All About Me! Why we teach kids about themselves in Early Childhood and how to do it well – Part 1

a smiling child with paint on her face
Photo by Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash

This month I’m teaching a unit called All About Me! It’s a pretty common beginning-of-the-year theme. With a new group of kids we try to get to know them quickly, and we want to build a sense of community in our room. That’s why we need to teach kids about themselves.

Why do we teach kids about themselves?

Learning about yourself is primarily a social thing. Figuring out how we fit into our world can be tricky. Our uniqueness and at the same time, our connectedness to our social group is hard to work out at first. We want to teach our kids that they matter, both as an individual and as a member of society. Everyone matters. We all have inherent value simply by existing.

Now, I want to add that that’s not some fluffy, feel-good statement. If we want our kids to grow into productive members of society, we need them to be strong, confident and capable. The first step to getting there is helping them believe they can be strong, confident and capable.

I guess in the beginning it’s a fake-it-till-you-make-it kind of scenario. Kids will believe what they’re told over and over, so it makes sense to start by telling them good things! It helps them to do this by first looking at themselves, at their characteristics and attributes.

What makes us unique?

The kids will share some characteristics in common. Some of them have brown hair, some have blond. Some are short, some are tall or thin or brown-skinned… no characteristic is better than any other, just different. It can be hard for kids to understand that sometimes we’re alike, and sometimes we’re not. We need to teach them it’s ok either way. That’s part of being human.

The activities I use to help kids learn these things are pretty simple. I start by talking about some of the more obvious characteristics like hair colour or height. We might make a simple graph of all our heights, then talk about the results.

We can talk about the range of heights, how everyone is slightly different. You’ll notice at first the kids are only interested in their own height. Next, they’ll be interested in their friends’ heights, then gradually pay attention to the group as a whole.

Teach kids about themselves with this fun height measuring activity
We need to teach kids that they come in all shapes and sizes!

This pattern of learning will be repeated throughout the year. Kids first focus on themselves before those closest to them, then the group as a whole. That’s how their brains work. It’s like a group of concentric circles… when you program, start with what the individual child will see, then move outwards. So, look at individual characteristics, then compare and contrast within a small group, then move to a wider group.

All about me craft

Another activity that is useful is a rainbow craft, where I write the child’s name on a cloud, then write things about them on coloured paper strips and glue it underneath the cloud. There’s a link to a quick video in the show notes if you’d like to see it, or you can have a look at it on my blog. It’s easy to make these yourself, or you can print the template out. It’s a little time-intensive because you have to write each strip for the kids, but the few minutes it takes with each child is valuable time together.

Watching their words turn into writing

Kids get to share their preferences with you and see you write their words. In this way, they see that their ideas can be turned into writing. It’s one of the first concepts about writing that they learn, that we can make marks on paper to represent their words. I bet you’ve seen a child write a ‘letter’ or ‘shopping list’ or something and then pretend to read it?

That simple thing is such a big step in literacy learning. It’s another fake-it-till-you-make-it thing! Lots of early learning is, when you think about kids playing in the home corner or with dress ups or something like that, that’s what they’re doing – practicing real life. Rehearsing. Trying it on like a costume. By watching us write things for them, then pretending to write for themselves, that’s what they’re doing. Practicing. It’s a really important step.

Teach kids about themselves with this fun craft activity
A cute rainbow craft to help kids express their preferences

All of these activities are available in my All About Me! unit – click the link below to check it out and download the preview to see the full range of activities that are included. Some of the activities are available as individual products – click on each image to check it out.

Teach kids about themselves with this fun unit of lessons
Complete Unit
Teach kids about themselves with this fun craft activity
Rainbow All About Me craft activity

If you would like to listen to this post in podcast form, click the link below. **Bonus – if you subscribe to the podcast you can snag a free All About Me activity!

Annie rotunda

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