Back to basics: managing a kids’ group
If you struggle to engage your whole group or have times in your sessions when you find it difficult to keep order, then here are five top tips to help you:
1 Plan your space well
Sometimes we can struggle to maintain attention and a friendly atmosphere because our space isn’t set up right.
Think about where your group meets. What problems arise because of the nature of the room?
A large hall can be echoey and ripe territory for children to run all over the place.
Could you divide it up with furniture to create smaller, more manageable spaces?
If there is furniture in your space that is causing you problems, could you get help to move it?
Making your space safe, friendly and welcoming can make a huge difference to your group.
2 Plan your session well
When you think about what you do during a session, do you engage visual learners, auditory learners and kinaesthetic learners (who learn by doing)?
As adults, we have learnt to take part in activities that may not be in our preferred learning style, but children haven’t got used to that yet.
Movers might not take to reading, those who learn by seeing may not want to play an active game.
And being forced to do something they find boring is a recipe for disruption.
We’re not talking about entertainment, just choose activities that suit the children in your group.
3 Ask your children what guidelines they would like for their group
Engage the children in coming up with some guidelines for being part of the group.
Make sure these are positive (‘we all agree to listen to each other’) rather than negative (‘don’t speak when someone else is talking’).
Involving the children means that they have buy-in to any guidelines and are more likely to abide by them.
4 Have some stuff to fiddle with
Some children need something to play with, in order to help them focus.
Sometimes we can see this as a distraction or challenging behaviour, but actually, having some quiet fiddle toys can vastly improve the engagement of many children (I was one of those myself).
Gather together squeezy stress toys, stretchy pieces of rubber or small pots of playdough and let children choose something to play with as they listen and take part.
5 Let children know what’s going to happen
Many children, particularly those with additional needs, don’t like surprises or change.
Displaying a timetable of what you’re going to do helps them to know what to expect.
Use symbols, rather than writing so that even those who struggle to read can use the timetable. Then, as you go through the morning, give the group a five-minute warning that you’re going to stop one activity and start another.
This helps children process the change and get ready for something new.
These are only five suggestions; there are plenty more ways to help children take a full part in your group.
Learn to recognise what behaviour you can let slide and what you need to react to; work with parents and carers to help children with additional needs access your activities; give children who struggle to focus a job to do.
For more information, get hold of Top Tips on Dealing with challenging behaviour (Scripture Union) or come along to one of our Academy Basics courses!