Assessing Daycare Readiness
Is my child the pre-school type?
you’ve managed to get through potty training and leaving your little one alone for the first time. But now that the big moment has arrived, you’re having doubts. Is my child old enough to start an early learning program?
The short answer is yes. From the moment your child is born, she is ready to learn. Your child is learning at an incredibly rapid pace in the first five years, and that learning will affect her for the rest of her life. She is building her brain pathways, and for that, she needs to be stimulated. Children of any age are thrilled to go to school if that school is set up for them to explore even beyond what they can explore at home, so rest assured that your child is not too young to go to school.
Understanding the early learning myth
For many parents, deciding whether or not to send their child to pre-school is not an easy decision. Not only are there conflicting opinions from critics who believe children should stay at home as long as possible, but there is such a wide range in the types of early learning programs offered, that the choice can become overwhelming. Luckily, with a little education, you can cut through the chaos and make a sound choice that will benefit your child for years to come. In order to do this there are two myths that need to be distilled.
1. Your child is not too young to learn. Children’s curiosity increases because they have an acute need to understand the world around them. A good early learning school knows provides plenty of opportunities for children to experiment, and continue developing at an optimum level. A great early learning school goes even further and observes your child as an individual, ensuring that she is challenged and always has something new and interesting to discover or learn. The key is choosing a school caters specifically to your child’s temperament and interests.
2. Your child is definitely the “pre-school type”. Some parents look at their child running wild in the park, yelling at the top of their lungs, and conclude their child is not right for pre-school. This is complete nonsense. If you feel that your child is not “ready,” you have not found the right early learning environment.
It is true, you want to avoid environments that mimic elementary schools, expecting children to sit on chairs for hours on end, work quietly, or listen to the teacher without interrupting. These types of programs are not only boring, but also inappropriate for a young child.
Learning and play must be one and the same. By this we do not mean either or, both, but a perfect combination of both. Modern early learning schools will not simply provide your child with some time to learn intermeshed with some time to play. Instead every activity feels like play to your child, but is designed specifically with learning objectives in mind.
In these schools, play is the way istudents learn music, math, science, and reading and writing. Through play, children will also learn empathy and social skills. The difference between this play and just regular play is the training of the teachers and the strength of the curriculum. The program is designed to enhance your child’s development during the brain’s most formative years.
We know from early learning and brain development research that children excel in an environment of this type. So if you have a feeling that your child is not the pre-school type, you just have not found the right pre-school.
How do you know when you’ve found the right school?
Armed with this knowledge, carefully interview the schools you are interested in. A good program will stimulate your child’s development, not just mimic the activities you do at home. The curriculum will not be strict, but should have clear learning objectives. Look for programs where the learning is not taught solely by just by seeing and listening. Children have to experience things (touch them, hold them, taste them, feel them) in order to learn.
Once you are satisfied with the program, you still need to make sure that the social group is the right one for your child. If your son is the only two year old in a group of five year olds, the group is not ideal for your child. If children are the right age but are relating to each other in an aggressive manner, you might want to look for a better fit for your child. Find a place where teachers seem happy, children seem happy, and where you feel your child would perfectly fit in.
Lastly, discuss your child’s particular interests with the teachers, and ensure that they are part of the curriculum. Does your child love painting? Riding a bike? Making rocket ships out of giant cardboard boxes? Chances are, the right program will have all of these components.
Once you’ve found the right fit, I guarantee you these will be the most memorable school years in your child’s life.
Natacha V. Beim is a writer, speaker, teacher, and the founder or Core Education & Fine Arts Junior Kindergarten schools (www.cefa.ca). You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org