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What does it mean to shadow a young child in the world of preschool?

Shadowing a child can be quality time learning through play.
Shadowing a child can be quality time learning through play.
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Shadowing in the world of preschool is when a child becomes the teacher’s shadow by staying in the teacher’s shadow. For example, the teacher stays right with the child, never out of an arm’s reach, possibly connected by holding hands, or a gentle touch on the shoulder.

Shadowing is used for observation or monitoring, guidance or redirection, and protection. One goal is to prevent the child from injury to self or others. Also, shadowing can prevent a young child from damaging or destroying property, such as marking on walls with crayons.

Shadowing is not used solely for children who have been diagnosed with special needs, such as autism. It can be used also when certain behaviors of a young child, such as biting, happen often and are deemed as unacceptable.

Observation of these undesired behaviors can be counted and documented with close monitoring. Even better, shadowing, which keeps the child closer to the teacher, can actually prevent the repeated occurrence of these unacceptable behaviors through quick and consistent intervention.

Teachers who shadow young children can guide and redirect them when the misbehavior begins to occur. Teachers are within an arm’s reach of the child, sitting, standing, or kneeling between the child and other children.

Teachers who shadow young children can protect the children from hurting themselves or others by keeping them out of harm’s way with proximity. For example, a child who constantly finds high objects, such as shelves, to climb upon, can quickly be redirected and protected when a teacher has the young child in a shadow.

To shadow a young child, a caregiver must keep that child in their shadow to the point of connection. The key is to stay in contact through hand holding, gentle touch, or consistent hands-on interaction such as a learning activity through play.

For more on shadowing, go to Butterfly Effects
For more about shadow teachers, go here.

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