following instructions

How to Steal a March #10: Helping Young Children Follow Instructions

Helping young children follow instructions can give them an advantage, or to use an old expression, help them to “steal a march.” (This month’s posts are inspired by the play on words of march and March.) As an adult do you ever find following instructions to be a real challenge? For kids, that can happen often. Including some experience and practice with instructions makes following them much easier. following instructionsVery young children respond best to simple, straightforward, one-step instructions. Sometimes, without meaning to, our instructions just confuse kids. When they don’t do as we’ve asked, we think they are not listening, but the problem is with the wording. For instance, telling a child to pick up toys isn’t clear. What happens after picking them up? Does the child just put them down again? Asking kids to clean-up toys isn’t really better. Are we asking them to wash the toys? Are the toys dirty? What we want is for kids to put the toys away. In this case, we need to give instructions that are specific, such as, “Put the books on the shelf,” or, “Put the blocks in the toybox.”

With older kids, instructions can have two or three parts, like “Get your library book out of your backpack, and put it on the table.” Kids do better following instructions when they know exactly what to do and there aren’t too many all at once.

following instructionsThe game “Simon Says” is a fun way to practice listening and instructions at the same time. The leader tells one or more other kids what to do. For example, “Simon says jump 4 times.” As long as the command has the words “Simon says” at the beginning, everyone does that. If the leader doesn’t say “Simon says” then following the instructions means that person is out of the game until the next round. Kids love to have a turn being the leader and telling adults what to do. Instead of “Simon Says,” use other characters and names. “The Monster says” invites big actions while “The Tiny, Little Mouse” suggests very small ones. Occasionally, you can use “Simon ” or “The Monster” to get kids to do things like “Put the toys away in the toy box,” or, “Pick up all the dirty clothes in the bathroom and put them in the hamper.” This can make chores much more fun.

Hokey Pokey is a song that uses instructions, different body parts, and left and right. Many adults need practice with left-hand and right-hand, especially when giving and following directions.baking Christmas cookies with kids

Following a recipe is a super activity for helping kids follow instructions. This can be as simple as making popsicles or pudding or something with more steps such as baking a batch of cookies or loaf of bread. The reward is something great to eat.

Humor can add laughter and playfulness. You can look at your child and give really strange instructions like telling them to put the dirty dishes in the fridge. They think this is hilarious. It also makes them think about instructions and make some decisions for themselves.
Much of time later at school and later still in the workplace will be spent following instructions. Helping young children follow instructions can make life much easier and give them an edge. Can instructions be included in the play-of-the-day?

Off to School Toolbox: Following Instructions

An important tool in anyone’s toolbox, not just kids, is the skill of following instructions. It will certainly be helpful for all kinds of learning.

following instructions

Instructions are a part of life, no matter our age. They are everywhere and anytime. Some are quick and easy to follow and some not so much, like the one in this parking lot. For children, instructions and following them, can be very challenging.

No matter if your child is off to daycare, preschool, or kindergarten, teachers will want to know how your child copes with instructions. Being able to follow instructions is quite complicated. First, kids need to be listening, then they have to understand all the words used, remember them, figure out what they need to do, and finally, go do it. All that requires a lot of brain connections.

For young children, we should start with giving only one-part instructions first, such as, “Put your book on the shelf.” As kids are able, we can add in another part, “Pick up your sweater and put it on the chair.” Too many instructions at a time can be confusing.

following instructions for kidsKids need a variety of experiences and situations to develop the skill of dealing with instructions. There are some fun games for kids, like Simon Says and Follow the Leader. Instead of only being Simon, kids can choose a different character to give instructions. They might want to be a robot  or a dragon, a royal prince or princess, a pirate or a superhero. They could even be The Teacher or maybe The Boss.

Follow the Leader uses actions instead of words. Watching is part of instructions, just like listening.

Cooking is another super activity for following instructions, and for doing them in the correct sequence too. Crafts and science experiments will have instructions. For lots of fun, kids can give instructions to adults.

For a play-of-the-day, are there some other games or activities for having fun following instructions?

Following Instructions Helps Kids Going to Kindergarten

Series Part #20: Is Following Instructions a Challenge for Your Child?

Before children go to kindergarten, some areas do a readiness assessment, and one item is often following directions or instructions. This can be a concern for some children and the problem is not because a child has not heard or listened to the instructions. Rather, it can be due to a lack of experience and learning. As with other thinking skills and strategies, children need time and opportunity to develop the brain connections needed for following instructions.

following instructionsFor young children, we should start with giving only one-part instructions first, such as put your cup on the table. Once children can cope with one part, we can include two: get your backpack and wait at the door. Often, when we give kids instructions we give them too many all at once and they got lost somewhere in the middle. It goes without saying, that short sets of instructions are easier to deal with than longer ones.

I have shared this story before, but it is a hilarious anecdote about a little boy in a friend’s kindergarten who followed instructions, more or less. Before going to school, a mother told her son that when he went to the paint center, he needed to take off his sweater and not to get paint on his clothes. He remembered parts of the instructions, but not all, “he needed to take off his… blah, blah, blah … clothes. When his teacher turned from helping another student, there was this boy at the paint center completely stripped down. He had certainly heard and listened to his mom and even got part of it right.

following instructionsSimon Says is a great game to play with kids for practicing following instructions. When you give instructions at home, use different voices and accents, such as a squeaky mouse or a rumbling robot. Singing the instructions helps get kids attention and makes the directions easier to remember. Doing crafts, cooking, and simple science activities are practical experiences with both following instructions and doing the steps in order.

For a play-of-the-day and to help your child get ready for kindergarten, how about a fun activity with instructions?