After years of education and training, late-night study sessions, and in-class placements, you’re about to take your first steps into your very own classroom as an early childhood educator. You have knowledge from textbooks and the practical experience you gained in your limited time in the classroom, but now it really is all on you. This is your classroom. These are your children. You are in charge.
Do you feel ready? It’s okay if you don’t. No one ever does!
The best way to learn is to jump in with both feet and have a confident and positive attitude! You will have hard days. You will also have days that are more rewarding than you could have ever imagined. You will meet children and colleagues that will change your life forever.
So, how do you prepare?
We asked hundreds of early childhood educators in our Circle Time Group about their must-have items for the first few weeks in the classroom. Here’s what they said:
Must-have items for new educators
Pens of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Not only are pens good for writing reminders to yourself as they come to mind, but they can also be integrated into children’s activities. Get lots! You’re bound to lose them.
- STEM toys
Any toys that invite children to learn about science, technology, engineering, or math are a great addition to your classroom. There are plenty of options out there, so take the time to look around and decide what fits best in your classroom. Have these toys and activities laid out in specific areas for children to have the opportunity to engage with!
- A good pair of shoes and comfortable clothes
As an educator, you’re on your feet most of the day. Having comfortable shoes is a MUST! Try out a few kinds to find the right ones for you, and when you do: buy multiple pairs. In addition to shoes, if you don’t have a uniform, ensure your clothing is comfortable, professional, and easy to move around in!
- An extra outfit
Accidents happen, especially in childcare! Always keep an extra outfit on hand just in case!
- Notepads or post-it notes
Having notepads and/or post-it notes around the classroom ensures that you do not forget anything! You can jot down any reminders to yourself or colleagues in real time!
- A good water bottle
Staying hydrated during busy days is very important for your health and well-being. Always have a water bottle nearby that you can keep filling up throughout the day. Find something that can keep your water cold and ensure it is labeled with your name so that no one else accidentally grabs it! Having a reusable water bottle rather than using disposable ones also sets a great example for your colleagues as well as the children.
- Circle time supplies
This could be your secret weapon! Try having a ‘circle time bag’ filled with props and books that you can take out whenever you need them! Giving the opportunity to your children to join in on these activities is a great way to get to know them!
- Children’s music on your phone and a Bluetooth speaker
Music is the great equalizer! It can elevate a classroom activity, provide an opportunity for transition and grab the attention of children. YouTube and Spotify have plenty of great playlists!
- A good planner
Having the right planner to manage your time and priorities is a game changer! Whether it’s on your phone/tablet or in a notebook, try out a few options and find what works best for you! If you want to store your planning and documentation digitally, childcare technology exists for easy access to any record you need from anywhere at any time.
- A watch
Knowing what time it is is very important in your classroom, and depending on your center’s cell phone policy, you might not be able to check it on your phone Still, you’ll want to know when it’s time to go outside, have a snack, take a break or pick-up time. You can also use a watch as an activity timer!
- Stain remover
Stains are part of the fun of learning! Ensure you have proper stain remover at home so that you can ensure you get them off of your clothing! Also: keep in mind when choosing clothes for work that they
might will get stained!
- A bag of books
Books are one of the most important learning materials. Having a diverse bag of books of all varieties and for all age groups is crucial. When in doubt, read a book! Here are some suggestions for your classroom!
Puppets are very versatile. They can be used with all age groups. Younger children can watch and interact with a puppet show, while older children can put one on themselves! There’s also a huge variety of sizes and styles, from finger puppets all the way up to marionettes!
- Patience and a sense of humor!!
This work is not for the faint of heart! Always remember to be patient and not take anything too seriously. Play is the work of childhood. Having patience along with a sense of humor will make your days much more enjoyable!
Final add-in: A great mentor
Having support in your new role is crucial. If you have someone in the same field that you can look up to, lean on, and ask questions, it makes a world of difference. Find someone you connect with at your center and ask if you can rely on them for support as you get started in this new role.
To learn more about the origin of early childhood education and the many influences that make the field what it is today, check out our post about the history of early childhood education.