Group Time provides an opportunity for each child to participate in a group, sharing and demonstrating their ideas, as well as trying out and imitating the ideas of others. At group time, a child can find out that there are some things that are really fun to do with other people, and that, as part of a group, they can sometimes be a leader or a follower. It is a chance to provide “key experiences” for children in a social setting and to observe children as they participate in that setting, each in their own way.
The adult group leader observes children participating in a group and can learn how individual children perceive different concepts such as loud and soft, same and different, fast and slow, near and far, colors, shapes, numbers, letters, etc., depending on the activities provided. Group time is not only a time for interaction, both child to child and adult group leader to child, but, also, a time for active and passive experiences, a visual time, a musical time, and a verbal time.
Planning is crucial to implementing a fun, enjoyable and productive group time. The adult group leader must be prepared in advance. The following are some tips for group time:
Plan group times at strategic times of the day.
Finding the best times of the day for group time will aid in the cohesiveness and orderliness of the program.
Develop a consistent schedule.
Group time should generally occur at the same point in the sequence of the day's events so the children can adjust to the routine and anticipate it.
Have a well-defined area of the room designed for group time.
This area does not need to be used exclusively for group time, but there should be enough physical space so that children are not crowded together and everyone is included.
Have a balance of activities.
Balance the planned activities between active and passive activities for the children. Young children cannot be expected to sit still for long periods of time. Balance the activities between listening and participating activities for the children.
Provide alternative activities for children that don’t want to participate.
Some children are not developmentally ready for group time yet, so be ready to provide non-disruptive alternative activities that the child can do independently during group time.
If needed, adjust your plans depending on the mood of the group. Be ready to switch from a book to an active action game or song, or a movement activity if the group becomes restless.
Group times should be one of the most enjoyable activities for both children and adult group leaders alike. Make them a pleasurable time for everyone!