By: Shelley Holt, Pre-K Teacher
Parents are faced with many choices for their young children before they formally start kindergarten. Choosing a pre-kindergarten program which balances the structured and un-structured learning time will better prepare them on all levels for the more structured school years to follow.
“Early experiences affect the quality of that architecture by establishing either a sturdy or a fragile foundation for all of the learning, health and behavior that follow.” – Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University
Play-based learning time or “center time” gives your child the freedom to make choices, explore, learn, and develop in an engaging and evolving learning environment with their peers. This play-based time is a very important part of their school day. They will learn valuable social skills such as sharing, compromising, self regulation, and being a good friend. Whether they are mixing colors in the art center, weighing pine cones in the science center, or pretending to be an astronaut in dramatic play – they are practicing language skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, all the while exploring and learning through their interests.
Each child is unique and all develop, grow, and acquire skills at different rates. This makes small group time an integral part of the Pre-K day. Teachers use the small group time to individualize fun learning activities to target each child’s needs in one-on-one or in a small group of students with similar needs. These learning games can be adapted to each child’s interests and learning styles for better retention and success.
Large group time, morning meeting, story time, and lesson times are also used to reinforce weekly and daily concepts. These times are also used to encourage them to raise their hand and wait for their name to be called to develop self control and regulation and better prepare them for their Kindergarten year. Although developing self regulation is important, teaching four year olds requires teachers to be flexible and aware that students may need impromptu brain breaks or dance breaks to get their wiggles out. Maintaining a fun, loving, and exciting learning environment is important to develop your child’s love of school.
These programs should also offer outdoor play time, physical education, foreign languages, art, music, and other sporting activities which can expose your child to many areas of interest and enrichment.
Choosing the right program for your child that will foster a positive learning experience during their pre-kindergarten year is crucial. Many studies have shown that early school experiences may impact a child’s perception of learning and the school environment for years to come.
A balanced pre-kindergarten program will develop the whole child – socially, emotionally, and cognitively. This will provide a strong foundation for your child to be prepared for their kindergarten year and beyond.