16 Guidelines for Life

16 guidelines for preshoolersThe McMaster Children’s Centre has implemented the 16 Guidelines for Life program since 2008.  These 16 universal concepts such as Patience, Gratitude and Honesty, may help foster language, social skills, empathy and emotional awareness in young children, regardless of their age, gender and ethnicity.

McMaster Children’s Centre uses a simple framework in each classroom that is easily incorporated in the daily early childhood environment.  Each week, a different guideline is introduced, discussed and exemplified. Songs, activities, popular children’s literature and community involvement are tools that are used to highlight the definition of each quality. For example, reading a book about a turtle afraid of the dark, in the dark by flashlight, illustrates Courage; a clean up of the child care playground teaches Respect and Responsibility. A discussion about Service sparked the idea for a Centre-wide food drive. Eight boxes of food donated by families were loaded onto wagons pulled by children and educators and dropped off at the neighbourhood Fire Station for distribution to those in need.

Krista Madsen Baker eloquently conveys a parent’s perspective. “The teachers at our child care centre have implemented the 16 Guidelines in a way that has been influential for both of my children (ages 4 and 5). The teachers use carefully selected stories that underpin the guideline of the week; this strategy has been successful with our kids because they relate to the characters and events presented in the story. They can then use the guidelines as tools to help them respond to situations they face every day.”

“There is a gentle subtlety to the whole process; while the children may not always recall the title of a specific guideline, the concept behind the title remains, like an imprint. A guideline may present itself at the dinner table in a comment such as, ‘You should use thoughtful speech.’ With humour we have come to accept that the kids enjoy advising one another (and us) on the use of a particular guideline.”

“The benefit of the Guideline’s approach starts with the children but then expands to influence the rest of our family; there is a ripple effect that begins with the first pebble of a guideline. I am often challenged to reevaluate my own thoughts and actions. Am I exercising Compassion? Humility? Gratitude? Perhaps the greatest benefit is that our children are learning that their thoughts and actions influence the people around them; they are learning to be citizens and that they are part of a greater whole.”