Setting rules in the preschool classroom

I was recently asked by a colleague to suggest ideas for rules that should be posted in the preschool classroom. I had to pause because I realized that I have never actually had a set of rules written out and posted on my classroom wall.

Preschool age children are still developing their sense of right and wrong in almost every action they take. They are testing limits, exploring their environment, and discovering how to get along with others. Preschool age children are cognitively, socially, emotionally, and physically developing their sense of right and wrong in just about every thing they do. It is when developmental understanding is present that young children are now ready to live by a set of formal classroom rules that come with consequences.

While preschoolers learn the boundaries of their behavior towards others and towards their environment, the teacher can best participate by consistently and patiently communicate teacher expectations (the rules) and then consistently guide children towards making positive choices.

IF I were to design a set of rules for the preschool classroom, I would focus on only 3 to 5 major rules that the preschoolers would be able to understand and successfully apply. In addition I would…

Emphasize the action I want rather than the action I don’t want!

I do think that preschool age children need clear expectations defined for them so they will understand their limits and boundaries but in my experience, the best approach is to not depend on a set of rules but rather make your expectations a part of your teaching process as you consistently provide guidance and redirection.  For more on this topic, see this article I wrote titled Teaching Children Expectations!

By |2010-08-31T06:00:20+00:00August 31st, 2010|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Vanessa @Pre-K Pages August 31, 2010 at 8:38 am - Reply

    Great advice Deborah! I would also add that having a picture cue to go along with each rule is key, you can read more about my rule suggestions for 4-5 year olds and see a picture by clicking on the link in my name. I also highly recommend The Best Behavior series of books that teach young children about things like kicking, hitting, biting, sharing, listening etc.

    • Deborah J. Stewart August 31, 2010 at 9:04 am - Reply

      Absolutely – pictures are a great idea to add. Helps with building that print rich reading environment:)

  2. Nadia August 31, 2010 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Rule #3.. Be kind to others is I think especially important! I do agree with you that children need boundaries and I honestly believe they thrive on knowing what is expected of them in a classroom environment. 🙂

  3. Lillian August 31, 2010 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    My classroom rules for Head Start and what I use for my home daycare now are:
    Listening Ears
    Inside Voices
    Kind Words
    Gentle Hands
    Help Clean Up
    with text and pictures on a large poster at their level

  4. Scott August 31, 2010 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    You’re exactly right, Deborah. And I think it’s important to emphasize what we want them to do – so that when you’re reminding them, they will hear the words “walk” or “kind” and the behavior will be reinforced.

  5. Maha September 1, 2010 at 12:53 am - Reply

    i like it and i’ill add

    thank you

  6. Jessica September 1, 2010 at 11:21 am - Reply

    A teacher I worked with a few years back, who was also my daughter’s preschool teacher, had 3 great rules in her classroom that pretty much covered everything. “Be Safe, Be a Friend, and Be Busy”

  7. Erin September 1, 2010 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    We have a poster and a song to teach our classroom rules. Using a song is good because we sing it everyday during circle time and I use it as an attention getter as well. The children know anytime they hear it to stop what they are doing and join in singing and motions.
    Classroom Rules,
    Our Classroom Rules are:
    Listening Ears
    Looking Eyes
    Quiet Voices
    Helping Hands
    and Walking Feet
    The poster has words and pics. Motions are self- explanatory.

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