Preschool Classroom Management | Early Childhood + Pre-K (2023)

Despite the many misconceptions, preschool is a time in child development when a young learner’s cognitive, emotional, and social capacities are rapidly growing.

Thankfully, today’s early childhood education (ECE) practices in classroom management are evolving in a way that recognizes preschool is not just “daycare” and that early childhood students are full individuals.

With this evolution, pre-K and preschool classroom management has also changed — for the better!

Tackling preschool classroom management is easy like 1, 2, 3!

Time outs are athing of the past, and teacher-centered classrooms have given way to student-centered classrooms with positive behaviors andsocial-emotional learningat the forefront.

In this modern guide to preschool classroom management, we break this topic down into four distinct categories to help center admins, teachers, and educators create an inspired and engaging classroom for the young children in their care.

So, what is classroom management in early childhood education? Read on for everything you need to know for preschool classroom management 2.0!

What are the four approaches to preschool classroom management?

  1. Classroom setup
  2. Daily structures
  3. Teacher choices
  4. Classroom management techniques

1. Classroom setup

Whether you realize it or not, preschool classroom management is innately impacted by the way the classroom is set up physically.

The zones or areas within that layout can mean the difference between an out-of-control classroom and a calm and positive learning environment. Whenevaluating your classroom environment, aim to take the following steps.

Ace the classroom layout

Begin by separatingnoisy zones and quiet zones.

If possible, put them on opposite sides of the room. When play space is separate from reading space, you’ll be able to reduce the probability of frustrations popping up between students and make your work of managing the classroom that much easier.

You’ll also want to havedemarcated areas for specificsmall-group activities.

These activities may be influenced by your school’s learning philosophy, for example, whether you’re aWaldorf or Montessorischool, but the thought remains the same:

How do your students spend their time in your ECE classroom?

Consider separate spaces for reading, playing, food/snacks, crafts, building, etc. If possible, look for ways to integratenature-based learninginto your classroom, even if it’s just finding areas for plants, a small indoor garden, or other greenery.

By having designated spaces for different types of learning, you can help structure the way studentsspend their timeand support social-emotional learning as they connect with their peers in these parts of the classroom.

Preschool Classroom Management | Early Childhood + Pre-K (1)

Classroom setup

Create purposeful spaces

The demarcated spaces in your class demonstrate the importance of classroom management in preschool activities, but they should also serve a larger educational, social, or emotional purpose.

For example, afeelings spaceis an area where a student can go in heightened moments. Not to be confused with a time out, the feeling of space isn’t a punishment.

(Video) Classroom Management: How to Manage Classroom Behavior in Preschool With a Calm Learning Environment

It’s simply a designated area where students can feel their feelings with supportive manipulatives such as stuffed animals or puppets. They may self-soothe in this space, or they may be given nurturing support from their trustedpreschool teacher.

The different areas — whether for crafts, snacks, or anything in between — can also help promoteindependencein young learners. Through simple actions such as labeling bins with pictures, students can be self-directed in cleaning up or getting supplies.

Aspace ofcuriosityfor the senses is also crucial for a thriving preschool classroom.

Developing minds are always learning. They crave opportunities to engage their senses — sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, along with the vestibular and proprioceptive systems. Ask yourself how each zone in your classroom can engage one or more of these senses, be it through tactile sensory bins, seating options, or music and songs.

Purposeful spaces in the classroom create an environment where students are actively engaged in learning, making your path to effective preschool classroom management that much smoother.

2. Daily structures

As humans, we instinctively understand how important a daily routine is to the rhythm and flow of our lives. Just think about it: What can you rely on each day?

Your morning cup of coffee?

Brushing your teeth?

Where you placed your keys?

Okay, that last one can be a little tricky some days. But the truth is that when daily structures are in place, your state of being is simplycalmer and more present.

You don’t have to waste time or energy feeling flustered because you have a sense of order to fall back on. Just as adults need a daily routine to keep them on track, preschool children also benefit from this mode of thinking and planning.

Establish the right routines

If you’re here, you already know consistency plays a major role in child development.

Both in preschool and at home, we want to nurture reliable relationships and experiences so children can develop their sense of trust in others and the world around them.

The rightroutineshelp preschoolers understand the expectations of their environment and encourage cognitive, emotional, and social development. When students know what to expect, it also reduces the frequency of outbursts or frustrations (which helps you when it comes how to manage preschool classroom with far fewer headaches 😉).

Jeana Kinne, a preschool teacher, preschool director, parent educator, and writer forTeaching Mamaputs it this way:

“The foundation of a happy and successful school day is a schedule and routine. When we stick with a daily routine, our kids come in knowing that they will have all of their basic needs met.”

This is especially important considering the many ups and downs of the past couple of years.

Experts like Jeana suggest that by having a set routine in place, parents and educators can help create a sense of certainty even when the world around them feels chaotic.

“If a child hasn’t slept well the night before, if they are hungry, or if they are missing a family member (maybe one parent is out of town), they will communicate their needs through behaviors,” she explains. “Basic needs include food, shelter, sleep, love, and support. If they hadn’t had their basic needs met that particular day, then we will see varying needs and behaviors at school.”

Preschool Classroom Management | Early Childhood + Pre-K (2)

(Video) 5 Classroom Management Mistakes New Preschool Teachers Make

Child learning in preschool

Plan for easy transitions

Transitions are another key area where you may find yourself wondering if there’s a better way to plan.

The team over atLearning Without Tearssums up the importance of transitions perfectly:

“Transition activities and strategiespromote self-regulationby helping children know what to expect and actively participate in their daily schedule. They also promote an understanding of the sense of time (i.e., past, present, future) and help with the development of social-emotional skills.”

This is another where even as an adult, it’s not too difficult to empathize.

After all, if you were eating a meal at a restaurant and the server walked up and took your plate without warning, you wouldn’t be calm, cool, and content. You’d be frustrated and confused. Downright hangry, even!

Point is, we all do better with smooth transitions. The same goes for our ECE students.

Countdowns, verbal cues,songs, or games can all be incorporated into transitions to not only make them easier for students but also fun and engaging for preschool teachers and staff.

Embrace free play

In the words of Mr. Rogers, “Play is the work of childhood.

After all, many three-year-olds can onlysit stillfor five to ten minutes max. That’s why, when it comes to efficient preschool classroom management, play-based learning iseverything.

The type of play can vary — indoor, outdoor, independent, or group — but the effects are proven.

Here are just some of the reasons play is so crucial to preschool classroom management, according to three ECE experts:

  • “Free play gives children an outlet to express their emotions and feelings and helps them develop a sense of who they are.” — KaBOOM
  • “Kids are built to move, and having more time for unstructured, outdoor play is essentially like a reset button.” — Debbie Rhea, Ed.D.
  • “Having control over the course of one’s own learning, as in free play, promotes desire, motivation, and mastery.” — Dr. Rachel E. White

In short, our ECE students havelotsof energy!

Free play gives them the time and space to expel that energy in healthy ways that don’t contribute to an out-of-control preschool class. So make time for free play, and rest assured there are easier days ahead!

Preschool Classroom Management | Early Childhood + Pre-K (3)

Child playing outside

3. Teacher choices

Even in our student-centered classrooms, theteacher makes a huge impact on the learner’s experience.

There are three major areas of teacher choice that impact effective preschool classroom management: atmosphere, rules, and responses.

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Boost preschool classroom management by designing a welcoming atmosphere

Everything from the colors in the classroom to the rugs on the floor can all work together to shape the class into a calm or chaotic environment.

(Video) Classroom management: Difficult Preschool & Pre-K Class

Of course, theteacher’s demeanoris equally important to healthy preschool classroom management. Patience is paramount, as iscompassionate curiosity. In fact, Edutopia says thatcompassionate curiosity

“…asks teachers to act as nonjudgmental investigators to better understand what’s going on in the minds and lives of students. The more you’re willing to recognize there are things you don’t know about your students’ experience or what they’re feeling, the more able you are to see behavior as a reflection of those feelings.”

This type of environment leads to better preschool classroom management because itsets the tone for the spacestudents to walk into — one that isn’t tense or fear-based — and supports students in being themselves.

For these things to happen, it’s important to take a close look at yourteacher diversity dataand regularly reevaluate yourapproach to hiringpreschool and childcare center staff.

Teach the rules

While many of us love to hate them, rules communicate clear expectations and consequences. And preschool classroom management involves setting rules to have a productive educational environment.

Some classroom rules such as “Be kind” or “Be respectful” are important, but they don’t always have meaning for young students because they’re more abstract and therefore harder for young minds to grasp.

For a calm and joy-filled classroom, be sure you’reteaching rules to the students in a way they’ll understand. That may involve pictures to communicate the rules, putting them into a song, or having students act out the rules to demonstrate comprehension.

Additionally, NAEYC points to usingguidance, not punishmentin the classroom. This method even teaches the students how to manage challenges without the teacher!

Preschool teacher Beth Wallce shares an interaction from her classroom led by four-year-old Jeremiah, that was the outcome ofguidance, not punishment: 😍

“‘What’s going on, guys?’ Jeremiah asked (my standard opening line). He then facilitated a five-minute discussion between the two children. He made sure both got a chance to speak, interpreting for the little one. ‘Jordan, what do you think of that idea?’ he asked. Jordan shook his head and clutched the truck tighter. ‘I don’t think Jordan’s ready to give up the truck yet,’ Jeremiah told Franklin.”

Respond, don’t react

Another fundamental rule of best-in-class preschool classroom management is toget curious, not furiouswith your students.

That means responding to the challenges that come up instead of reacting. This is also a practice in alignment withtrauma-informedteaching.

When an incident occurs in the classroom with a student, the teacher doesn’t default to disciplinary measures or punishment.

Instead, come from a place of inquiry and ask:

  • Why might the student be behaving this way?
  • What might be some contributing factors?
  • Could this be coming from fear or insecurity? Feeling scared, hungry, or tired?

It’s the mindset shift from ‘Why did you do that?’to‘Howcan I help you right now?’

Responding instead of reacting also applies to havingculturally appropriate responsesto student behaviors. NAEYC outlines how cultural appropriateness can shape guidance for classroom management strategies in preschool when students have conflicts:

“As they choose guidance strategies, teachers help children understand that their peers’ play and behavior may look and feel different from their own because of different cultural practices, and they support children as they gradually learn to negotiate different sets of expectations between home and early education settings.”

The recognition and welcoming of the way students live their lives beyond the classroom make for important teaching moments and a reminder that there is no one-size-fits approach to ECE.

4. Classroom management techniques

Our guide so far has overarching practices, methods, and perspectives for effective preschool classroom management.

But if you’re struggling with an out-of-control preschool class and looking for specific ideas to use in the classroomright now, we’ve got you covered there too:

  • Call/responseis a great way to gather attention and get everyone listening and ready to transition.
  • Preschool behavior chartsare a hot-button topic right now. We think they’re most impactful when used one-on-one between a teacher and student, instead of displaying for the whole class to see (which can feel like punishment or public shaming).
  • Green and red choices and charts: Talk about visual cues! Help students understand the behaviors you want to encourage, and behaviors that should be thought about before proceeding.
  • Use floor markersto indicate where students should stand, sit, or wait during activities or transitions.
  • Do aheavy workactivity such as frog jumps or jumping jacks to get the energy out before transitioning to a different activity.

We know that an out-of-control preschool class can be overwhelming, and we’re here to help.

At MomentPath, we can't plan the perfect activities or color code your classroom, but we can help eliminate some of the stress that gets in the way of leading a calm and engaged classroom where kids feel free to play and learn.

(Video) Classroom Management: Preschool Transition Tips and Tricks for Pre-K Teachers (Simple and Effective)

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Schedule a demo(and check out the explainer videos below👇) to see LineLeader in action.

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Additional Preschool Classroom Management Resources

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(Video) Preschool & Pre-K Classroom Management


Preschool Classroom Management | Early Childhood + Pre-K? ›

The pre-K classroom is typically organized using a center-based method with specific areas for activities such as reading, building, creating art and dramatic play. The classroom also needs areas for working, such as preschool-sized tables and chairs, and a floor seating area where the class gathers.

How do you structure a pre K classroom? ›

The pre-K classroom is typically organized using a center-based method with specific areas for activities such as reading, building, creating art and dramatic play. The classroom also needs areas for working, such as preschool-sized tables and chairs, and a floor seating area where the class gathers.

What is effective classroom management in preschool? ›

Clearly lay out expectations and consequences and follow through with positive discipline. Teaching young children exactly what's expected and the consequences of not following the rules is one of the most important aspects of effective behavior management in a preschool classroom.

What is classroom management in early childhood? ›

What is Preschool Classroom Management? Classroom management means all the tools and activities that you use as an educator to keep your kids focused, on-task, engaged, organized and behaving appropriately during your lessons.

What are the 5 teaching strategies for preschoolers? ›

Teaching strategies for preschoolers
  • Logo/symbol labeling. ...
  • Sound recognition & matching. ...
  • Switch out activities. ...
  • Start a garden. ...
  • Get the senses involved in science. ...
  • Establish rules. ...
  • Tailor activities to your students.
Dec 13, 2017

What should be included in a pre K lesson plan? ›

A solid lesson plan will incorporate key elements such as learning objectives, relevant materials, developmentally appropriate activities, and assessment methods. Incorporate themes to teach children fundamental skills or see what emerges from their interests.

How do you teach patterns to pre K students? ›

How to Introduce Your Children to Patterns
  1. Read books and sing songs that have repetition. Patterns can be comforting to young children. ...
  2. Describe your child's actions to them. ...
  3. Create a pattern and have them copy it. ...
  4. Go on a nature walk. ...
  5. Think outside the box.

What are the 3 C's for effective classroom management? ›

As you consider some of your most challenging students or classes, think about your approach to classroom management through the lens of these three areas: connection, consistency, and compassion.

What are the four C's of successful classroom management? ›

Teaching through the lens of the "Four Cs"—critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity—will help us and our students stay essential in an evolving world of work.

What are 5 strategies of classroom management? ›

5 Effective Classroom Management Strategies
  • Write Down the Rules.
  • Let Students Help.
  • Encourage Questioning.
  • Let Students Lead.
  • Encourage Group Projects.
Sep 21, 2021

How do you deal with challenging behavior in preschool? ›

When children are engaging in challenging behavior, interrupt, and redirect the child to the appropriate alternative behavior using minimal attention, discussion, and emotion. Your redirect should focus on stating what the child should or might do.

How do you deal with preschool behavior problems? ›

Lipscomb offered these tips to parents for helping their children develop control over their behavior:
  1. Set limits. ...
  2. Establish routines. ...
  3. Stay calm. ...
  4. Play self-control games. ...
  5. Model stress management. ...
  6. Encourage physical activity and outdoor play. ...
  7. Give a heads up. ...
  8. Engage them.
Nov 18, 2013

How do you manage preschoolers Behaviour? ›

Here are some parenting and behavior management strategies for kids ages three to five years old:
  1. Find the good. ...
  2. Set clear expectations. ...
  3. Help them with their words. ...
  4. Teach routines. ...
  5. Give time. ...
  6. Stay calm. ...
  7. Maintain eye contact. ...
  8. Give your child things to do.

What are the 5 C's on teaching strategies? ›

Five C's for teaching. Use connectedness, conversation, curiosity, consideration, and community and culture to create a successful learning environment.

What are the 6 C's in teaching strategies? ›

The 6Cs in the 21st Century Education

Researchers and education experts have outlined the Cs about the education in the 21st Century, and they cover: critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, citizenship/ culture, and character education/connectivity. What does each C mean, however?

What are the 4 A's teaching strategies? ›

The 4As of adult learning: Activity, Analysis, Abstraction, and Application is illustrated in Figure 6-1. The constructivist approach to teaching asserts that a Learner gains and builds knowledge through experience. It recognizes that life experiences are rich resources for continued learning.

What should I teach first in pre K? ›

A. The first thing to teach preschoolers is counting and letters. These skills are foundational to all knowledge they'll acquire through the year; it is best to start here.

What every pre k students should know? ›

Every preschooler should ideally have the following skills before entering their new kindergarten classroom.
  • Recognition of letters and some letter sounds. ...
  • Naming shapes and colors. ...
  • Knowing basic identification information about themselves. ...
  • Counting up to ten and down from ten. ...
  • Feeling comfortable with their peers.
May 6, 2021

What are three things preschool teachers should do? ›

Important Qualities

Preschool teachers need good writing and speaking skills to talk to parents and colleagues about children's progress. They must also be able to communicate well with small children. Creativity. Preschool teachers must plan lessons that engage young children.

How do pre K students learn best? ›

Learning during the first 6 years is about building skills through play. This does not only apply to babies and toddlers. Preschoolers learn best through play, when using their whole body and engaging the senses. You may be wondering what a preschool curriculum should include or what subjects are focused on.

What are the two types of pattern that a preschooler should look and practice? ›

At this age, there are two types of patterns to look for and practice: repeating patterns (like red-blue-red-blue-red) and growing patterns (like small, medium, large). Luckily, both are hidden in your child's daily activities and practicing these patterns is incredibly fun.

How should the space in a preschool classroom be arranged? ›

As a general rule of thumb, your classroom space should be easily visible to the teacher, with clear open traffic patterns from one area to another. This type of arrangement will facilitate supervision and enable you to intervene quickly if necessary.

What is the ratio in a pre K classroom? ›

Recommended Staff:Child Ratio and Group Size: Child Care Centers
AgesStaff:Child Ratio
Preschoolers: 3 years old1 adult should care for no more than 7 preschoolers
Preschoolers: 4 years old1 adult should care for no more than 8 preschoolers
Preschoolers: 5 years old1 adult should care for no more than 8 preschoolers
4 more rows

What is structured learning in preschool? ›

Structured play, or "play with a purpose," is any activity that offers your preschooler a specific learning objective. It could be learning a certain life skill like teaching the months of the year or working on important physical abilities such as gross and fine motor skills.

How do you organize preschool centers? ›

Kids can place their names, photos, or clothespins next to the centers they're using. Make a set of center necklaces, and hang these necklaces near each individual center area. For example, if four kids can be in the reading center, make sure to have 4 reading center necklaces.

How do you manage a chaotic preschool classroom? ›

10 Tips To Calm the Chaotic Preschool Classroom
  1. Structure brings serenity! ...
  2. A picture is worth 1000 words! ...
  3. Reward positive behavior! ...
  4. Banking Time! ...
  5. Consequences must be logical! ...
  6. Adopt a Social-Emotional curriculum! ...
  7. Big Body Play! ...
  8. Allow children to take ownership of the classroom!
Jul 16, 2018

What is the best classroom layout? ›

Rows are typically seen as the best layout for direct instruction approaches. Pupils all face the front, able to see and hear the teacher clearly, and the teacher is likewise able to see and hear them all clearly.

What is an ideal classroom arrangement? ›

Arrange the room so that the teacher can monitor quickly and easily (no blind spots) Use vertical space for display and learning enrichments. Keep active areas distinctly separate from quiet spaces. Keep two active areas distinctly separate to avoid distraction and interference.

How high should a pre K student be able to count? ›

Academic Readiness

count to 20. count 10 objects, pointing to each one as she counts. say or sing the alphabet. recognize the letters of the alphabet, both uppercase and lowercase (even out of order)

How many kids should be in 1 classroom? ›

Researchers generally agree a class size of no larger than 18 students is required to produce the desired benefit. You read that right—the ideal class size is 18 kids. Let's face it; the dream of an 18-to-1 student–teacher ratio conflicts with the logistical and financial realities of many of our nation's schools.

What is the best class size for preschool? ›

If you have no experience with teaching preschoolers it is probably best to start with no more than 6 students, but if you are a seasoned Kindergarten teacher you may be able to easily handle more students than that. Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide the best class size for your preschool.

What are 3 of the preschool learning foundations? ›

California Preschool Learning Foundations, Volume 1

Volume 1 of the California Preschool Learning Foundations focuses on the domains of social-emotional development, language and literacy, English-language development, and mathematics.

What are different learning styles in preschool? ›

Visual (learn through seeing) Auditory (learn through hearing) Tactile (learn through touch) Kinesthetic (learn through doing and moving)

What are the three types of classroom structures? ›

  • Structuring the physical space.
  • Structuring the emotional space.
  • Structuring the pedagogical space.
Nov 4, 2021

How do I plan a preschool schedule? ›

Preschool daily schedule example
  1. 7:00 to 8:30 a.m. — Welcome / Free play.
  2. 8:30 to 9:00 a.m. — Breakfast.
  3. 9:00 to 9:30 a.m. — Clean up.
  4. 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. — Circle time.
  5. 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. — Learning centers.
  6. 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. — Lunch.
  7. 1:00 to 1:30 p.m. — Clean up.
  8. 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. — Nap time.
Mar 10, 2023

What are the 6 learning areas? ›

The six areas of learning
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development. ...
  • Communication, Language and Literacy. ...
  • Mathematical Development. ...
  • Knowledge and Understanding of the World. ...
  • Physical Development. ...
  • Creative Development.

How to do circle time with preschoolers? ›

4 Essential circle time ideas for preschools and daycares
  1. 1) Sing a song with actions and gameplay. ...
  2. 2) Review the calendar, weather and week's agenda, using interactive props. ...
  3. 3) Give a short, thematic lesson, using props during circle time. ...
  4. 4) Read stories for a quiet, carpet time activity.


1. Positive Preschool/Daycare classroom management
2. Preschool Classroom Management & Behavior Tips
(Oceanhills Covenant Church)
3. Teaching Self-Regulation During Choice Time in Pre-K
4. Engaging Pre-K Learners By Following Their Interests
5. Classroom Management Tips: Do You Really Need Behavior Charts?
(PreK Pages)
6. Classroom Management Tips to Discipline Preschool Kids : Preschool Education & Beyond
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