How to Apply the "Just This Much Approach"

Outcome: By the end of this lesson you will have been introduced to the “Just This Much” approach and be given opportunities to reflect on what that looks like in real life.

Lesson Length : 15 minutes


As educators, we each have our own idea of what participation and respect look, sound, and feel like.  For some, participation looks like everyone is quiet while the teacher is talking and eyes are upfront. For others, participation may sound more like lots of kids’ voices sharing their enthusiasm and ideas all at once. In an inclusive environment,  there are a variety of kids with and without disabilities playing and learning together. This means that participation in group activities will look different from child to child, and setting to setting. This lesson will help you see the variety of ways in which kids can participate and the ways in which staff can help facilitate that engagement.


  1. Activity 1: Read this excerpt from The Thinking Guide to Inclusive Childcare. As you read, pay special attention to the “just this much approach”. 
  2. Activity 2: Watch the three videos. 
    • Summer Camp Circle time at the PlayGarden
    • Preschool Yoga at the PlayGarden 
    • Cleo and Arthur singing Frozen. 
  3. Answer the Pause & Reflect questions after watching each video  

Activity I.

Read the following excerpt from the Thinking Guide To Inclusive Childcare by Mark Sweet, Ph.D.


Mark Sweet, Ph.D.

Commonly asked but poorly thought out questions about inclusion include: can this child do what we do in our room? Will s/he fit? An inclusive attitude does not start with decisions about which children cannot be served.

Apply the just this much approach to your ideas about participation. A child might not want or be able to deliver as much as you want at a particular time. Can you accept just as much as s/he can offer? Can you help the child feel respected and safe for doing just this much for now?

Adult attitude is key to inclusion. Inclusiveness requires flexibility. Adults have to focus on children’s interests and energy. This should not be understood as surrendering to an anything-goes model. On the contrary, the inclusive adult is wondering what it’s like to be the child, with her/his abilities, interests, and energy. The inclusive adult tries to honor child comfort factors with the knowledge that you cannot force learning and young children learn best when they have a feeling of play.

 Want more from this resource?  Download  the full Thinking Guide. It is an incredible resource packed with great information on how organizations can make changes  to be more inclusive of children and families of children with disabilities.

Activity II.

Watch the following video clips and answer the Pause & Reflect Questions.

Pause and Reflect:

  1. Does this circle time look and/or sound different than other group activities you have seen? What makes it different? 
  2. How are the summer camp counselors applying the “just this much” approach during circle time? 
  3. What percentage of the group do you consider to be participating?  How do you define participation? Does the participation level change once the group starts singing? Why might this be? 
  4. Is it okay that a few kids are on the perimeter of the circle? 
  5. Watch the clip again and watch the kid on the scooter, Finn.  Is he participating? Does his body language change at all when we start singing?
  6. What about the kids that are covering their ears? Is just that much okay? Or the child that is closing his eyes? Is just that much okay? What about the girl that is waving her arms instead of clapping? Is just that much enough? 
  7. What are the kids gaining by being together in this experience?
  8. Are the kids happy and engaged? How can you tell?

Pause and Reflect:

  1. Leo is the child in the center of the circle. Would you consider him to be participating in this experience? 
  2. What do you think the other kids think about Leo being in the middle? 
  3. If I told you that Leo has Autism, is non-verbal, and often has a hard time joining in on group activities with the rest of the class would you think differently about his level of participation? How come?

Pause and Reflect:

  1. Of the three people you see in this clip, who do you consider to be participating? How can you tell?
  2. How did the counselor, Leiney, support Cleo in singing this song? Is it respectful? Is it age-appropriate?
  3. If this was happening in your program, could you accept Arthur’s body language , or would you try to change the way he was participating?  
  4. Do you consider Arthur and Cleo to be having a shared experience?

What the "Just This Much Approach" is not:

  • Assuming a child is not able to do something. 
  • Being okay with behavior that is unsafe. 
  • Having low expectations for students. For example, if the goal is to get a child who has a hard time joining a group to participate in an experience like circle time, it is okay if the first time around they are just listening from afar. The second time a counselor can help them sit a little closer. The third time they can be even closer but wearing headphones so they are still comfortable but now more integrated  into the group. 

Final Pause and Reflect:

  1. How do your ideas about participation change when you consider using the just this much approach? Write them down somewhere you will revisit.