The Ideal Preschool For Your Toddler

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Preschools gives the first learning experiences to a child outside the home, where the child is guided is guided by a facilitator. It is a very important part of your child’s life as the experiences during the early childhood years creates a life long impression in your child’s mind. The preschool that ones choose should be ideal for the little one and besides that, another important ingredient for a successful start of a schooling life is the kind of facilitator entrusted to guide them.
Nowadays, there are a lot of options for preschools are available in the cities or towns with different ranges of fee. Some schools are branded and operate as a chain, while some may be opened locally and follow their own curriculum. Therefore, while looking for a preschool, the first and foremost thing to consider, is the budget. You need to shortlist a few preschools that fit into your budget before you start looking at other finer details.
Besides, children display varied personality traits. Some are introverted and some extroverted, some may be amicable while some extremely moody. There are diverse factors that shape a child while she or he grows up, like whether it is a joint family or a nuclear family, who is the caretaker of the child, whether the child gets the opportunity to mix up with other children of the locality et. al. Whatever be the factors, it is of fundamental importance to understand the characteristics of your child (the personality, temperamental dimensions) while choosing a preschool for them.
Another lookout should be your child’s learning needs, and therefore, it is of utmost necessity for you to understand the approach that the preschool follows. The approach includes the entire belief system within the school and not just the facilitator’s views. Different preschools follow different approaches. A few approaches are briefly discussed below:
The Montessori approach: (Maria Montessori) This method focuses on the individuality of each child and lets every child follow her or his own pace of learning in a nurturing environment, which she calls a prepared environment. In this setup, there is no comparison, competition, punishment, or rewards among children. This method of education is based on self-directed activity to facilitate maximum independence, hands-on learning, and collaborative play. Children are given age-appropriate activities and the teaching apparatus is styled in such a manner that the child would get to know when they make an error and may control them. A lot of value is placed on sensorial development and this system believes in learning by engaging and assessing outcomes. A Montessori classroom contains many places for children to learn and play, by themselves, in pairs, in groups. Every item in the room is within their reach for free exploration. There is no focal point in the classroom that indicates that the facilitator is not the focus of the children’s attention but they are all community together.
Play Way Approach: (Friedrich Froebel) Froebel believed that every child possessed, at birth, their full educational potential and the necessary educational environment was necessary to encourage them to realize their full potential. Play is the foundation on which all learning happens. Play way is based on the belief that children learn through active involvement in their environment. Play encourages exploration, risk-taking capacity, socializing without attaching lifelong consequences. Play allows children to explore and reflect on the issues relevant to their lives. The preschool that follows this approach involves the children in constructive play activities for learning and introducing new concepts, has a permissive school atmosphere, lays emphasis on nature, free self-expression, creativity, social interaction, and motor expression.
The Reggio Emilia Approach: (Loris Malaguzzi) The idea behind this approach is to teach children to discover themselves through symbolic ideas. These ideas are developed through various forms of arts, like painting, drama, sculpturing, etc. Basically, it is an approach based on exploration and ideation. The Reggio Emilia approach believes that every child brings with them deep curiosity and potential and this innate curiosity drives their interest to understand their world and their place within it. In this approach, the facilitator is considered a co-learner who is completely involved with the child’s learning interests and is not just an instructor. They are the researchers, documenters, and advocates of children. Collaboration and cooperation and the building of relationships among things and people are intentional in such schools. The curriculum is emergent and facilitators plan activities after observing, questioning, listening to the children’s ideas, hypotheses and theories.
The High Scope Approach: (Jean Piaget) In this approach, facilitators do not teach, but only assist children in learning. It believes that active, participatory learning through play is fundamental for a human to reach optimal potential. In other words, children make their own learning choices, organizing and evaluating their learning activities under the supervision of the facilitators. The learning environment both indoors and outdoors gives children the maximum potential to interact, work independently, make choices and decisions, and solve problems. Activities are planned on a daily basis depending on the capacity of the children and after carefully observing them. The activities include building, pretending, role play, reading, and writing, drawing and colouring, singing, counting, sorting Children are given various group activities by forming larger and smaller groups and by observing them perform, interact, socialize and learn.
The Waldorf Approach: (Rudolf Steiner) The Waldorf approach believes that merely reading and learning through rote does not help in cultivating–imagination and analytical thinking that should be encouraged in each child. The ‘circle time,’ concept plays a critical and crucial role, where children sitting together in groups are allowed to recite rhymes. Learning together is extensively used in this approach. The central focus for the Waldorf facilitator is the development of that essence in every person that is independent of external appearance, by instilling in them a sense of a global existence irrespective of the nation, country, sect, community they belong to. A Waldorff classroom designed with deliberation and internationality. They are colorful, comfortable and designed to inspire curiosity and embrace free-thinking in children. The Waldorf preschool cultivates and works in support of the preschool child’s deep, inborn natural attitude, belief, and trust in and basic reverence for the world as an interesting and good place to live in.
Multiple Intelligence Approach (Dr. Howard Gardner) This approach believes that logical-mathematical intelligence and verbal time are not the sole components of measuring intelligence and that there are six other ways of being intelligent like visual-spatial intelligence, musical intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, naturalistic intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, and intrapersonal intelligence. Schools based on this approach give importance to all kinds of intelligence, as this intelligence are not only an individual’s strength but also learning pathways.
Once you look into the approach the school follows and believe that it is appropriate for your child, the next thing you need to look for is an intrinsically secure environment. Preschools are as much about relationships as they are about learning the basics of the language or Math, and thus, should have the capacity to meet every child’s emotional needs. Flexibility of attitude within a preschool is paramount. In fact, preschoolers approach their facilitators and caretakers as they would approach their mothers so the level of emotional and behavioural guidance within the school should be high.
The operation timings of a preschool, at least during the initial days of school matter the most. Proper school timings set the routine for the entire day of your child. Preschools, unlike formal schools, should not start too early in the morning. Toddlers need some time to adjust to a routine and hence a little patience is called for. The timings of the preschool should match your work timings and your overall schedule.
Location of a preschool for your child is important too, as too much distance to and from the preschool can not only be stressful for you, but also for your little one. Choose a good preschool close by to your home.
Children should be provided with a clean and hygienic environment, well-lit classrooms, proper ventilation, clean washrooms, and pantry areas, as
Another important aspect to look into while deciding a preschool is safety within the school premises, indoor safety and the way children are dispersed from the school which forms a key point to consider while choosing a preschool. There should be CCTV cameras to keep a tap of what is going on, a security personnel assigned at the gate, the outdoor and indoor play areas safe and properly monitored, fire extinguisher and an exit plan (in case of a disaster) in place, so that the child is placed in a secured environment.
A preschool should be welcoming to the parents and guardians, as for preschoolers. As your child is very young and cannot communicate well, it is vital that the school facilitators maintain transparency and stay connected with the parents and guardians. The preschool should organize seminars, orientation programs, and involve parents in celebrations and other events organized by the school.
The kind of exposure a preschool give revolves around developing skills and personality, then pressing about academics and this is why, as parents, one should check whether the preschool that you are considering for your child possess the look and feel or not.
In a preschool, your child is in the care of a facilitator, who plays a vital role in shaping your child’s mind. There have been many cases, where inappropriate behaviour of the facilitators towards the little ones actually leaves a very negative impact in the minds of some children. Though the school’s infrastructure, facilities and ethos may match with the parent’s choice, the facilitator’s approach towards the child is extremely relevant in moulding the child’s life. Hence, it is very important to know in whose hands your child would be in these crucial years of their life. Look for the following qualities in your child’s facilitator. She should possess the habit of setting practical experience for the children, and the need to be dedicated enough to possess the love for teaching the preschoolers. She should be enthusiastic and motivated enough with a goal to make each child comfortable within the school atmosphere. A facilitator should always answer the children’s questions, listen to them, observe them, understand their curiosities, and need to be extremely patient with their inquisitive nature. A facilitator needs to be unbiased towards the students, as biasness creates a division among the children. A facilitator should be expressive, must share a good rapport with colleagues, parents, and support staff besides the children. She needs to be creative, innovative, full of energy, bubbly, cheerful, and must possess a good sense of humour. A facilitator should always be respectful towards the children, addressing them by their name and never engaging in frivolous activities like labeling, acting with the business or showing preferences. This is a very powerful relationship and works on a give-and-take basis, as a facilitator who is likeable, can have a deep positive impact on the lives of children and vice versa.
Dr. Vasavvi Acharjya
Early Childhood Educationist, Edupreneur, M.D. Inner I Foundation Pvt. Ltd. and Tender Petals, Ex-Faculty TISS Guwahati, Founder Chairperson DNA Foundation for Children and Women Welfare and Early Child Development forum, Author, Awardee.

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