Tips For Working With Groups Of Children
If you’re working with a group of children there’s a couple of strategies you can utilize, based on summer camp models. You want to help establish a safe environment for the children to bond and have fun together. This means not only helping the children bond and become comfortable with each other, but with you as well. Here are some tips and strategies to use when working with groups of children:
Having a daily introduction/group meeting can help set the expectations of the day as well as help the kids get more comfortable with each other and you.
Group Meeting: Start the day by bringing everybody together sitting in a circle. If needed you can do a name game to help everyone get acquainted with each other. You can go over the daily schedule, safety guidelines (boundaries when playing games, etc.), you can explain the upcoming game/activity. Keep things brief so you can get the kids straight into the activity!
On The First Day: On your first day together with the group you want to set positive expectations in terms of group behavior with each other and with you as their activity leader. You also want to establish connections between the kids and with you as well so that you can make a comfortable and safe environment for everyone. Have lots of icebreakers and name games (discussed below) ready so you can quickly get everyone familiar with each other.
Games are great for staying active and helping vent some energy or quiet games focusing more on connection and having fun as a group. There are different kinds of game to consider using when working with a group of children:
Icebreakers: Icebreakers are good “intro” games to help the kids get familiar with each other and you. They’re typically easy to pick up and can have some creative/imaginative elements to help the kids connect.
Name Game: A “name game” is a perfect ice breaker to help the kids get to know each other if they don’t already. It also helps you learn their names! There are a number of name games to play depending on the age of the children. You can check one of our game lists here and look them up online for full instructions!
Setting rules when working with a group of children is really important. You want to be firm about expected and appropriate behavior so as to establish a safe and fun environment for the whole group.
*Talk with parents beforehand about recommended strategies for working with their children
Code Of Living: A “Code of Living” is a manner in which you can establish rules with the group, as opposed to just telling them “your” rules. Going around the group having each of the children give a potential rule for the whole group such as “Treat Everyone With Respect,” or “Respect Nature” (no trash, etc.), “Hands To Ourselves,” “Listen To Your Counselor,” etc. Then have each kid of the group sign your code of living as an agreement that they will follow these rules if they want to be part of this group. It gives you something to reference back to if someone has a problem with behavior.
Setting up a fun group dynamic can help the kids feel more comfortable with each other and you. A number of elements can go into setting up a group dynamic, not all of which are always necessary or desired by the group of children but they are things to consider!
Team Name: You can set up a team name that everyone agrees on and likes which helps everyone feel more accepted and comfortable.
Buddies: If you’re taking your group to a specific location like a park or something then you’ll probably want to consider a “buddy” system.
- This way if you have a good amount of kids in your group that you’re watching over it can be an easier way to keep track of everyone. Make sure everyone gets a buddy and if you have an odd number then you can make a “truddy” (triple buddy)!
- It’s also a great way to help the kids get to know each other and connect. You can pair up kids who don’t already know each other well and using certain games or questions can help them connect and become friends!
Group Flag: If your group is very excited and gung-ho about being a formal group with a name and everything then you could spend some time together designing a group flag!
- Let all the members of the group be creative and design their part of the flag, while also respecting their fellow group members and the agreed-upon design of the flag. This means not letting one or two kids create the majority of the flag while the rest watch or only get to draw small parts on it.
- Help facilitate and come up with a fair distribution of the flag that everyone agrees on - one idea is to create squares on the flag so everyone gets an equal part to draw whatever they want, then you can even cut it up and let each kid keep their own square after your time as a group comes to an end.
Handling Behavior Problems:
If you have a child misbehaving while looking after them you want to can try some of these suggestions but ultimately work with the parents on their preferred course of action for handling behavior problems
Talk with the child on behavior expectations while in the group & with you as their activity leader
If in a game/activity: Explain the rule, switch up the activity if they are getting overstimulated or out of control
Give them a break if they are upset or need to calm down.
Give them time to calm down first, then talk with them.
If problems continue, talk with their parents. Get suggestions from parents on how they handle this. Next time you do an activity set up positive exceptions first.