3 Questions/Suggestions for Motivating Young Children

Which of your daily tasks to you dread, avoid, or wait until the last minute to do?

In contrast, which things in your life have you jumping out of bed in the morning? Are there certain errands that you love to do like shopping for birthday cake ingredients cause you're excited to bake a cake or treating yourself to a new pair of workout pants? And, other errands that you dread and avoid like the plague - maybe it's to purchase cleaning products?

Actually, hey...let's slow down there a minute cause maybe I'm projecting my assumptions about which errands are more or less appealing to me! 

Maybe you HATE shopping for birthday cake ingredients cause you don't even like to bake and you're just doing it out of obligation and anyhow you're avoiding sugar right now so you won't even get to eat the thing! And, perhaps, as it turns out having super clean sparkling countertops and no dust bunnies anywhere brings you SO MUCH JOY that you relish the moment someone watches your kids so you can run to Target, re-stock your products and CLEAN.

The thing is we're all different. Different things are motivating to us. 

Some of us are better than others at taking joy in life's daily tasks...some of us find the joy of accomplishing daily chores more satisfying than others...you may feel huge joy in a clean house whereas honestly it takes awhile for those dust bunnies to really bother me (I can tune them out for a WHILE - sssh! don't tell).

Also, sometimes we have REALLY good intentions and we plan to go buy groceries on Saturday, right after we wake up but then we get distracted and end up researching recipes on the internet for HOURS (oh, wait, was I just on Instagram checking out spring fashion?)...or even get in the car to go get the groceries or cake ingredients, start driving in the right direction but then oops, end up at a yard sale!

Moreover, some of us are more motivated than others by the pressure to just do something cause we're supposed to. Or, just do it because everyone around us is doing it.

Whereas, some of us couldn't care less about doing something just to go along with the group or because somebody said so.

Kids are the same.

Some of them will go wash their hands, clean up their lunch, get their nap stuff, or follow other directions just because you said so.

Point out that it's on the daily schedule or its the rules of the school? Even better!

Other children may or may not be listening to the directions you're giving, like at all (maybe even when you're joyfully singing the directions - though, that can help! And, not just at clean up time). They may be so absorbed in their own little world that your voice is like the adults voices on the old cartoon, Peanuts (with Snoopy and Charlie Brown - am I dating myself?), droning on and making noise but not words. But then, some of the kids lost in their own world will notice the other children are all getting up from lunch and heading to the bathroom and getting their stuffies from their cubbies, and they don't want to miss out so they pop up immediately and dump their whole plate of chicken nuggets in the garbage even though they were still hungry. Officially, Motivated.

Then there's the kid who cleans up her lunch, heads to the bathroom...sees the lego table and starts connecting a few together....and then sees her friend getting a book and heads to get a book herself. Officially. Distracted.

So...we are all motivated by different things (or are officially unmotivated) and some of us are better at getting life's little tasks done than others.

Kids too. 

Let's accept that as how it is and start from there when we think about our daily classroom transitions, getting kids to do their daily to-do's, and to follow our directions. 

I have 3 questions/suggestions for you...

1. Do you have struggles with one or more children during daily transitions or need-to-get-done type tasks?

2. Are you thinking about what motivates children to move through the daily transitions in your classroom and to complete daily tasks that they might not derive much joy from? (HINT: if you want to transform your daily transitions for the better this needs to be top of mind).

3. Think about a specific child who seems to get lost - or throws a giant fit - during a daily transition. What might be motivating to that child and how can you use that motivator to support them to stay on task, move forward, and maybe even enjoy the transition?

Think creatively! I'm not talking about a sticker. 

I'm thinking Marco might hustle to clean up his lunch if he's reminded that the Pete the Cat book awaits him on his nap time cot. Julianna may come more swiftly in from the yard when she gets to carry the bubbles or is reminded that you're heading inside for lunch and its spaghetti today! Lupe might stop resisting coming to circle if she gets to save her Lego structure to complete in the afternoon and when she's reminded that you will do her favorite movement and music activity, the Dragon Hunt, as soon as she gets to the rug.

I might joyfully vacuum my dust bunnies when I realize how great it will feel to have a clean house when I'm hosting my friend's birthday celebration!

Not all of us want to bake the cake.

I’d love to hear your answers to my 3 questions below!