My teachers and I have a saying in our preschool and it goes like this…

There’s always room at the table.

It’s a simple saying and yet it often becomes a source of contention or confusion for early childhood teachers. Read on to see what I mean.

What Does That Mean?

What this saying simply means is that when a child comes up to a table and wants to paint, we move over and make room. When a child wants to play at the water table, we move over and make room. When a child wants to play in at the play dough table, we move over and make room.

Sometimes, we may have to pull up an extra chair. Sometimes, we may have to clear off a table where no one is playing and spread things out a bit. But somehow, we always make room at the table.

Take Advantage of the Child’s Natural Interest

You see, when a young child sees something they find interesting and wants to join in, the last thing I want to say is, “There isn’t room here for you right now so you will have to go and choose something else.” Instead, I want to take advantage of the child’s natural interest and build on it right there in the moment.

Have You Ever Noticed?

If you really watch young children, you will start to notice a few things when it comes to personal space.

  1. Unlike adults, young children like to be close together even if it means bumping elbows and reaching over each other. They crave physical interaction with the things and people in their world.
  2. Young children start to figure out for themselves whether they find a situation to be overwhelming or too crowded and will begin to self-regulate or make the choice, on their own, to do something else and even come back later.
  3. Young children develop their awareness of personal space through their interactions with each other – not by having adults regulate their space for them.

The First Day of School

When it comes to the first day of school, it is important to focus on fostering a sense of community and belonging. One of the best ways to tell a child that you belong here and that we care about you is to always, always make room at the table.