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ACQUAINTING PRESCHOOL CHILDREN WITH VALUES
Acquainting preschool children with values is one of the most important activities of each education. Our online training is based on the Handbook Values for Preschool Children that was created within the project Erasmus+: Ethical Values for Preschool Children. The online training represents concrete activities that can help to develop young children’s values like responsibility, respect, understanding what is right and what is wrong, self-confidence, politeness, helping other people, cooperation, friendship, imagination, honesty, love, gratitude etc. Video presentation and the handbook can help parents and kindergarten teachers to build children’s character and impart basic values that will support children all their lives.
This training shows examples of moral education that are performed in the kindergartens La Petite Academy and Angela’s Kindergarten in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and in Gülten ve ömer ünlükahraman anaokulu, Kilis, Turkey. The activities in each kindergarten are categorized in four groups (in the same way as in the Handbook):
1. Relation toward oneself:
- Hygiene – washing hands and using the handkerchief
- Developing self-confidence by the game There is no other me
- Acquainting children with reading
- Music and dance
- The silence game
- Line (moving on the line and dancing)
- The sensory path
2. Relation toward others
- Serving snacks
- Preparing the table
- Serving lunch
- Calming down before lunch by a song
- Cleaning after lunch
- Helping younger children to dress
- Helping younger children (covering them with blankets)
- Reading before rest
- Polite expressions
- Let’s clap the right thing
- The respectful child
- I love you
- Let’s get in queue
3. Relation toward things
- Cleaning windows
- Cards of opposites
- Carrying a chair or a table
4. Relation toward environment
- Preparing bunches
- Watering plants
- Cultivation of pot plants
- Rubbish sorting
- Taking care of animals – of a dog.
At the end there is a video of the whole day of a child in the kindergarten that shows how values are included in everyday life: greeting in the morning, preparing breakfast, encouraging good manners during lunch, cleaning tables, good relations with other children, helping other children, taking care of the environment, of animals etc. Teachers and parents transmit these values to children daily as models and by their attitude and relations toward children, other people and environment.
Preschool teachers and parents can study the complete video training or investigate individual parts in detail and take a look at the Handbook to get larger explanation. In this way they will develop the following competences:
This online training is intended for parents and preschool teachers but children are those who will benefit most. We also hope that the project will be considered by policy makers and that some of its findings will be included in the curricula for kindergartens.
Moral development of children seems urgent but also very difficult therefore we did not decide for certificates. Some parents and preschool teachers will introduce in education of their children just some of the activities while others might already perform all the described activities and use also others. We would be happy if they send them to us and allow that we include them in the handbook and/or in the online training. We wish that we would receive as many contributions as possible and thus enrich our project.
1. RELATION TOWARD ONESELF
At first sight it might not be quite clear how hygiene should develop values. However this activity can have a versatile influence on children’s independence and self-confidence, on their responsibility and care for themselves. By learning about hygiene children also get used to coordinate their movement, they develop concentration, feeling for order, independence and cultural habits.
Just a couple of materials are necessary to learn how to wash hands: washbasin, soap, towel and mirror. We have these things in kindergartens and at home. Both preschool teachers as well as parents need one more thing that we often lack: time to quietly instruct children how to wash their hands. The girl in the photo is a bit over two years old and it is pleasant to see how thoroughly and elegantly she washes her hands.
A box with paper tissues and a dustbin are necessary if we want to teach children how to use a handkerchief. The boy on the video is two years old and he knows that he has to put the handkerchief on his nose, he tries to blow (as much as he can) and he is also aware that after using the handkerchief should be thrown into the dustbin. Before he throws it he carefully chooses the right part of the dustbin. He also knows that the box with tissues should then be placed to the wall.
There are also other exercises to learn personal hygiene because we can teach children how to comb their hair, wash their face, teeth, legs, how to use the shower and so on.
Children early become aware of how pleasant it is listen to and move with music. In this way they acquire self-confidence and develop imagination. When they dance with others they develop responsibility toward other children.
Our video joins several activities: the kindergarten teacher shows an instrument (accordion), invites the children to press some buttons, plays some music and invites the children to dance. In this way children also learn new songs and enrich their vocabulary.
2. RELATION TOWARDS OTHERS
Rest belongs to basic physiological needs, it helps that children calm down and strengthens brain connections. It also develops important values: children learn how to be sensitive toward their own needs and needs of others and develop cooperation, tolerance and respect toward those who need rest. In kindergartens and at home it is possible to connect rest with listening to stories, pleasant music or sounds of the nature. Children have the opportunity to help other children also after rest because they can fold the blanket and together with their friends put the beds in their place. In this way they perceive the needs of younger children and acquire self-confidence.
Preschool teachers have the possibility to develop similar activities in the cloakroom when the children get ready to go for a walk or to the playground. The teachers should let the children dress and put on their shoes by themselves, they can encourage older children to help younger ones, they can teach younger ones to thank for help, they can explain to older children that they should wait for younger ones etc. Also parents have a lot of opportunities to teach children if they do not hurry.
Children between 3 and 6 years like to take care of younger children and thus prove that they are responsible and that they like to help. Children help the younger ones to dress, to button up their jackets, to put on their shoes and thus feel that they are useful and sympathetic. Older children must sometimes be encouraged to help. We can take the older child by hand, lead him to a younger one who cannot put on his jacket and say: “Look, he cannot dress yet. Can you please help him?” When the child finishes: “Thank you, you have been of great help. You probably feel well, don’t you?”
Children from the older group can sometimes go to the classroom with younger ones and help. All children who are ready to help must be praised because this means encouragement for children’s further work.
Children of four to five years like to perform this activity. Its aim is to bring up self-confident individuals who are aware of their characteristics and have their own place in the society. The teacher says: “We have different features. In order to remember your features that are unique and to tell one of your features that is different from your friends, please take a look in the mirror. This feature might be your eye colour, hair colour, your style of smiling, your clothes or shoes, your feelings or anything you can do now.”
3. RELATION TOWARD ENVIRONMENT
Rubbish sorting helps to transmit values like respect, care and responsibility. We need 5 dustbins (paper, biological waste, packaging, glass, residual waste), and pictures with writing. We repeat the activity several times. The kindergarten teacher can show children several kinds of rubbish (empty plastic bottle, paper, a piece of cloth) and ask them to put rubbish into the right dustbin. He/she can include in the activity older children who teach younger ones or help them to sort rubbish.
This exercise can be enlarged by speaking about the earth, preserving the nature, what happens with the rubbish when cleaning ladies take it away. Children like to watch a lorry that takes the rubbish away to the assembly centre. There are a number of books on this theme. Children can also be told that it is possible to make something quite new, e.g. butterflies and animals from toilet paper rolls.
Children like animals therefore some kindergartens have a therapeutic dog that is very popular with all children. By taking care of an animal children develop their feeling for cooperation, respect, caring for others and responsibility. The dog (and its owner) must be trained how to behave in the vicinity of children and must have appropriate certificates. Also other materials are necessary e.g. food, water, vitamins, brush, guide rope and many other things. Children enjoy feeding and brushing the dog and like to watch how it performs tricks. Before children feed and brush the dog, its owner must first explain how they should behave toward the dog. If a child is afraid of the dog, he/she can only watch (from distance, if necessary) how the owner treats the dog and what other children do. Children also like to take the dog for a walk. At the end they are asked to put everything they needed for the dog into a basket.
4. RELATION TOWARD THINGS
Children like to clean windows even if they are only two years old. In this way they get acquainted with values like cooperation, help, respect, independence, care for environment etc. Children are proud if they can help their teacher or their mother, if they can repeat the movements of older people. The teacher shows the child how to clean (and the child quietly and with interest observes her) and then he/she repeats the process of cleaning. Children like this activity and there are always plenty of volunteers who would like to clean the windows.
This activity teaches children (aged more than three years) how to be responsible, polite, respectful, what is right and what is wrong, how to take care of the environment, how to obey, show love, justice and tolerance. We teach children how to behave well in the society, how to take care of themselves and of their environment and make the children aware that in society and in the personal life there are certain rules that should be considered. We need the cards of opposites that we put on the table or on the rug. The teacher or parents watch the cards together. The teacher shows the first card and asks a child what he sees. If he cannot describe it, they try to describe the card together: e.g. I see two boys peeling a banana. One of the boys throws the peel on the floor. An older lady comes by. She steps on the peel and falls. The teacher asks: “Do you think this boy behaved responsibly when he threw the peel on the floor?” The child says: “No.” “What could he do in another way?” “Let’s look at this card. What did the boy on this card do?” “He threw the peel in the dustbin.” The children then look at the rest of the cards and find a suitable card that shows how to behave in different situations in life.
1. RELATION TOWARD ONESELF
Maria Montessori discovered the power of silence one day when she met a mother with a baby sleeping on her lap. Maria asked if she could take the baby to the classroom. She was touched by the silence of the baby and wanted to share this feeling with her children. She suggested that they should be as silent as the baby, can they breathe silently? The children were silent and observed her. They could hear the ticking of the clock that was usually not heard. It was a moment of unusual silence. A good idea struck her that they would try to create such silence every day. She noticed that the children were spiritually reinforced each time when they experienced such silence.
Why the silence game?
Permanent noise can make people irritable, unsatisfied, confused, and even sleepless. We all need peace and rest. Maria Montessori says that higher level of awareness and sensitivity to noise helps to a more subtle perception of the world. The silence game helps children to pay attention to the noise around them, to the noise that they make themselves and to the noise in themselves. The silence game requires self-control; control of hands, legs, mouth, brains…Control builds the feelings of self-confidence and independence. Silence supports concentration and self-discipline. To be quite silent we must have strong will, must be aware of ourselves and coordinate our movements. The silence game helps to build community.
How to perform the silence game? It is necessary to prepare for the silence game. We first call children to form a circle or sit down, then we tell them with a quiet, still voice that they should slowly calm down, control their body and be silent. During the silence we can show something, play, pass something on, caress them, listen to the sounds…The more creative we are, the better children like to cooperate in the silence game. When we feel or notice that there is enough of silence, we take a deep refreshing breath, smile and tell that the game is over. At the end we call one child after the other that they can go…
The silence is achieved gradually by repeating the exercises. We must be aware that the silence does not serve to the teachers or parents but to the children. Maria Montessori says that children like this victory over themselves and that they are even happier if the hear something new or special during the silence game.
Maria Montessori noticed that children like to walk on the edge of the pavement or on low walls. We stick the line in the form of ellipse on the floor – it should not be too narrow. Children move on the line singing or listening to music. Moving consists of walking, tiptoeing, running, marching, jumping, galloping etc. We can put on the line different obstacles or tools on which they walk (e.g. a rope, a board, soft grounding, a trunk, leaves …).
Dancing in a group helps children develop their movement skills and qualifies them for respectful relationsships with other children. The teacher should show children how to move, walk, dance and children repeat these movements. The teacher can also leave children to express themselves when listening to music. In this way children are more and more aware of their bodies, their moving becomes more coordinated and movements more refined. Children develop concentration, self-control and self-discipline. Different music develops their imagination and creativity. Considering others and adapting to the group develops children’s feelings for community. They learn to appreciate other children who express themselves in their own way.
Preschool children experience active development of senses and learning by senses. This development is encouraged by movement. Children from 2.5 years onwards need to improve and practice how to control their movement therefore Maria Montessori introduced among everyday exercises also walking on the line. The teacher prepares for children different (the best natural) materials and puts them on the floor in a circle. We suggest materials like corn, hay, stones, cones, wood, wool, water (but many others can be added).
Children take off their shoes so that they can feel the materials and/or things which are put on the line. The teacher shows children how to quietly walk on the line (she puts off her shoes and makes one circle). Then she calls each child by name to start walking. Children walk on the sensory path in silence or listen to quiet music. They can walk as long as they wish.
These exercises help children to control their body, to develop orientation in the space, balance and graceful movement. Besides they increase concentration, self-discipline, prepare and train them for listening. When moving is finished we discuss walking on the line. Children express their experiences, feelings and emotions. They tell which materials are pleasant to walk on and which are not.
2. RELATIONSHIP TOWARD OTHERS
At the beginning of the school year the teacher first serves snacks himself/herself. She puts on her apron and offers each child a drink, fruits… She uses polite expressions: »Here you are« and encourages children to answer: »Thank you«.
After some days the teacher asks a child to serve snacks. On the next day another child serves snacks.
Children develop positive self-image, social skills and become aware of the needs of other people. This activity encourages the following values: responsibility, caring for others, caring for themselves, help, politeness and friendship.
Children can prepare the table for their own lunch and/or some children can prepare the tables for all children. This activity encourages the values of responsibility, help, politeness, friendship. Children develop positive self-image, concentration and social skills.
Children that prepare the tables for lunch, wash their hands, put their aprons on and take the trays. They count the chairs at the tables which they prepare and thus learn how many covers to prepare. At first they bring the plates and put on the table one for each child. Then they bring also cups and put serviettes beside the plates, a spoon on the right and a fork on the left.
During Christmas or Easter and for celebrations of the birthdays the tables can be more decorated.
Politeness and respect are important parts of social behaviour. Many children do not wish to be mischievous but have difficulties because they have no skills or language with which they could express their needs. Exercises of politeness and respect give them a model how to behave and empower them to accept responsibility for their behaviour.
Adults have to consider politeness and respect all the time. We have to be models and the best examples. It is really important that we accept politeness and respect as a rule of our lives because in this way the world gets better and we are working for peace. This requires from us many important changes. We must always bear in mind that our actions are connected with other people if they watch us or not.
Each culture has its own habits connected with politeness and respect. Children soon become a part of this culture therefore they must know what is suitable and appropriate in the society in which they live. Politeness and respect preserve a culture and enable facing of different cultures.
Children of 2.5 to 6 years are sensitive about learning of good habits. Maria Montessori claims that this is time when children feel that they should do something in the right and precise way.
Children have natural wish to be polite and friendly. Parents and teachers seek how to support this need by being a model and by empowering this natural orientation. Some activities must be demonstrated, while children accept others by attentive observation of their environment. All this prepares children that they will once become peace-loving citizens. Maria Montessori suggests that we perform such activities (teaching children to greet, to apologize, to invite others to play etc.) out of real life situations. E.g. if a child shuts the door with a bang we do not say: You should not do it in this way, neither: How many times have I told you not to bang the door… We do not correct the child in that moment because this hurts his/her dignity. It is better not to embarrass the child. However we can say later: I am going to show you how we close or open the door. Or: we are sitting in the circle and speaking about what it means that we greet somebody, whom we greet with hello, good morning etc. I am going to show you how we greet…
Children must be equipped with skills and words so that they can express their needs. These exercises give them a model for their behaviour and knowledge to accept responsibility for their behaviour. In this way children learn to live with dignity toward themselves and others and they develop their natural characteristics: kindness, empathy, and love.
3. RELATION TOWARD ENVIRONMENT
Taking care of plants includes several activities that are presented by the teacher. When children acquire the necessary knowledge, they can start to look after plants in the classroom or in the garden. This helps to develop children’s care for environment, cooperation, help and responsibility.
Sowing: we first prepare all the necessary tools (flower beds/pots, hoe, seeds and a watering can). We hoe up the soil. We take some seeds in our hand and put them evenly on the soil. We cover the seeds with the hoe and water them.
Planting: we prepare all the necessary tools (flower beds/pots, hoe, a plant, a watering can). We hoe up the soil and make a hole in one place. We carefully take the plant and put it in the hole. We cover the roots of the plant with soil. We water the plant.
Watering: we prepare all the necessary tools (flower beds/pots, a watering can). We check first to see if the plant needs watering: we feel the soil with our fingers and see if it is wet or dry. If it is dry, we water it.
Bringing in the harvest: we prepare all the necessary tools (flower beds/pot plants, scissors, a basket or a container). We check to see if there are some fruits ripe enough for harvesting. We harvest the fruits, using the scissors or not, as necessary, and put them in the basket. It would be best if we use them to prepare our snack or lunch together with children (making tea, carrots and strawberries for snacks etc.).
Taking care of plants (raking the leaves): we prepare all the necessary tools (rake, broom, dustpan, and wheelbarrow). We find a place where there are leaves on the ground. We start raking or sweeping the leaves on a pile. We put the leaves on the dustpan and put it in the wheelbarrow. We empty the wheelbarrow in a place prepared before.
Taking care of plants (trimming): we prepare all the necessary tools (scissors, wheelbarrow, broom and dustpan). We find a bush that needs trimming. We cut the long branches with the scissors. At the end we sweep the branches and put them in the wheelbarrow.
4. RELATION TOWARD THINGS
This activity develops values like organized environment in the classroom, in the garden, at home. When children carry bigger things they learn how to coordinate their movements. They also develop their concentration, balance and independence. When taking care of things and organized environment children learn to be responsible and develop positive self-image.
Children are taught how to carry a chair and other things so that they choose a place and silently put things on the floor. It is easy to demonstrate the activity to children. The teacher steps behind the chair which is at the table. She holds the chair at the rest and at the seat, lifts the chair to her waist and carries it silently to the other part of the room and then silently puts it on the floor. The teacher should consider the age of children and ask them to carry things that are not too heavy for his age. Children can carry a table, a tray, a basket, a bucket etc. Together with another child: a table, a small cabinet, a box, etc.
Cleaning after lunch includes a number of different activities that develop values like cooperation, care for environment, kindness and politeness, independence, responsibility etc.
Each child in the group adds his/her work to organizing the environment. The teacher shows children how to perform each individual activity. Children like to organize the place independently. The tasks can be divided among children who are on duty or each child can choose what he will do (there can be cards on which activities are written). The teacher decides about how to divide the tasks. Some tasks can be performed by pairs of children.
After lunch each child puts his/her plate and the cutlery on the trolley and washes his hands.
Then he chooses among the activities that should be performed:
- Wipe the table with a wet mop
- Wipe the table with a dry mop
- Lift the chairs on the table
- Sweep the rubbish
- Put the rubbish on a dustpan and throw them in the dustbin
- Put the chairs on the floor etc.
5. PLACE FOR ONESELF
The teacher enables children’s positive relation to books if she reads herself or to the children. The teacher provides for appropriate choice of books that increase children’s knowledge and give examples of values. Children should be offered books very early, as soon as they sit on the lap and the teacher holds the book in front of the child. We wish that the child discovers what the books can offer, to increase the vocabulary and knowledge.
When introducing children in the world of books we can consider the following stages:
- Books with pictures without words (wood, cardboard).
- Books with pictures and one or two words on each side (e.g. red pepper).
- Books with pictures and simple text. Each page shows one thing (pages are not connected in a story). We read the text and the child can see what is happening, e.g. a child taking a bath). These books are suitable for children of 12 months.
- Books with pictures and with a story.
- Songs, rhymes, etc.
We take children to the library so that they are acquainted how to borrow books.
Songs are used every day when children end with one activity and start with another. The teacher does not need to explain what she wants to achieve or what she is doing, she simply starts to sing. In some days children will join with singing and will imitate the happening in the song. We suggest that songs are sung every day not just from time to time.
By a certain text we help the child with the daily routine. Songs announce in a gentle way that we are going to finish an activity and that there is time to start organizing things. In everyday life there are too many words and children sometimes cannot hear them, especially words of orientation, ordering etc. Singing helps to achieve the aims in a positive way. We practice obedience, response, politeness, encourage keeping agreements and provide for quiet transfer from one activity to the other.
Let’s tidy up
Let’s tidy up, let’s tidy up.
We are sitting on the line.
We are sitting on the line, lalalalala. (4x)
My hands are on my knees.
My hands are on my knees. (4x)
In winter, it is cold outside
In winter, it is cold outside, so I carefully put clothes on.
I put my ski suit on and I give a bow.
I find two shoes at once, I put them both on.
I put my winter jacket on, fasten it and tie a scarf around my neck.
Look, the cap is already on the head and so are the mittens: one, two.
7. CELOTEN DAN
GÜLTEN VE ÖMER ÜNLÜKAHRAMAN ANAOKULU, KİLİS – TURKEY
1. RELATION TOWARD ONESELF
The activity which is based on the story of Pinocchio teaches children to speak the truth and that it is necessary to differentiate between the truth and the lie. The teacher starts the activity with a rhyme as a warm-up. The children know Pinocchio but the teacher requires that they listen carefully because she is going to ask them some questions at the end to see if they understand the story. At the end the teacher and the children discuss the reasons why Pinocchio’s nose grew and the children explain that it happened because Pinocchio was lying. The teacher and the children continue the discussion whether it is OK to lie or not and the teacher concludes with a rather difficult question about what might happen to a child who would tell lies. She first has to explain that the nose grows only in the story. The children do not give exact answers but tell that bad things can happen if somebody lies. The teacher does not continue with questions; she praises the children that they think in the right way. It is possible to praise children just with a word or two or give small gifts to those who give the right answers.
2. RELATIONSHIP TOWARD OTHERS
The activity called Clap the right thing intends to make children gain responsibility and to grow up in responsible persons. The activity in the Turkish kindergarten is performed as a drama. The teacher asks questions about what is right and what is wrong and the children answer by either clapping their hands or by standing quietly and tying arms which they describe as becoming a flower. The teacher asks a number of questions such as:
- Is it OK to take the money from the parents’ purse without permission?
- Is it right that somebody drives too quickly?
- Is it right that a salesperson does not return the exact sum of money to the client?
- Is it right to say that you washed his hands before meal even though you have not?
- Is it right to switch off TV and study as the child promised to his father?
The exercise gives very simple and direct instructions about what is right and wrong. It is effective because it is presented in the form of the drama and because the children can cooperate. This emphasizes the right and the wrong action and contributes to children’s memorization. No more than 10 rules are presented and the teacher praises the children from time to time for giving correct answers.
This activity helps children understand that they should be respectful towards the elderly. It is performed as a drama and/or simulation that makes children more attentive and gives the opportunity to cooperate in the performance. The teacher explains that one of the children will be dressed as an old person who will get on the bus and the others will try to help her/him and thus prove that they can show respect to old people. The video shows how a child offers the old person his seat and helps her to get off the bus; at the end the child is taught to say “you are welcome.”
This activity is appropriate to develop children’s relations towards others when they are 4 – 5 years old. It helps that the children show their love and/or express their feelings in appropriate way. The teacher asks one child after the other whom they love and why and the children answer. The children give different reasons why the like their friends: because they bring them presents, because they share their materials or toys, because they do not lie and/or are honest etc. The teacher repeats each statement why somebody likes his/her friend and describes the value with other words. This exercise can be extended so that the teacher asks the children to close their eyes and think about their own characteristics which make them popular among other children and how they feel if they know that somebody loves them. It is important that all the children cooperate and that they use positive sentences. The exercise makes children aware that everybody has positive characteristics and that it is pleasant to describe them.
This activity is appropriate already for children of 3 – 4 years. It teaches children how to wait for their turn, be patient, show respect to their friends and develop cooperation. The teacher tells children to get in queue and praises them when they finish. The activity might be boring but the teacher animates children at first by a song, then by discussion about what might happen if children would not respect the rule that they should make a queue and at the end suggests that they clap and thus congratulate themselves for good organization, cooperation and respect that they had shown by getting in queue. The activity can also be extended by reading stories on the theme.
Parents of the children in our kindergartens were informed about the project in written form and during parents’ meeting. Parents of the children whose photos are published gave permission that the photos can be included in the handbook.