Do you remember your first teacher? I'd be willing to bet that you are thinking of your Kindergarten or first grade teacher. But did you think of your parents, preschool teacher or nanny? In fact our parents and caregivers were our first teachers, and now we are teachers ourselves. Teachable moments abound in those early years and we have the privilege of taking advantage of them.
Although you don't need a formal lesson plan or curriculum, planning is needed. Using themes can be helpful to your plan. You also want to consider the children's ages, abilities and interests. Including a balance of activities supports learning and keeps the child's attention (and ours as well). Have movement activities or games balanced with quiet time. Offer both large and small muscle development, creative expression and specific skill practice along with the inclusion of music, literature, food fun and experimentation provides for enjoyable learning for everyone. Children will undoubtedly offer plenty of input as you expose them to new ideas and concepts. Being ready to change gears and take advantage of the "spark" of interest can bring even greater enrichment.
Modeling is another way that children learn. Sometimes we don't realize how much they watch us until we hear them use on of our expressions or quote us. We often think of modeling good eating habits or appropriate speech, but remember that they are watching us under all situations. What are you modeling when you are stressed or frustrated? How we express emotions, spend our free time, interact with others are all being carefully observed. If this gives you pause, it should. Children are like sponges and we should be continually asking ourselves what are they absorbing from us. Sometimes the most important life lessons are ones we learned just from watching others.
What a privilege it is to be a teacher. Embrace this opportunity and see the wonderful difference you make in a child's life.