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Teaching Advice/words to say to young children


Dear MaryAnn,

I heard once that you have to be careful not to let children depend on you for praise. This was not in response to someone observing me teaching. Honestly kids are not dependent on me for this. but I am a perfectionist sometimes and I want to use best practices and say the right things.

With preschoolers I feel good and happy to be around them and teach them but I need to feel free to praise them and be encouraging and enthusiastic. Worrying about it has held me back and hampered me and isn't good for the children. I feel stuck not being free to praise when I see it is right. Believe me I am not authoritarian and don't make children feel that my approval is the be all end all. They feel safe and assured and liked by me. I have a good rapport with them. Though when the worries take over it takes away the goodness. I hope you can tell me that what I want to do really isn't bad.

Also with infants and young toddlers is it ok to repeat the babbles that they make? I tend to do this when I am in their classroom and I am not sure if this is right.


Over praising or empty praising is a problem... not sincere praise when praise is due. I suggest asking the child, "How did that feel to paint such a big painting!?" They can praise themselves too.

The way infants learn to talk is to be talked to.... and imitating their babbles is just sweet and fun... and they will try to repeat and imitate what you say too. So a mix of real words and sweet babbles is fine.

I don't think you have anything to worry about!

Enjoy being loving, understanding, encourage creativity and free thinking, and praise when praise is due!! Go easy on the "Good job..." comments. They are annoying to everyone!!

Here are some "praise" ideas I do with little ones::
High five.
Let's dance a happy dance.
Clap high, clap low.
Pinky lock (twist your pinky with their pinky).
Thumbs up.
Elbow wings. (flap elbows up and down)
These are fun things to do that say you like what they did, like who they are, like how they act.

Hope this helps. Go enjoy yourself.... give them lots of encouragement and praise when it is due.

MaryAnn Kohl

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MaryAnn F. Kohl


creative art experiences for children of all ages


Written over ten books of art ideas, from Mudworks, to Scribble Art, to Discovering Great Artists. I enjoy sharing ideas from my books.


Parenting Magazine, Fisher-Price, Donna's Day tv show, Early Childhood News, Scholastic

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