Listen to Your Quiet Child

by Chalimar Ríos

A preschool classroom is usually full of colors, scribbles, toys, children playing and sharing, but most of all. . . a lot of noise. Over the course of the school year, a teacher gets to know each of her students—their noises, voices, laughs, and cries. There is always a particular voice, a more outgoing child, one who arrives with a hug and leaves with a smile on his face. Or, there’s the child who loves to play with lots of friends, and the one who plays with many toys at the same time because fun shouldn’t have limits!

But what happens when we don’t notice the child who does not want to stand up and participate when you are singing and dancing to a song? What about the child who always looks down when he arrives or leaves the classroom? What do you do with the child who is always quiet and calm? Maybe it seems that you do not have to worry about him, but that quiet child may have a lot to say.

What does it mean?
A quiet child may be telling you that he needs extra time to talk or share an idea. A quiet child might be telling you that he feels insecure. Maybe he does not feel safe in his home or in the school environment for some reason. A quiet child may have the need to express some sadness or worry, or maybe he is just getting sick and does not know how to describe what he feels. That quiet child may have wanted to speak many times, but there have been so many that he has been commanded to be silent and he no longer knows when it is appropriate to speak.

What can you do?
Take some time to think about the quiet child in your setting. Pay attention to the unspoken messages the child may be sending you. Find a way to get to know him more thoroughly by talking with family members or caregivers about his tastes, traditions, and preferences. You can prepare a healthy recipe that the child enjoys, or prepare some material related to a topic that catches his attention.

Read a book to encourage quiet children to talk to and engage with adults and peers. Maya’s Voice by Wen-Wen Cheng might be a good one to consider.

The following links are also great resources to support your needs in working with quiet children:

Teach, sing, dance, laugh, read, be loud, be messy, but above all this, listen to your quiet child.

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