Teaching preschool students about community helpers connects them to their neighborhood and lets them see and practice these types of occupations. In this lesson, you’ll explore ways to educate your preschoolers about these varied community workers.
What Are Community Helpers?
Teaching young children about community helpers is a popular unit, and for good reason.
Preschoolers love to dress up and do what they see adults do. Community helpers can be defined as any professionals who aid in the overall well-being and health of the community. Think more broadly than doctors, nurses and police. Community helpers include construction workers, dentists, librarians, grocery store workers, and even teachers.When instructing children in the preschool age group, educators often want to make it a mini-elementary school experience. While there is an emphasis on readiness for children before entering kindergarten, keep in mind that young children’s bodies and brains are developing at an enormous rate. Because the brain learns by making connections, they learn and remember best when provided with rich experiences.
Focus all units of learning on four strands of development: cognitive, motor, social/emotional and language. How does this look when teaching about community helpers? Let’s find out.
Cognitive Development Activities
The cognitive realm of a preschooler refers to all the learning going on inside the brain. Because this is a time of rapid growth, that’s a lot of stuff! The brain learns and remembers by making connections between brain cells, or neurons.
Making connections happens just like it sounds: one remembered event has an association, or link, to a current event. Those two neurons reach out towards each other to create a bond, forming memory. To provide rich experiences for young children to remember, appeal to their natural likes and attractions. Let’s go over a few things they love.Kids love puzzles. Whether you buy them or make them, young children’s minds are challenged and stimulated by trying to piece together shapes. Integrate your lesson on community helpers by using puzzles focused on helper occupations or common elements associated with these occupations.
Start with fewer, bigger pieces and move on to more challenging puzzles as the children develop. Also, be sure to include floor puzzles; young children love getting down and dirty.Another thing kids love are books.
The fact that they can’t decode words doesn’t stop young children from enjoying books about community helpers. Exposure to print is an important pre-reading skill. Read books aloud and make them available for browsing. Choose books with bright pictures, labels and simple text.Kids also love cooking. Whether real or pretend, cooking is fun to do and demonstrates the skills of one category of community helpers. It also incorporates cognitive skills, like measuring and spatial reasoning.
Provide plenty of opportunities for preschoolers to cook; follow a recipe, put out play dough or just let them pretend with measuring cups at the sensory table.
Motor Skills Development Activities
When we talk about motor development for preschool, it is broken down into two realms: fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills are as they sound: using fingers to pick up small objects. Gross motor skills, conversely, use large muscles, like arms and legs.
Providing experiences for young children to use both these groups often is important to their growth and development.You can have children use blocks and signs. Children use their muscles to build with blocks. Add street signs to your block area and children will naturally imagine they’re construction workers or engineers.
Another thing students can practice is brushing teeth. Incorporate concepts about the importance of oral care, which could tie into the community helper role of dentist or dental hygienist. Set out inexpensive toothbrushes and let children clean pretend teeth.
Or use play dough and white beans to allow children to pull teeth. Both experiences let kids use those fine motor skills necessary for a firm pencil grip.Something else kids love is arts and crafts. Many little ones love to create.
Having them practice fine motor skills, such as cutting, builds muscles they’ll use later in school. The possibilities here are endless. They can cut out badges for law enforcement, hammers for construction, or flowers to garden.
Social Skills Development Activities
People aren’t born knowing how to get along. It’s important for adults to teach kids social and emotional skills by modeling and providing both structured and unstructured play times.They can do this by playing dress up.
What’s more fun for a young child than pretend? Make sure your students have access to costumes. If you have a limited budget, focus on materials that aren’t costly. You could use a notepad and an apron for a waiter or waitress or a blue hat and an over-the-shoulder bag for a mail carrier.You can also role play. Create opportunities for the children to ‘be’ the community helper.
This may require you to intentionally set up situations for students to role play. For example, if you have a mail center, you may encourage your postal worker to deliver letters to other students.
Language Development Activities
Preschoolers’ language skills are developing rapidly. Support this with plenty of opportunities to practice new and old words.Songs are great because singing, finger puppets and play, dancing and acting silly to music all encourage children to engage with spoken word. Many community helper songs already exist, such as ‘The Farmer in the Dell’ or ‘Old McDonald.’There are also simply conversations.
When gathered for group time or when speaking to children one-on-one, talk to them about community helpers. Up the level of the conversation by asking them to compare two professions, using words like ‘alike’ and ‘different.’
Community helpers are professionals who aid in the overall well-being and health of the community. Teaching a community helpers unit is a great way to integrate your students with their environment. Not only will it give them a chance to pretend to be grown-ups, it will build a connection with their world.
Focus on the four strands of curriculum for preschoolers: cognitive, social/emotional, motor and language. Bring in books and dress-up clothes to make learning about community helpers fun. Integrate songs and activities to connect to language development. Finally, remember that exposing young children to rich experiences is what helps them learn to be ready for kindergarten.