It is very important that the children in my care learn while they are here and while at first glance it may not seem like they are learning, you can be assured that they are. Here are some examples of what your child is doing at daycare.
The children are explained what the day will like so that they can organize and process their thoughts to be emotionally prepared for the day's activities. We also talk about what they did the day before (recollection) and read a story (literacy). From the story they learn beginning, middle and end. We sing songs which exercise their memorization skills.
One of the most important things for your child to learn is the alphabet. It is a good idea for your child to know not only how to recite the alphabet but also how to recognize the individual letters. We may even attempt to recognize and learn to spell our own names! We learn new words through stories, books and songs.
Although we may not be practicing algebra in daycare we do practice learning our basic shapes and forms, counting and recognizing the numbers 1-10 and the idea of basic adding and subtracting. When we do cooking activities the children count and measure the ingredients.
Through a variety of toys the children develop their fine-motor control. We have a selection of building toys, play-dough, peg-boards, large beads to thread, stacking and nesting materials. A child needs to develop their fine-motor control to be able to properly hold a pen and pencil, cut with scissors and to write.
Puzzles require the ability to see space and envision what belongs there. They also require fin-motor control in order to place the pieces into place. He have puzzles for varied skill levels which permits children at all stages of development to experience success.
The children learn about their surroundings, the neighborhood and the world that they live in by learning about the days of the week, the months of the year, the weather, the seasons, and about different cultures. We do this through song, stories, outings, photos and sometimes videos.
The children sometimes participate in cooking activities. Sometimes it's a simple activity like preparing a snack and other times they help make home-made play-dough. Through cooking they learn about cause and effect. When you add cake ingredients together it becomes liquid batter, in the oven it turns into a solid cake etc. Cooking also refines small-motor skills as a child stirs and adds ingredients.
Even snacks and meals are an opportunity for kids to learn communication and social skills while fueling their bodies. They try new healthy foods, help set the table, learn one-on-one correspondence, sorting and counting skills. They may pour their drink which requires small motor control and let's not forget the clean-up process which gives them a sense of competency "I did it"!!.
We call our dramatic play area the "Imagination Station". Playing make-believe and pretending lets a child bring the complicated grown up world down to size and helps children concentrate, be attentive, be flexible, learn empathy and to use self-control. The Imagination Station also promotes language development, fine-motor skills, coordination and self esteem.
Art teaches children that creativity is limited only by their imagination. Manipulating materials reinforces and expands information that a child has learned. A child that makes leaf-rubbings picks out a dry leaf but it crumbles and learns about life cycles and through trial and error finds that green leaves hold up better. They also learn pre-math and pre-reading skills such as sorting, classification, color, shape and size. They practice fine motor skills such as using scissors, coloring with crayons and markers, painting with a brush, manipulating clay etc. As they master these skills children learn to cut with a knife, button their own shirt and print their names. Art also builds confidence. The finished product on display validates a child's sense of worth. It's an opportunity to say "I can do it!"
In our opinion, the blocks and block-play are single-handedly the most important toy and part of our day. A child foster's a feeling of self-esteem and confidence from building and refines their small-motor skills. They learn about science, math, art, social studies and language concepts. Don't believe us? Just think about it. While playing with blocks a child learns about gravity (when a tower topples), stability, weight and balance (as they figure out how to keep a structure from falling), systems, inductive thinking, discovery, properties of matter, interaction representation, shape recognition, size, language (as they talk among themselves), cooperation, respect (for the work of others), autonomy and initiative ... all from just playing with blocks. Impressive isn't it?
Children enjoy playing with sand so much that play with the sand in the sandbox every day. In addition to the sandbox we have a water table which we fill with clear or colored water and a variety of containers, droppers, sifters, sinking & floating toys etc.. We even sometimes fill it with sand, water, popcorn kernels, beans, rice, grits and other materials and the children then enjoy measuring, sifting, and pouring the media from one container to another. Children explore and begin to learn about fractions (2 scoops of 1/2 a cup = 1 cup), hand-eye coordination (from pouring), cause and effect (if I add water to the sand it I can shape the sand) and develop their fine-motor skills.
We enjoy our outdoor play time and we can bet our last dollar that it's one of the children's favorite part of the day (next to art and mealtimes of course). Outdoor play promotes gross motor (large muscle) skills. Because it is so important we take regular walks and outings and will take multiple trips to the park each week. This allows the children to stretch and exercise their bodies as they walk, run, slide, swing, climb, jump, hop, and dig while they create dozens of scenarios during play. Did you know that the cross lateral movement (right arm/left leg and vise versa) is important to a child's later reading and writing success!
Everyone enjoys music, especially the kids. We recite familiar songs and rhymes, learn new ones and make up our own. From this children learn freedom of expression. Music also helps children connect the outer world of movement and sound with the inner world of feelings and observations. Children learn music by listening and imitating and with the use of a variety of instruments (both home-made and store-bought) they learn the differences between fast and slow, loud and soft, one at a time and together. When they try new instruments, they may notice it changes the music.
Young children don't know yet that cleaning up is a chore, to them it's another opportunity for fun. At daycare the children help do many things. They put away toys, gather and/or fold their blankets, wipe spills, throw their trash away, put their dishes into the sink and sometimes they even help load the dishwasher. Not only do they learn responsibility and accountability but also sorting, classification, one-to-one correspondence, matching and organization which are all important skills but they also learn to take pride in their environment and how to care of the toys and equipment.
Here at daycare even bumps and bruises are important educational experiences. Bumps and bruises are one of life's most powerful learning tools. They are the basics of the law of natural consequences. Of course we at the daycare try to prevent serious injuries with supervision and by providing a safe environment and we help children to try to avoid an injury but no matter what we do, how hard we try or how vigilant we are, minor injuries are an inevitable part of life and remember ... every "owie" we avoid today is really just an "owie" we have pushed off into the future and postponed. Every bump, scratch and bruise is itself a cause and effect learning experience that teaches children how to avoid future injuries themselves!
Learning to fall, getting up again, and moving on, is the best preparation for life
Magda Gerber - Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE)