Understanding Shyness In Your Preschool Classroom

Posted on: 9 April 2015

Being a preschool teacher can be a demanding job: you are responsible for taking some very young children and helping prepare them for the rigors of kindergarten. Socially, some children will be better prepared than others while others will have to overcome some shyness. Helping these children learn how to handle social situations, however, will make life easier for you and them.

What Exactly is Shyness?

Shyness is highly common in children: some experts estimate up to 30 to 50 percent of children are shy. If your preschoolers display any of the following symptoms, they may be shy:

  • Playing by themselves
  • Hiding from other children
  • Avoiding your gaze
  • Refusing to speak to anyone

It's important to note the difference between children who play alone because they are shy and those that simply prefer their own company. The latter may be highly outgoing and friendly during classroom activities and may have little difficulty interacting with you. These "private" students will likely open up and eventually play with others entirely on their own.

What Causes Preschooler Shyness?

Fear is the most obvious cause of preschool shyness and there are a variety of reasons preschoolers are afraid in your classroom. Most of these causes are related to the traumatic experience of being left by their parents. While some children may be used to staying with grandparents, older siblings, and family friends, it's likely usually in a more familiar environment.

The following problems commonly cause preschooler fear and shyness:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Break in routine
  • Peer intimidation/bullying

Most preschoolers will eventually overcome their shyness during a period called the "period of adjustment." For some children, it may take only a few days. For others, it may be weeks or even months. During this period, you should be doing what you can to help encourage them to come out of their shell.

How Can I Help During the Adjustment Period?

Helping your shy preschoolers adjust is often a waiting game. Unfortunately, forcing the issue by focusing on shy children is likely to force them even further into their protective barriers. However, that doesn't mean you should sit around and just wait for something magical to happen. Classroom exercises that encourage whole class involvement, without focusing on individuals, often open up shy children.

One of the easiest of these exercises is "Introduction Time." Start by breaking your class down into groups of four or five and let each child introduce themselves to their group. Each child should share at least one fun fact about themselves. After a few minutes, create new groups. This exercise helps shy children interact with the entire classroom in a closer fashion.

Facilities, like The Cottage School, start teaching children lifelong skills, like confidence, at an early age. With some patience, persistence, and a little bit of luck, your shy preschoolers should start coming into their own in your classroom. But, don't be afraid to talk to their parents if you're concerned about persistent shyness. They may not realize their child is withdrawn and may be able to help you find a way to break through the shyness barrier.