What’s right for your pre-schooler ?

Increased numbers of working mothers of three-, four-, and five-year-olds have created a need for preschools for today’s young children and are concerned about the quality of these preschools. As a result, parents are searching for guidelines for selecting a good programme for their children, who may require care for eight or more hours a day.

However, preschool programmes are in fact changing. There have been signs of a movement away from the academic, pushdown effect to more play-oriented programmes. This shift from a strong academic focus to more child-initiated activities has the endorsement of professionals in the early childhood education field.

Child-initiated activities

Child-initiated activities offer a wide range of opportunities for children to directly experience and manipulate new ideas and objects. The following are examples of child-initiated goals:

Choice making: The curriculum offers children the opportunity to choose from a variety of activities throughout the day.

Creating: Activities encourage children to create their own ideas for art projects, block constructions, or dance improvisations.

Interacting: Talking with other children and adults fosters a child’s sense of self and self-esteem. Through conversation, children learn new words and to cooperate. Thus, language skills and a positive self-image are encouraged through conversation.

Playing: Creative play materials encourage children to question, experiment, and pretend. A housekeeping area, block area, or pretend grocery store provide children “real experiences” to develop vocabulary and gain an understanding of the world.

Discovering: Real experiences provide children with opportunities to exercise their curiosity and discuss events relevant to their everyday lives. Visiting grocery stores, farms, and hospitals; preparing snacks; and talking to police officers, firefighters, and janitors contribute to a child’s understanding of the real world. It can also be discovered thro-ugh good books. Reading books daily to children is an essential part of a quality programme.

Role of the teacher

Studies have found it is the teacher who makes a difference.It is the teacher who plans the activities, listens and talks to children, and encourages growth in the child’s intellectual and social development. Thus, the lead teacher should have training in early childhood education.