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Positive Guidance for Young Children: Plan Ahead

Young children are curious and actively explore the world. This curiosity and exploration may look like inappropriate behavior when they do not follow directions from adults or touch items they should not. Plan and prevent problem behaviors using these strategies:

  • Describe what you want to see
    Clearly state your expectations for their behavior and show children what you mean. Say “let’s walk” instead of “don’t run.”
  • Use the “first/then” rule
    Tie what you expect to what children want. For example, “First pick up the toys, then I will read you a story.”
  • Provide acceptable choices
    Offer options that are appropriate to the child, such as “Do you want to wear the red shirt or yellow shirt?”
  • Use clear language
    Avoid giving children unintentional choices.Questions such as “Are you ready to go?” can give children the opportunity to say “no.”
  • Set up spaces to encourage appropriate behavior
    Keep items that are breakable and unsafe out of the reach of children. Put items where they should be used. For example, keep crayons on a table for drawing. Keep a basket of books near a sofa where children can sit and read.

About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Home
  • Family Child Care
  • Child Care Center
  • Preschool Program
  • Kindergarten

Intended audience(s):
  • Parents / Family
  • Teachers / Service providers
  • Faculty / Trainer

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
Related IEL Birth to Three Guidelines:
Related Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards:
Reviewed: 2020