A Lesson Learned: The Importance of Preschool
One of my favorite quotes explaining “What children learn” in preschool is the following;
“Play for young children is not recreation activity,… It is not leisure-time activity nor escape activity…. Play is thinking time for young children. It is language time. Problem-solving time. It is memory time, planning time, investigating time. It is organization-of-ideas time, when the young child uses his mind and body and his social skills and all his powers in response to the stimuli he has met.”
– James L. Hymes, Jr.
In play-based, social/emotional programs- such as Early Learning Foundations Preschool, play is at the core of our philosophy. We value the learning the takes place during the process of play, ask teachers to observe children during free play without intervening and use the children’s play scenarios to create relevant and emergent curriculum.
Play is hard work for children! In our Two’s program, children are just beginning to learn how to play alongside another child, use language to negotiate conflict, share the attention of an adult and invite others or join duets or triads of children at play. We use a gentle structure to push or scaffold children into groups, but progress is child led and measured in the success of three step (beginning/middle/end) processes during free play.
In the above quote, Hymes is addressing all of the areas of development that eventually lead to what is called executive thinking skills- a cognitive re-organization that typically begins to evolve at around age 8-years-old (the tail end of Early Childhood). Play allows children to “own” their learning, creating the base that will support this high level reconstruction.
In our Threes and Fours program, play becomes more rich; complex and revealing. Again, educators are asked to watch and wait as children work at becoming “master players.” However, embedded in the curriculum (including the dramatic play area) are more advanced, assessable skills (pre-literacy, pre-math, and cognitive sub-skills) that help to set the stage for academics. Teachers are also aware of the “teachable skills” (ie: cutting with scissors) that need to be taught as opposed to those that are picked up through exposure.
The most important lessons that children learn at preschool is really how to become a member of a group, a good friend, a compassionate person and ways to learn and grow in a safe environment.