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TODDLER AND PRESCHOOL PROGRAM
Young children’s play has many benefits for the total development of children. Play is a fun way for a child to learn, to express him/her self, to build friendships, to problem solve and make decisions and to be independent in a safe and nurturing environment. It is through play that a child is able to be creative and imaginative, and also is developing new skills and concepts in the following areas:
Self-Esteem and Independence
Playing invites children to express their own ideas and thoughts while they are exploring and mastering new materials. Children like to be involved with different activities throughout the day; specifically those that have free choice and are separate from ”teacher directed” activities. These choices offer the opportunities for children to take initiative in their own learning and foster intrinsic motivation, which their own desire to be involved in an activity because they enjoy. Learning becomes fun!
Interaction and Cooperation
Children like to play with others or by themselves. Often children will be playing alone but beside or parallel to another child who is very involved in his/her own activity. Interactions among children begin with conversation, some sharing of materials and similar actions without a common goal; each child working on his/her project. As children develop, mature and continue to interact, these interactions will begin to be more cooperative and children will begin to play in small groups of 3-5 working together towards a common goal. Building a castle or house with blocks, cooking in the play area, playing a game on the play yard are just a few of the activities that they will do together in small groups or with another child. The more the children play together, the more they will learn to verbalize and talk about differences, beginning to demonstrate caring and empathy for the other children as well as developing the fundamental basics of conflict resolution skills.
As children interact with others during play, they learn to use language in new ways to describe their play, to negotiate sharing. They learn to “use their words” when minor conflicts arise with other children. Their vocabulary increases as new words are used for new items, activities and subject that are being introduced to the center (i.e. what are vitamins, what vitamins do we find in broccoli, apples.)
Discovery and Exploration
Children’s indoor and outdoor play allows for many opportunities to explore and see how things work in the world. Sand, water, light, dirt, blocks all enhance a child’s understanding of physical realities of common materials. Providing children different experiences by altering the materials further promotes this understanding of physical properties.
Children are given opportunities to develop large and small muscle skills such as; throwing balls, running, climbing, learning to jump, walking on a balance beam, holding a paint brush, pouring water from a cup pitcher to a cup and stringing beads.
Dress-up play, dancing, singing are ways that children express themselves in play. Painting, drawing and working with play dough are other ways through play that children express themselves. Music and movement opportunities offer children a variety of means to express themselves, as do art activities.
Children moving from the toddler room to the preschool do so when they are ready for a more stimulating program and are comfortable doing so. Older toddlers generally have lunch with the pre-schoolers and will play with them at the end of the day prior to moving to the preschool room. Children do not have to be toilet trained to be a preschooler.
The preschool years are a time of experiential learning with great creativity and social growth. Children at this age are very curious and are like sponges, absorbing knowledge and information. It is at this time that children begin to develop cognitive skills and concepts through activities involving letters, numbers, shapes, colors and using our computers. Songs, stories, art activities and special events all contribute to the children’s growth of knowledge and information about themselves and the world.
The preschoolers are divided into two groups, the younger preschoolers and the older preschoolers. The older preschoolers work on developing concepts and skills that will help prepare them for future academic and social challenges in the near future such as kindergarten.