On our website, we use terms such as “Learn through Play” and “Kindergarten Readiness”. We say “Health and Wellness Literacy” with our Healthy Apple Program, but what do they all mean? What is important to understand is in Alberta there are no legislation's on how to run a playschool. We are approved by Alberta Licensing , which offers a safer, satisfactory program. Locally there are programs ran as a “playschool” that aren’t licensed, and even out of houses. Other than that, all the opinions written up in this blog are my opinions.
Let’s explore the first thing many people don’t understand:
Playschool vs Preschool
Playschool, Preschool, Nursery school and Pre-K programs are all the same thing, with exception to what the schools are trying to tell families they see as the main focus of their classes. Each school use their names to reflect what they really want to execute as a priority in their program philosophy. They all work on ABC’s, 123’s and have play time during class.
- Nursery school – generally for children 2 and older
- Preschool & Pre-K programs – try to convey the message “getting ready for kindergarten” is important. This often includes phonic programs, and writing programs like Handwriting without tears® and Itchy’s Alphabet.
- Playschool – a program that uses play as its main focus in education, often integrating curricular concepts into the play time
Playschool, as used in our title, is evidently our number one priority and philosophy. We as a playschool still find the value in early literacy and Handwriting without Tears®, but we use it to add sprinkles to our ice cream. The main focus is what children are learning during their play experiences
What is Learn through play? And why is it our philosophy?
In Stuart Browns, with Christopher Vaughan’s book “Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul”, they define play as a “state of mind.” Play is a profound biological process that provides enjoyment, a suspension of self consciousness and sense of time. It is self motivating and makes you want to do it again. It is a primal activity, which for us, lies at the core of creativity and innovation. We as educators must provide an environment filled with rich and meaningful play opportunities’.
This is achieved by taking the children's lead based on their current interests. The interests of the children are then integrated into a developmentally appropriate curriculum. After observation of general interest, programming is planned to offer purposeful play experiences to the children at Capilano Playschool. This is achieved during the day when the children engage in different play experiences, such as dramatic play, early literacy, gross motor and fine motor activities, and sensory play. During these experiences, curricular concepts such as math, science, language, and social studies are naturally integrated.
I believe play is the most important activity a human being can experience. Play does not know age, nor gender or race. It is a simple, universal language we all speak from the moment we begin to smile; to the day we grow old. While volunteering with children, I watched a deaf child and a hearing child play the same game together. They shared the same basic rules and direction while laughing at one another without being able to speak a single word to one another. Play is a universal language that children are born with the right to do. As Mr Rogers said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning, but for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
What is “health and wellness literacy?”
Being “literate” in something is being “knowledgeable or educated in a particular field or fields” according to the free dictionary online. Websters dictionary refers to it as “having knowledge or competence.” When we decided to change our program from a regular program, to a health and wellness program, we wanted to rear children who were knowledgeable and experienced in being a healthy person. We wanted to share with children and their families our passion for caring for our families, friends and community. Physical literacy includes education about the importance of developing a healthy body and mind as the result of deliberate effort. Capliano Playschool wants to work with the Canadian physical activity guidelines for the early years to help reach 180 minutes/day of physical activity per day. We will work towards supplying physical activity at playschool, including but not limited to – outside play, circle time activities, gym time, free play time and field trips. This active play will be varying between moderate activities and energetic, progressing toward at least 60 minutes of energetic play by the time the child is done playschool and is 5 years of age.
(http://www.participaction.com, 2013). Wellness literacy is understanding the value in the wellness of your own mental, and physical state, as well as the wellness of others. Of our community members, animals, and the Earth as a whole.
What exactly is Kindergarten Readiness?
At Capilano playschool we build foundations of early learning to begin scaffolding and building stronger structures that children can become fluent at for Kindergarten and the years ahead of them. These are what I see as important pre school tools, and can offer as a Kindergarten Readiness Check List.
Families and communities are FULL of individuals that we spend hours with each day. These people help your children learn to become social beings. The more people you offer to your child in the first 5 years of their lives, the easier it will be for them to approach a new child in kindergarten on the first day. They will be able to introduce themselves to new kindergarteners and to not be afraid of the big grade threes at the park and in the fields outside at recess.
It seems simplistic enough – you go, I go. Only 12 months ago playschoolers were small toddlers who developmentally struggled with “sharing”. The “mine” phase was fun, but without experiences to practice your turn, my turn, you still struggle with it in kindergarten. During class my playschoolers take turns in circle, in the gym, and outside at the park. We begin to understand sometimes there is only one piece of material in which we need to take turns with instead, like with crayons, felts, and certain toys. It isn’t always fair, but being able to identify “fairness” and exercise patience is very important in kindergarten.
In our class, the children are given situations that help them become confident in front of an audience. Once children hit kindergarten these experiences are much more frequent. Public speaking isn’t necessarily standing in front of a crowd and reading from a script. It’s feeling confident to raise your hand and answer a question or tell your teacher about your weekend when she asks you a question in circle. In our playschool it is singing for our parents during holiday celebrations, and our favourite is show and share! During show and share children get to feel excited about sharing information about something special to them. Then the other children ask them questions, educating them about “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, “why” and “how”. When we go on field trips this learnt behaviour comes naturally when presenters ask for questions. The children quickly find questions to ask the presenter.
This seems like a simple goal, to be able to line up. In kindergarten it is so important for fire drills, to and from class and when entering field trip bus. As we grow up we understand it like second nature, at the bank, grocery store and gas station. The ability to line up helps us learn to control our impulses. It teaches us to be conscious of those around us, and cope with turn taking. It offers children a chance to leadership, and make a new friend when they are directed to hold a new little hand. Lining up helps with so many concepts that adults forget exist. To be told by an adult, and cope with not getting to stand where you want to, or be with whom you want to be is very hard. Spending time in play school practicing this make it’s much easier to be directed when you have much less time to in kindergarten.
Once I asked a kindergarten teacher “if I can help them excel in one thing, what would you like?” Her response shocked me honestly “I want them to write their names in upper and lower case…” According to most development specialists, that’s not a realistic goal for a 3 year old unless parents, and other adults in their environment, offer a lot of exposure through books, and lead by example.. This year I asked the kindergarten teacher the same question. This time I received a wonderful answer, which can help me create confident, independent children, in a developmentally appropriate way. She wanted children who could go to the washroom without support, attempt to do their own jackets up, problem solve without screaming and crying. She wanted children who had exposure to sitting in a circle for ½ hour a week, so they are ready for 5 days a week.
Every thing we do has curricular concepts to them. When you paint there is science in the texture and the colours the paints make when mixed. When you bake cookies there is math in the measurements. When children build with blocks they are exploring geometry and architecture. When they dress up in the house center they explore social studies – who plays what role?
When a child has a book read to them in circle, when they see a sign for the “house center” and when they are exploring the labels on boxes, they are being exposed to literacy. All of this scaffolding creates a confident, educated playschooler who will be capable of reading and writing when they are developmentally ready for it. At Capilano I ensure I expose children to cutting lines, running in the gym, playing in the park, holding a pencil, exploring letters and trying to write their names. All of that is kindergarten readiness.