The early years are extremely important as they build the foundation for your child’s learning, and at the very least can determine how much they enjoy school. There are so many educational philosophies to consider and picking the right preschool curriculum for your child can be anything short of overwhelming!
Preschoolers should not be burdened with worksheets and tests. Children who haven’t yet grasped how to hold a pencil cannot be expected to complete writing work. Young children learn naturally by moving around, playing and engaging in hands-on activities. Identify the learning style of your child and find a preschool that includes activities for all kinds of learners.
Every preschool curriculum should deliver at least these three things:
1. Create an interest in learning
Children have an amazing capacity to absorb information through various activities they do in the course of their day, without even noticing they are learning. To encourage this natural curiosity avoid preschools where the curriculum sounds very academic or rigorous in nature. Instead, look out for programmes that emphasise enthusiasm to learn and excel. Pay attention to hands-on activities, sensorial materials, nature encounters, reading, culture activities, art projects and the like.
2. Promote wholesome development
Regardless of the philosophy of the preschool, the curriculum should stimulate learning while ensuring each child’s social, language, physical and cognitive development goals are being met. Children should have the freedom to move and socialise in a safe and harmonious environment. Find out whether the activities are age appropriate and support holistic development of your child.
3. The curriculum should be adaptable
Learning takes its best course when children find meaning in what they do, not when ideas and concepts are drilled into their minds through repetition. The goal of education is to help them discover their passions and develop a lifelong love of learning. A solid curriculum is designed in a way that gives children the freedom to learn at their own pace.
Play-based or academic curriculum?
In a play-based curriculum, children mostly choose activities based on their interest. It might look like they are just playing, but they are actually learning valuable skills – including social skills.
An academic curriculum is directed by teachers, who plan the activities and guide the children through them. This kind of curriculum is often designed to prepare children for school, and is often chosen by parents who want their child to have a smooth transition to school.
We should, however, remember that the preschool years are important for developing social and emotional skills – which in turn are an important foundation for academic learning. If you are concerned about the play-based curriculum being too unstructured for your child, you can explore the Montessori method, a combination of an academic and play-based curricula. It nurtures an active learning style in the children. The method and didactic materials were developed by Dr. Maria Montessori through years of extensive research.
The 5 core areas of the Montessori approach include:
- The practical life area encourages young children to perform activities such as spooning, transferring, and pouring – that help develop of coordination and improve concentration and independence.
- The sensorial materials encourage children refine their senses of touch, smell, taste, sound and sight through new experiences. The materials also help in the development of the cognitive abilities of the child.
- The language materials encourage children to develop both reading and writing skills. Teachers also introduce phonetics, enabling children to move gradually from simple words to full sentences.
- Number work consists of materials that introduce mathematical concepts and provide a hands-on approach to learning number work.
- Cultural activities and projects help the child to understand the world and connect with it. The projects are supported by materials in subjects like geography, history and botany. Music, art and craft are integrated in the daily activities.
The lessons in Montessori preschools are delivered both individually and in groups, helping the teachers understand each child and their developmental needs. Through group activities, children learn to interact, build relationships and help each other. Even decades after its creation, the Montessori method continues to stay relevant, making it one of the more popular preschool curricula across the world.
This is written and sponsored by The children’s house, a Montessori preschool in Kuala Lumpur. For more information, visit their website.