When kids are young, they start to learn through play. That process of learning, knowing, and really experiencing what it’s like to learn new skills and learn basic concepts is the perfect way to get them familiar with the kindergarten experience.
It’s also valuable to have your child’s first experience of learning to come in a playful environment. If your child’s first experience of learning comes in a setting that’s too focused on strictly academic matters, they won’t fully comprehend the information. At a preschool with a play-based curriculum, on the other hand, they get the opportunity to have fun and learn organically as they do so.
An Example of a Play-Based Curriculum:
A child with autism brought his stuffed monkey, Curious George, to preschool. We were informed that Curious George also has autism. Curious George took his place at the table during breakfast while the children fed him pretend cereal milk and all sorts of things. Curious George was a very well-behaved monkey, and the kids all loved him.
Later in the day at circle time, the teacher had planned to talk with the children about emotions. She continued with the Curious George concept and gave each child a stuffed animal to sit with. She also had a puppet and began dialoguing with the puppet. The puppet would then teach the children what they needed to teach their animal buddy about emotions- big emotions, sad emotions, happy emotions, and excited emotions. The children were able to share with their stuffed buddy the information in their own way.
Children love having the opportunity to be the teacher. Just like adults, children learn more about what they are teaching when they are actually teaching. It was one of many magical moments during the day.
Through this exercise they learned vocabulary, oral expressions of concepts to one another, authenticity, and an opportunity to feel in control.
An Example of Play-Based Art:
In the morning, the teacher told one child that they could make bats for Halloween. That child told the other children, and before long all the children were excited about creating bats. Crayons, markers, rulers, scissors, all types and colors of paper, hole punchers, staplers, and tape were set out beautifully with easy access. 15 children worked happily and purposefully, using their imagination and creativity, for 2 hours. You might say 2 hours is way too long to spend creating one thing out of a day’s curriculum, however, it most definitely isn’t when you think about what they were learning through this play-based curriculum.
Some of the things learned through this activity were collaboration, oral communication, teamwork, sharing ideas, sharing tools, sharing space, spatial reference, hand/eye control, shapes, self-expression, and exercising writing muscles. Cognitive competencies, such as thinking, inquiring, predicting, practicing social and emotional skills, fostering self-esteem, competence, independence, and risk taking with their ideas and decisions, self-confidence, problem solving, EXUBERANT PRIDE in their own accomplishments, and so much more were also practiced. The teachers were wise in stopping the process only when the children felt complete with their projects.
These are the moments that truly make learning joyful and meaningful.
Play-based preschool programs, such as the Preschool and Child Care programs at Kids On The Move in Orem, Utah, teach children how to authentically learn, indulge their creativity and curiosity, develop their social skills, build towards kindergarten readiness in a natural and fun way, and so much more.