Helping children who struggle at carpet time

During the course of the day there are many opportunities where the differences in norms of behaviour between nursery and home are apparent. At carpet time the children are expected to manage sitting still, concentrating and engaging with the adult. For some children this behavioural expectation is overwhelming and compounded by their inability to articulate what exactly they are finding difficult. This can be frustrating for staff and children as some children try to manage this for the first time in their lives.

Kate, a nursery teacher came to see me regarding Zak aged four who struggles with carpet time. He rolls around, pokes the other children and is disruptive. She finds this challenging and is concerned as the other children have now started to copy Zak’s behaviour. I suggested she make him a mat to sit on out of coloured card and introduce it as a special mat to help him at carpet time. I recommended that she demonstrates how to sit on it, explaining to him how it can help him to sit still as all parts of his body need to stay on the mat.

I suggested she ask Zak to choose the colour so he is able to take ownership of it and just before carpet time she encourages him to get his mat from his tray and she chooses a place for him to put it. This enables her to observe him sitting in different places to see if this makes a difference. After carpet time he returns it to his tray, therefore encouraging his sense of responsibility. Kate and I explored Zak’s background and previous experiences, which provided us with a picture of his life. He is from a large chaotic family and has never been to nursery before. This enabled us to make some sense of his behaviour and identify ways to help him manage the more formal structured times at nursery, which he hasn’t experienced before.

Kate was concerned that the other children may want a mat and she would end up with mat mayhem. I recommended that she discuss Zak’s mat with the other children and explain that he has it to help him, and they could help him remember to use it which they did. Zak responded very well to the use of his mat and proudly returns it to his tray after carpet time. She feels much happier about carpet time, has noticed that

Zak has calmed down generally and his concentration has improved in relation to other tasks.

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