Resources‎ > ‎

What is my child learning?

What is my child actually learning in preschool? It looks like all you do is play. 

            I get this a lot. A LOT. The short answer is, yes, we are playing. And yes, your child is learning. The long answer is, well, considerably longer. How much time have you got?
            Nature and Nurture is a developmental or play based preschool. We feel that children learn best through play, through actively exploring their environment and through actively manipulating materials. We carefully set up the environment (i.e. the classroom) to provide a variety of activities that children can engage in. A cozy corner with books, pillows, and stuffed animals encourages children to enjoy reading. A dramatic play area with a play kitchen, dishes and food, and dress ups encourages children to use their imagination and engage in pretend play. A block area (and train area as it happens) encourages children to think about spatial alignment and physics, such as gravity. Math and science toys encourage hands on exploration of concepts like weight, patterns, measurements, and quantity. Fine motor toys such as lacing beads and puzzles encourage children to improve their dexterity. A drawing table encourages creativity as well as fine motor skills. A sensory table allows children to experiment with different sensations. Children are very tactile and learn a lot about how materials behave by feeling them. A sensory table provides both sensory input and a chance to get messy. Playdough, shaving cream, dried beans, fabric scraps, etc are all engaging sensory materials. A one person table provides a safe, quiet place for a child who is feeling overwhelmed or just wants some space.
            The next component of a developmental preschool is how teachers interact with children. We get down on their level to talk to them. We avoid interrupting their play unless they are doing something potentially problematic. We encourage them to be active participants in their environment. We respect possession and ownership. We respect a child’s use of materials and we do not arbitrarily end their turn with an item. We encourage children to find their own solutions to problems and are there to provide options and oversight.
            The final component of a developmental preschool is the curriculum. It may appear that we are randomly moving through a series of art projects, books, and songs but that isn’t the case. A great deal of thought goes in to providing a variety of activities to meet children at their developmental level, to use children’s interests to drive learning, and to provide challenges and opportunities to grow. We don’t just offer finger-painting and gluing. We offer art projects that encompass a variety of materials and techniques. We don’t just sing songs at circle time. We sing songs that relate to the books we read, the activities we do, or the world around us. We sing songs that use a variety of rhythm schemes and some that incorporate sign language or body movement. We don’t just play a game at circle. We do a science experiment or a math project that we chart out. We learn about patterns, quantity, cause and effect, and problem solving. We don’t just eat snack. We eat a variety of all natural foods. We talk about nutrition and balance. We show the children how to wash produce or how to mix ingredients for salad dressing. We expose the children to new flavors to expand their palette.
            So what IS your child learning at preschool? Your child is learning that he is valued and respected. Your child is learning how to help her friends. Your child is learning how to share, how to navigate social cues, how to be an active participant in a community. And somewhere in there, your child is learning the academic skills necessary for kindergarten.