrician and other writers.

Here are five of their tips:


>> Get a child’s attention
Be physically in the child’s presence when speaking. Make eye contact, and touch him or her on the shoulder or hand to get their attention. The authors recommend creating a “listen to me signal,” like turning off the light or ringing a bell.

Easy Steps

>> Break up tasks into smaller pieces

It’s important to have clear endings and beginnings to activities and to give specific directions broken into manageable steps. For instance, instead of saying, “clean up this mess,” they recommend saying, “Put all the cars into this bin, then put it on the shelf in your bedroom.”

Rice, now a third-grade teacher with two daughters aged 11 and 13, said she started using the “Not Done” pouch because she knows how, even as an adult, it’s hard to put a project down that isn’t finished.

“In a child it’s just manifesting so much more in their feelings,” she said.

Play, Play, Play

>> Play is important

True play isn’t participating in organized sports or playing computer games. It involves children using their imagination, such as using wooden blocks to build a roadway for race cars.

>> Create a routine

For reluctant sleepers, follow a relaxing, consistent routine every night to build toward bedtime. Parents can sprinkle “sandman’s dust” or baby powder over children before sleep, or rub “sleep potion” or body lotion on arms and legs as a gentle massage.


>> Use quiet time

Some teachers feel the concept of a “time-out” has become overused and punitive. The authors suggest approaching a child gently before the quiet time with words like “You could use a quiet time to relax.” That allows children to save face with their friends.

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