Our society has taken a hard look at our educational system in recent years and has demanded improvement. The media has been telling us endlessly that our high school graduates just do not measure up.
Parents, naturally, want the best education available for their children—beginning in preschool. As preschool teachers, it is our responsibility to help parents understand the kinds of activities that are most beneficial in the preschool environment. According to the High-Scope Educational Research Foundation, preschool programs that focus on the child’s broad development—rather than rigid academics—result in better-adjusted and more successful pre-teens and teen-agers.
The positive social and emotional development of a preschooler is directly related to the child’s future success in school. It is important for a child to have a positive self-image and feel capable of accomplishment. Preschool programs have the task of helping children learn how to function in a group setting. Social skills, such as appropriately dealing with the unique personalities of other children and focusing attention on a group activity for a short period of time, are enhanced in a quality preschool program.
Learning, as we traditionally think of it in an academic sense, takes place throughout the day in a good preschool. We are proud when one of our children is the first on the block to “count to 10” or “say the ABC’s.”We take equal pride when we know that children in our program are beginning to grasp the concepts that will form the foundation for continuing education. For example, learning that three cups of milk on the table can be counted…1,2,3…and that three is represented by the numeral “3”. It also is more relevant to learn that not only is the letter “M” the first letter in one child’s name, but also in Michael’s, Melanie’s, and Megan’s names and that all the names begin with the “mmm” sound.
While many valuable learning activities may seem like “just play,” there is more to the activities than meets the eye. For instance, piecing together puzzles prepares a child for reading by helping them to discriminate puzzle piece shapes, which is a forerunner to discriminating the differences between letters. Stringing beads, manipulating play dough and connecting Legos® all help to strengthen the muscles in a child’s hands and fingers, which is a prerequisite for writing. Water play can help a child grasp early math concepts, such as rules of conservation. The key is to make certain that preschoolers are not required to produce or perform to an arbitrary skill level, or to “do it the right way.”
Piaget, the renowned early childhood education theorist, concluded that children develop abilities in predictable stages as their bodies and minds grow and develop. It is not possible to “hurry” these stages by making children do “advanced work.” The preschool teacher must make certain there are many activities at a variety of levels so that children are able to find their niche and enhance their skills as they develop. The ideal curriculum will stimulate a child’s interest and curiosity while allowing for continual success.
The traditional view of learning involves desks, books, blackboards and teacher lectures. However, many experts now agree that young children learn much more when they are allowed to move about, manipulate materials and interact with others. We believe the best preschool program provides both free play time and short group time. Many choices are offered in free play settings, because we believe the decision-making process is one of the most valuable attributes we can nurture in our children. Group time, on the other hand, is devoted to specific activity and is designed not only to develop specific skills but also to begin to develop the attention span of our children. Every childcare center has a unique educational philosophy. We at Adventure Center are no different. It is our belief that the optimum program is one which offers enough options so that each child is able to grow at his or her individual pace.