How to make preschool a positive experience for your child
Do you want your little one to enjoy preschool and have a positive experience before she begins her formal education? Here is some expert advice from Ms Charlotte Wong, Senior Manager at Kinderland Educare Services for parents of preschoolers
The baby and toddler years of your young child’s life seem to have passed by in the blink of an eye, because before you know it, she will be already be starting preschool!
Some people may view kindergarten as an introduction or preview to formal education and an opportunity to prepare your little one for Primary One — but should preschool really be all about endless worksheets, piles of homework, memorising facts and figures, sitting hunched over at a desk indoors all day long, and learning regimental rules without any room for fun and play?
theAsianparent spoke to Charlotte Wong, Senior Manager at Kinderland Educare Services for her expert advice on why it is important to make preschool a positive experience for young children and what is the ideal learning environment.
How can parents find a balance between giving their children the freedom to explore but also protecting from harm?
Firstly, it is important to understand the wonderful benefits of giving young children the freedom to explore.
Infants and toddlers learn through meaningful relational interactions — whereas babies, once born, make crucial neural connections in their brains through their daily experiences, to learn and develop their understanding of what is around them.
Every experience, whether it is playing peek-a-boo with a parent, or being fed a new fruit, excites the neurons or brain cells.
Recurring experiences will develop a “neural synapse highway” which helps infants comprehend the world a little better.
Exploratory play is to allow infants to learn about things which interests them, in a purposefully created environment and the intention is to create a curiosity in the infants to reach out and discover new information while ‘investigating’ his surroundings.
Exploring their physical environment comprises a great deal of the learning for mobile infants and toddlers — for example, if a young seven month old is placed on a mat with a shiny reflective bowl and a soft velvet cloth near him, as he reaches out to the bowl with his finger-tips, he will soon realise that it moves away easily.
Conversely, the experience when he reaches for the velvet cloth will be quite different and provides a new experience for the infant.
Similarly, an older infant who is figuring out how to use a spoon to feed himself will soon learn what motion is required from him to get the delicious food from the bowl to his mouth.
Another toddler who is learning to climb up and down a play structure will also ascertain after a few tries that it is safer and less daunting to descend legs first.
Exploratory play also promotes:
- Stimulated brain connections
- Early cognitive development
- Problem-solving skills
- Good self-esteem
- Critical thinking ability
How can parents encourage free-play and independence?
Now that we understand some of the learning benefits of exploratory play for young children, how do we as parents strike a balance by protecting them from getting hurt?
Here are three important steps parents can take:
1. Prepare the environment
For immobile infants, a small mat area will be sufficient for play time.
For mobile infants or toddlers, define a play area like a corner in the living room or the children’s room, and parents may provide a padded area with a mat or carpet to cushion falls, not to prevent low-level falls, like while the toddler is learning to walk.
Sharp corners which may hurt or cut should be removed or covered up with protectors.
Encourage independent play by providing sensorial and frequently changed resources for learning which need not be expensive toys as parents may use recycled materials like empty milk bottles, household items such as baskets, scarves and spoons.
Outdoor soft areas such as grass in a park or a playground will also be safe for exploratory play.
2. Change your mind-set about exploratory-play
Infants and young children get their world view and perspective of what is good or bad from adults.
Research has shown that most children have an innate perception of depth from as young as five months old, although they may still look to adults for guidance — it is therefore important for the adults to allow children the opportunity to learn how to overcome obstacles and to differentiate from a young age between what is safe and what is harmful.
When parents are overly anxious about a child’s safety, the same vibes are quickly picked up by the young ones.
3. Facilitate the play
Play alongside your children.
Besides providing the vocabulary, introduce discovery questions like the 5W and 1H, which are:
- What if
For the pre-verbal younger children, you may need to provide the answers after a short pause.
This helps your child find meaning in what he is experiencing and for parents to provide respectful, responsive and relational interactions.
Keep reading to find out what else will help give your child a positive experience in preschool
What is an ideal learning environment for young children?
Well-designed spaces contribute appropriately to children’s development and supports parents in their role as facilitators of children’s learning and self-directed play.
According to well-known architects Louis Torelli and Durrett from USA, “A well designed environment is, of course, safe for infants and toddlers but, more than that, it supports their emotional well-being, stimulates their senses, and challenges their motor skills.”
The area has to be age appropriate, highly functional and aesthetically appealing; Furniture and layout should provide infants with various opportunities to challenge them through what they see, touch and feel.
Such an environment allow infants to safely explore their environment independently, to learn how to navigate, and finally master it.
An environment which is appropriate and challenging is termed a Landscape for Learning.
How can preschool be a positive experience?
Preschools with infant care provide young children with remarkable benefits as the children learn best in meaningful social interactions.
Young children in preschools will benefit from opportunities to communicate, explore and learn in safe environments.
In Kinderland, exploratory play includes the use of mats, soft-gyms, wall bars, cruiser boxes and climbing lofts.
The well-designed spaces are to encourage children to discover their environment and their own physical capacities when they crawl, stand, climb and slide; Specially selected toys, including teacher-made resources, stimulate their sensory learning in a safe space.
Trained and experienced educare teachers offer child-centered planned programmes to stimulate learning for young children.
Kinderland educarers provide a respectful, responsive and relational environment, which inspire infants and toddlers to explore — educarers also observe and understand individuals’ developmental achievements as they facilitate customized activities and interesting games.
Children get to play with familiar as well as new friends and interact with children of different age-groups; Young children will face new experiences and be challenged with negotiations over toys and resources.
Meaningful play in a preschool allow young children to develop remarkable social-emotional and communication skills.
Kinderland believes that every child is a natural learner and that all children need to develop self-confidence, independence and a sense of responsibility, which is crucial for a healthy, all rounded development.
Each child is special and has potential, and they need to experience success at his or her level, as rates of development for each child is different and unique.
So by preserving the excitement and wonder of childhood from a pre-school level, children will experience the joy of learning and become life-long learners which is important in today’s society.
The Kinderland curriculum aims to groom children to have an active desire and eagerness to investigate, and know about his or her environment.
Displaying the enjoyment and imagination in approaching new things and ideas, Kinderland children learn to show ability, competence and skill in undertaking tasks to project self-reliance and belief in their ability to do well and succeed.
As such, good exploratory play is very important starting from a young age.
Do you agree that prechool should be a time to allow young children to play, have fun an explore? What else do you feel helps to make preschool a positive experience for your little ones? Share your comments with us below