For some children, starting kindergarten is the first time they have been away from the family in a structured environment. For other children it is an extension of their child-care experience. Whatever the experience is for your child, it is often seen as the beginning of a child’s formal education.
Kindergarten or pre-school is a year of play and learning, a time which is special in its own right, filled with activities designed for pre-schoolers. Kindergarten teachers have been educated about children’s development, and what are appropriate expectations of 4 to 5 year-old children.
So what do children learn at kinder?
They learn, with their increasing social development, to interact with a range of people and activities, to expand their view of the world past their own self, to problem-solve, to make decisions and to grow increasingly independent. And they do all of this through a play-based program.
A well thought-out 4 year old kindergarten program will include:
a) Solo activities for the child who is…
- Not yet ready to play with other children
- Wanting some quiet time alone
- Not happy to sit with other children at group time
- Needing to be re-directed
b) Small group activities (2 to 3 children) for those children who like to socialise in a more controlled setting, or if greater concentration is needed
c) Activities for larger groups (4 to 6) where the children may come and go, play co-operatively together or just alongside each other
d) Limited activities for the whole group to develop a sense of belonging.
You could also find a teacher-directed activity where a particular outcome or learning process may be a part of the program. This could be in a group or with individual children. Many of these activities will be centred around the children’s interests.
There is a lot of spontaneous learning in a kindergarten program where everyone learns from everyone else, including the teaching staff. Much of this learning is not immediately obvious or tangible:
- It may be a little boy who no longer needs to be directed from one activity to another, but can make his own choice
- It may be a girl who learns that she can’t always be the “mum” in home corner, and gives someone else a turn
- Perhaps a child has learned to ask for help without hesitation
- Or perhaps there are two children who always play together exclusively, and gradually they find that they can play happily with others.
Kindergarten is about nurturing social and emotional development, independence, self-esteem, awareness of others and a love of learning. These personal skills are the ones that will determine whether the child survives school or thrives in it.
So if your child comes home from kinder without a drawing, painting or collage construction, don’t think that they haven’t learned anything or done anything important. Remember that the process is more important than the product at this age. You could ask your child who he/she played with, what the story-time book was about, did he/she do anything that they had not done before or what was the best outdoor game? Above all else, did your child play and have fun?
Copyright Janet Powell Mentor Maestro 2009