Deep and Preeti are first-time parents of Ananya, who just turned two. Both Deep and Preeti are working professionals and wonder whether Ananya should be enrolled in a preschool. Deep thinks that it is too early for his child to start schooling while Preeti has friends who have already enrolled their child to a preschool. Both parents had started their school days with a pre-primary or nursery school. They wonder whether it is too early to start with preschool? How can preschool help their daughter? Should they wait another year? What is the importance of preschool education? Whether a preschool will help in formal school admissions?
Why is preschool education important?
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) recognises “early childhood” as a crucial time for a child as in this period, the brain develops faster than at any other time in a person’s life. Developing Social, Motor and Executive skills, etc. form the foundation of preschool education. These skills start taking prominence during the early years.
Science has proven that the human brain is most flexible in the early years. It adapts to a wide variety of environments and concepts between years 1 to 5. The Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University has termed this phenomenon as the “early plasticity” of the brain. The center suggests that it is easier to mould a child’s brain architecture in the early years than during adult life.
In addition to effective parenting and homeschooling, preschools play an important role in these early years. A preschool with a well-defined curriculum can make meaningful contribution in building a foundation for lifelong learning.
What your child will learn in a preschool?
A common misconception is that preschools teach a child to read, write and speak; factors that lead to success in formal schools. However, early education curriculums are actually designed towards emotional, social, cognitive, and language development. These areas will form the foundation for success in other spheres such as workplace, society, and school. Supervised by trained preschool teachers, children will learn to adjust in a new surrounding and socialize with others in a preschool. Effective preschool education curriculum will focus on functions such as Executive, Gross & Fine Motor skills, and development areas such as Socio-emotional, Identity, Language.
Your separation anxiety could make it difficult to stay away from your child even for a few hours. However, seeing your child grow daily will make every pain worth it. Your child will interact with other children of the same age and learn to make new friends. Preschool lessons will help to induce responsible behavior in your child. Your child learns to take care of belongings, keep work and play stations clean, take care of a pet plant, etc.
Your child will learn to comprehend situations and read other behaviors. Also, exposure to a structured environment will influence your child to be organized. With less dependency on you, she will develop self-help skills through the various activities at preschool.
A child competes at all stages. Firstly with siblings, a child competes for getting parents attention. Then in school, the child competes with classmates for their teacher’s attention. Preschools help children manage competition, so they are better equipped to cope with their emotions as they grow up.
Preschool education targets 5 major Aspects
1. Physical Development
A growing child’s exposure to physical activities in the early years lay the foundation of a healthy life.
A holistic preschool education program will cater to the education of the mind as well as the body. Physical development is the primary area of development but often misunderstood. Parents generally confuse physical development with growth in just the size and weight of the child. As a child grows, her senses are refined when she moves around and perceives objects. In the process, the child develops sensory preferences through touching, tasting, smelling, hearing, and seeing. Preschools offer structured programs with age-appropriate group activities. Running, hopping, throwing, catching, clapping, pushing with feet(while sitting on a toy), pouring water, etc. Such activities will enhance the physical and sensory development of your child.
2. Motor Skills
Motor skills enable the movements and tasks that we do in our daily lives. Preschool education curriculum focus on activities that aid in building gross motor and fine motor skills. Fine motor skills require a high degree of control and precision in the small muscles of the hand. Gross motor skills require large muscles in the body and include broader movements like walking and jumping. In a preschool, teachers engage children in activities that refine motor skills. For example, rolling dough, painting, and building blocks.
3. Socio-Emotional Development
A pre-school provides a lot of space for children to interact and build relationships. They provide a place for socio-emotional development where the child learns to have self-regard, to compromise, and be respectful towards others. During preschool years, children’s emotional and social development grows and they become more co-operative and learn to share. Working in groups helps them in connecting with their surroundings and making personal bonds. Communicating with others enhances expression and provides an outlet to their emotions. This will help them in understanding and developing self-awareness.
4. Language Development
From birth till age 5 your child’s brain architecture is developing rapidly and she develops communication, comprehension and speaking skills. A growing brain lets them learn meanings, words and language structure which becomes a critical phase for acquiring language. As a child grows into an adult, the ability to learn a new language tends to diminish. When your child nears 18 months she is able to identify and call out, relatives in the family, familiar objects and is able to follow your instructions through gestures. Although every child follows a different learning curve, children at this age tend to form 2 word sentences with hand gestures. In a preschool, your child will further enhance and build her vocabulary by learning, comprehending and properly pronouncing body parts, animals, colors, hand gestures, emotions, events, common objects, and daily activities. Some schools may also start exposure to shapes, numbers, and letters towards later stages of a preschool education curriculum. Through activities like interactive story time, poem recitation, show & tell, and socialization with friends, your child will transition easily from receptive language to expressive language.
5. Personal identity development
Identity development is crucial for preschoolers as it helps them with the concept of self-image and judgment of one’s own worth. In a social setting, children learn to introduce self, learn about their self-ability, recognize their own personality and distinguish self from others. Your child will make friends, connect with society and thereby build own personality, statements, values, and self-awareness. Your child will learn to understand characteristics in terms of gender (boy or girl), age(child or adult), physical characteristics (big or small), and values, culture and religious traditions. Preschools provide an environment where your child will do tasks together with other children and land in situations where she discovers her creativity. The child will complete tasks thereby building higher self-worth and being more optimistic about her abilities. Preschool teachers simulate discussion about behaviours, feelings, and emotions thereby making children self-aware of private emotions, thoughts, and feelings. Preschools also designate a corner for every child, label photos of all children and make a portfolio, things which help in identity formation in a group.
What activities will my child be involved in a preschool?
Words will turn into sentences. Your child will learn to recite rhymes; listen to others and will try to speak half-spoken sentences. Their first hand-drawn picture for your desk will help them develop creative and aesthetic skills through coloring. You will be surprised to watch them enact and dance to music on stage.;thereby building gross motor skills. Some activities like art & craft are catered to improve fine motor skills of your child. For example, clay art helps kids understand shapes and hand drawing encourages them to draw, thereby enhancing creativity. Group activities like circle time, show & tell, etc. will help children improve interaction and comprehension. Group activities will help build executive skills so that they can later fit in social situations. Lastly running, jumping, hopping will help ensure a healthy mind in a healthy body
What is the right age for Preschool education?
Montessori and Reggio-Emelia are two popular pedagogies in preschool and early education. In the Montessori method classrooms for children, 2.5 to 6 years are common but classes of 0 to 3 years also exist. Reggio-Emilia approach focuses on collaborative small-group work where a child learns through experiential learning. Although, we couldn’t find a prescribed age for Reggio Emilia’s, preschools following the pedagogy offer activities for 18 months onwards. Unicef describes preschool years starts from about age 3. However, it also acknowledges the importance of responsive stimulation from play, reading and singing from birth till age 3. In India, many preschools offer programs for 1-2 year olds.
Do Preschool curriculum prepare for formal school?
Going to a preschool will make you and your child better prepared for formal schools. Your child will follow a structured routine, which will inspire her for a love of learning.
The child gets comfortable in a social setup. She will feel less awkward with new faces on day one of a formal school. The child also learns to deal in peer groups. With higher self-worth, the child will be confident and optimistic about her ability to complete tasks in formal schools.
A Preschool education curriculum will inculcate in-seat behavior and readies children to take instructions from teachers. The preschool schedule makes the first days in a formal school easy.
Some preschools also counsel parents about handling parent interactions during formal school admissions. As the admission process differs for every school, tips and feedback from preschool counselors and preschool teachers will become handy.
Nonetheless, you will form a community of parents. You will get a chance to exchange information about the the admission processes at other schools.
Why you should know what your child learns at preschool?
For an involved parent, it is a great idea to delve deeper into what and how your child learns. This may not only enhance your understanding but also help you to engage your child meaningfully at home. With this understanding, you will be empowered to support your child better in the learning process.
With evolving research in the areas of early education, educational practices are moving towards more progressive approaches. Researchers and early education experts have understood brain development much more now than in the past. It is imperative that preschools in India are conforming to these evolving practices.
If you are a parent as Deep and Preeti, investing in the early education of your child is an opportunity you cannot miss. It is a crucial step towards enriching your child’s future.
BestOfSchools hopes that this article has helped you. The content of this article is based on surveys conducted with parents. If you have already visited few preschools, we would love to hear from your own experience. If you have another tip or an idea, which can help parents, please provide your comments below.
Key Contributor: Venus Khaneja