Best 5 Habits for Preschoolers: Patty Royall

It is my great joy and privilege to be a TPK teacher of preschoolers. The Little TIPS class that I am teaching is a mixed ESL class of 2, 3, and 4-year-old children. Because languages and cultures are different, my assistant and I first teach/model good social habits.  Since our goal is to foster love and appreciation for one another and for learning, here are the top 5 good habits I am teaching in my current classroom.

  1. Good Manners
  2. Sharing
  3. Clean Up
  4. Listen and Obey
  5. Read Good Books

Don’t be afraid to use your good manners – The first good habit I teach is to say, “Yes, please.” and “No, thank you.” Mrs. Cho, my assistant and I model this habit by example throughout the day.  It doesn’t take long for this practice to catch on and be enjoyed with a smile.  If, on occasion, I get a pouty or sassy response, I make it a game of second chances and modeling, until a smile and a polite remark is accomplished sometimes saying things like, “I know you can say that better”; “Excuse me, try saying that again.”; or “Nobody will know how nice you are if you speak like that.” Additionally, I like to tell my children, “Good manners show people how nice you are!” and my Mom’s favorite, “It never hurt anyone to have good manners!”

Always try to share with gentle hands and kind words – Since we are created for community, it is important to learn how to enjoy each other and to share without mean words and tears. We encourage preschoolers to ask, “May I play with you, please, (Child’s Name)?” Not only does this show respect and promote social skills, but fellowship grows as the children learn the names of their classmates. The proper responses to the question are, “Yes” or “No, not right now”. The advanced preschooler may choose to add- “but thank you for asking”.  When a child wants something that another child has, a polite question should be asked in a nice voice. For example, “May I have a turn with that when you are finished, please?”  Grabbing and whining are habits corrected by explaining and modeling good behavior. For twos and threes and children with English as a second language, I shake my head left and right and use sign language when saying a polite, “No” and my head moves up and down with sign language for “Yes”. Additionally, I use sign language for “please” and “thank you’.

Be responsible by taking care of things; always help with clean up – My theory is clean up is a job and a privilege! Everyone gets to help.  We can have fun when we all help! The old “Beat the Clock” game has been replaced by “Minute to Win It!”  I like to give a 5-minute warning before it is time to put things away – this was a good habit that I had to learn.  We all have learned the good habit of putting something away before getting the next thing out.  The children are encouraged to put things away without throwing or breaking. This job is made easier when there is a special place for every toy/item; another habit that I’m still learning.  Mrs. Cho and I always help with cleanup. Tricks I use for fun: “See if you can get all the magnets back in the bin without letting any of them fall out.”; “Could you please help me put the train away? You are such a big help!”; “Can you fill the block basket before I count to 10?” Note: Depending on the size of the job, use 20 or 30 or a slow count. For the reluctant helper, I don’t ask, I say in an enthusiastic voice, “You can clean up the train with me or you can put the blocks in the basket. You choose.” The reward must be sincere – “Wow! Thank you for your help!” Always tell the truth – “This room looks great!” or “This room needs a little more work. Look around. What else should we do?”  I’m still amazed at how soon the children learn where everything belongs, how to help each other and to delight in a job well done. Just the other day, one of my 3-year-olds remarked exuberantly, “I’m a big help! I’m a big help!” My response, “Yes, you sure are! I’m so proud of you!”

Use your power of self-control to listen and obey – Initially, we use a short 1-step command, then go to 2-step, then 3-step commands.  I like to have the children repeat the directions – great habit to help them know what to do and it helps with language differences.  One of the first commands I teach is “Quiet, please.” Said with index finger to the lips; I repeat myself and the sign until all are quiet.  I speak and sign the word, obey, and use it when instructing the children.  With consistent training, preschool children can learn the good habit of listening to and obeying instructions at the first request.

Have fun reading books – I love children’s books, poetry and storytelling.  Choose good books that you like and enjoy storytelling with the children. I like to examine the cover and title page with the children helping them try to figure out who or what’s in the story, where the story occurs, what time of day or season, then pausing along the way in the story to see if we can figure out what is going to happen next.  To help my preschoolers learn to read, I show how the words and sentences are written from left to right and top to bottom on the page.  I love stories written in rhyme; the rhythm of the words helps children anticipate the next word and remember key phrases. I usually have 2 stories picked out for each day then the children get to bring me their choice to read.  Three and four-year-old preschoolers can sit and read with me for 30 minutes or more.  Sometimes we make up new endings or wonder what the sequel would say.  I encourage children to tell me jokes and stories at snack time.  We have great conversations.

All these good habits had to become good habits for me before I successfully used them with my preschoolers.  I’m still learning new ways to help my children and loving the experience.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”- Jeremiah 29:11

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