Response: There is really no magic number/measurement of time that can be put on how long is too long. Watching children for signals is the best way to determine the length of an activity. If children are restless, crying, fighting with one another – the activity has gone too long! When working with children the staff should watch for signs that the children are no longer interested in an activity and be ready to make a transition to the next activity.
Regular routines during transition will avoid confusion among the children and help things move quickly. Having children wait for extended periods during an activity or waiting for an activity to start is unacceptable. Staff should establish routines and work as a team to eliminate the time “waiting.”
Staff who work with infants who are immobile should implement a system of “rotating” or moving the infants from one activity to the next. This assures that each infant has a variety of activities that last short periods of time including time in a swing, tummy time, time on their back on the floor, time being held and read to, etc.
Avoid requiring that children be confined to the same spot for extended periods. For example: many centers use kidney shaped tables in their toddler rooms. When used correctly the tables allow a staff to sit comfortably facing their students to help the children exhibit good manners while eating or working on an activity. These tables are confining and when the activity is no longer interesting or when a meal is over, the children should be allowed to get down from the table and should not be confined for extended periods while the staff cleans the room, changes diapers or prepares the next project.
Staff should have a realistic expectation of how long an activity should last, and then be ready to adjust as needed to assure the children are engaged, happy and comfortable. For example: some children become restless when watching a video. Staff should provide alternative activities for those children who are unable to sit quietly and enjoy the program.
Staff should work with smaller groups of children to expedite waiting in line to go outdoors, waiting at the table for lunch to be served or waiting in line at the bathroom.
A child should never be required to stand or sit for an extended period as a punishment.