Teachwire Logo

Help Your Children Stay The Right Side Of OTT With These Behaviour Management Tips

Kids should be excited about learning, but they can quickly and easily slip into 'excessively overexcited' if left unchecked

  • Help Your Children Stay The Right Side Of OTT With These Behaviour Management Tips

We all want our children to feel excited about their learning – the problem is that small children are still learning how to keep their emotions under control, and it’s up to us to help them understand how to do this. While a certain amount of excitement is useful, overexcitement can lead to lost learning and unsafe behaviour.

The scenario

One of your staff has a knack for getting the children overexcited. Wherever she is in the setting, there is always lots of noise and a feeling that things are on the verge of becoming unsafe. The fevered atmosphere she creates has a habit of rippling through the setting. You don’t want to dampen her enthusiasm, but you need to ensure that the children are kept safe. You want to help her understand how to keep things a little bit calmer.

A model of calm

It’s gratifying to see children laughing and getting excited at something that we do with them, and it is lovely when practitioners are able to maintain a childlike enthusiasm for the world.

However, when we’re working with children we must always be able to take a step back from what we’re doing and act as the adult. If we want to get calm behaviour from the children, we need to model it for them. If we want to encourage calmer behaviour from adults, we need to help them understand why it’s important.

1. At your next staff meeting, talk about the importance of modelling a calm approach for the children, to ensure their safety. You could link this into revisiting and updating risk assessments.

2. Give your team some input on the kind of verbal and non-verbal interventions they can use to keep things calm (see below). It can be useful to model some scenarios, and to get staff to explore how they would deal with them. For instance, calming an overexcited child, or handling a child who is in the throes of a tantrum.

3. Talk to the individual staff member about how lovely it is to see the children getting so excited when she plays with them. Explain to her, though, that their safety must remain her first priority. You could set this as a target to revisit in an appraisal.

4. Look at the layout of your setting, and the kind of activities and resources you have in the different areas. Consider whether the overexcitement could in part be a reaction to the way you plan your continuous provision.

5. When you set up each area of your provision, consider how excited the children are likely to be in response to it. Aim to balance any ‘exciting’ options with opportunities for calm, quiet learning.


When you work with small children, you ‘make the weather’ – the children will behave differently according to the way that you use your body, your face and your voice. Learn how to control your verbal and non-verbal communication, to encourage a sense of calm.

• Consider how loudly you speak, and whether this level of volume is necessary. We often speak more loudly than we need to, perhaps when we’re trying to communicate enthusiasm, or to try and get the children’s attention. Unfortunately, a loud volume tends to ramp up the excitement levels.

• The quieter you speak, the quieter the children have to be to hear you. Make a conscious effort to lower the volume at which you speak and notice how it draws the children in.

• Although an enthusiastic tone of voice is useful for engaging the children, when we want to calm them down it’s best to use a fairly flat tone. Experiment with removing the tone from your voice to see what kind of atmosphere this creates.

• A low pitch tends to communicate relaxation and calm, whereas a high pitch can cause a feeling of tension or overexcitement. Relax your neck when speaking, to help you pitch your voice low.

• Model a calm and relaxed posture and body language, keeping your movements slow and considered.

• Bring yourself down onto the same level as the children, and gently encourage them to make eye contact when you’re talking with them.

Sue Cowley is an author and helps to run an ‘outstanding’ preschool.

Click here for more behaviour management advice articles for early years.

Sign up here for your free Brilliant Teacher Box Set

Make sure your assessment is effective with these expert insights.

Find out more here >