It is a recognized fact that quality pre-school learning experiences provide a sound foundation for future education. Confident, motivated pre-schoolers will enter school with a happy, positive approach to the new challenges awaiting them. Parents recognise the importance of young children experiencing the joy and freedom of a happy childhood, yet also want to prepare them for the increasingly demanding world that they will be entering due to the enormous social, economic and technological developments of recent years.
Unfortunately, the carefree childhood that many of us remember – with its sense of community, extended family and safety, is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Owing to the demands and pressures of the changes in our social structure (where many children are now growing up in two-career or single parent families) the importance of our children’s schools has increased.
Much more time is being spent at school, and parents are to a greater extent, relying on pre-school teachers, in addition to their normal duties, to teach the life skills and moral and social values traditionally taught at home. However, although parents want to make a responsible decision regarding their child’s education, the many different types of early childhood schools and philosophies often lead to parental confusion where making the right choice is not a simple task!
To complicate matters further, entry into top primary schools – public or private – is often dependent on whether the child has reached certain developmental goals that would enable him/her to cope confidently with formal education. This again, highlights the importance of an enriched pre-school programme and environment.
All classrooms are well equipped and have access to beautiful gardens. The grassed playgrounds provide many opportunities for large muscle development, sand play, sensory trough activities and games.
The Best of Beginnings for a Lifetime of Learning
- Early academics don’t make smarter children
- Children learn best from exploring
- Optimal learning springs from curiosity
- Early academics narrow learning
- Broader skills matter most
- Early academics create anxiety
- Play is the foundation of learning
- Pretending promotes Literacy
Dr Patricia Wolfe sets the record straight on what neuroscience teaches us about early childhood learning in her book Brain Matters: Translating Research into Classroom Practice. She writes: “excessive use of flash cards, workbooks, language tapes, and ‘educational’ computer games is not only inappropriate, but these games also deprive children of the natural interaction with their world so important to development…there is no proof extra stimulation is necessary for cognitive or social growth. According to the latest brain research, pre-schoolers learn more from exploring their surroundings than sitting down and writing in workbooks.
Dr Wolfe stresses that young children have all they need to learn within themselves: an innate curiosity, a robust imagination, and an intense desire to explore their surroundings. Young children need lots of opportunities to interact with one another, ample time to investigate their environment (both indoors and out), and warm, loving relationships with teachers who guide and support them. Their most powerful learning comes when they discover things on their own, following their curiosities. The renowned Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, who’s taught us so much about child development, lamented the involvement of adults in a youngster’s learning. He famously said: “When you teach a child something, you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself.” What matters most is critical thinking skills, people skills, creativity, curiosity, and initiative.
In Taking Back Childhood Dr Nancy Carlsson-Paige makes the case for play at preschool. She celebrates play as the best way for youngsters to express their creativity, solve their problems, soothe their souls, and build friendships. Youngsters learn best through play, purposeful experiences, exploration, and warm interactions with both peers and adults. “When children are taught things that they’re not ready to learn, it can create feelings in them of confusion, anxiety, and inadequacy.”
Play Is the Foundation of Learning
In Nova Scotia, Canada, for example, they recently revealed a new early learning framework with play as its centrepiece. In this document, the authors describe play in the loftiest of terms. They write of it: “one of the highest achievements of the human species…fostering capacities such as investigating, asking questions, creativity, solving problems and thinking critically… vital to building a wide range of competencies such as language development, self-regulation, and conflict resolution.”
Pretending Promotes Literacy
Research shows pretend-play isn’t wasted time at all but is, in fact, the foundation of Literacy skills. While using their imaginations at preschool, children develop robust vocabularies and strong communication abilities. These skills are necessary for them to become competent readers, writers, and speakers. When they talk to, listen to, and interact with peers during pretend-play, pre-schoolers are developing the prerequisites of literacy.
Therefore, preschools should have multiple areas set up for imaginative play. These areas create a rich, interactive environment where language flourishes. As children ask each other questions, discuss and debate, and learn the importance of nonverbal cues, they become powerfully literate in a fun, age-appropriate way.
In Building the Reading Brain, co-authors Patricia Wolfe and Pamela Nevills warn against the so-called ‘pushed down curriculum’. This means speeding up learning, teaching what was once the curriculum in first grade to kindergartners and teaching what was once the curriculum in kindergarten to pre-schoolers. They write that the ‘prevailing earlier is better’ mentality was “based on a lack of understanding of the reading process, of children’s brain development, and of the types of activities that are best suited for different ages.” They argue that linguistic awareness is best fostered in an organic way at preschool and at home by reading poems, stories, and nursery rhymes, singing songs, listening to children’s music, doing cooking and art projects, and having plenty of time for pretend-play, exploration, and social interaction. Contrary to popular belief, children’s brains shouldn’t be overloaded with information during the first five years of life. The practice of doing so at preschool represents a huge distortion of the research. It doesn’t make children any smarter and can turn them off to learning at a time when they should be getting electrified by it.