I am lucky. Every week I am exposed to a magical place where my son attends preschool. I wish every child and parent could have the experience of attending this school. Spending time there makes my kids more well-rounded and mature in their social skills…and inspires me to be a better parent. This type of preschool is strictly play based, no real structure, and requires parent participation. Actually, two of Francesco’s preschool teachers from last year were honoured this week as recipients of the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Education. Goes to show that it’s not only the grateful parents of the school that have taken notice of the difference these teachers have made.
Many parents both work full-time these days and that might be the reason that parent participation preschools are on the decline. Also, I think parents buy into the competition we feel because child x is already reading or writing at the age of 3 and how can my child compete in Kindergarten if he/she isn’t at a preschool that teaches academically? I would encourage all parents, working or stay-home, to interview parent participation/play based schools when selecting where to send their child to preschool. Your participation hours don’t have to be completed in the classroom, just in case you’re a working parent that might be turned off this type of school. The rewards for your entire family is amazing as your children watch you helping at the school and it makes them proud. They love to show off their favorite corners and activities and you gain the memories of watching your child interact and engage socially with new teachers and kids. You watch their skills of learning to play, share, and communicate improve which are vitally important life skills.
I walk through the door of the preschool and feel happy. My kids disperse to find water tables to get soaking wet, indoor tree stumps to hammer real nails with real hammers and safety goggles, a corner where paint, glue and scissors can always be found. You will not find flash cards or ‘work books’ practising numbers and letters. Instead you will find pretend cookies with numbers that get counted out over a cup of pretend tea, you will find a teacher letting kids mix up pancakes or bread from scratch and learning by measuring. Of course, lots of puzzles and books can be found, but it’s not just anywhere that kids learn about lifecycles and witness tadpoles turning into frogs and cocoons hatching into butterflies. It is magical and I am sad to know these types of preschools and this style of teaching is so hard to find.
Both my boys have currently and previously been taught by amazing people…of course, it’s the teachers that always make a classroom special. It is also the philosophies and beliefs within those walls. If a teacher’s focus is teaching through play, it’s amazing to watch. My children have plenty of time over their school years to follow rules, structure, and work book learning. I would rather my 3 or 4 year old take nature walks in a forest and learn about bugs, animals, and being kind. To quote an article by the Alliance for Childhood regarding the importance of play:
Child’s play is more than just fun and games. It is closely linked to children’s intellectual, social, emotional, and physical progress. Decades of research clearly demonstrate that active childhood play—especially the social, “let’s pretend” play children do with others—boosts healthy development across a broad spectrum of critical areas. The benefits are so impressive that every day of childhood should be a day for play...read more.
My experience thus far with schools is only with my boys….but we know that they learn differently than girls, with lots of movement, banging, and noise. My child was one of the noisiest children in the first year of preschool, he thought he was a tiger and loved to get kid’s attention by running and growling. Well, now he is one of the calmest, most gentle boys I know, who is very interested in acting, dress-up, paint, drawing, as well as other typical boy things…crashing toys, running through the playground, sports, but I think he’s rather unique with his love of crafts and artistic activies. I have to wonder if all the imaginative play he was exposed to at preschool helped develop these important characteristics. I have no doubt that my children’s preschool experiences will stay with them their entire life and we’ll be quoting their teachers’ wise words for many years to come.
When it comes time to pick a preschool for your kids, look at all options, from Montessori ~ to ~ Play with Structure ~ to ~ Play Based/Parent Participation. I’ve had great experiences with all three types, but the place I found most rewarding both for myself and children was a school focused on play based teaching with lots of parent involvement.