Children in this age group need large blocks of time for uninterrupted free play, and many open-ended activities such as blocks, Legos and other forms of construction; dramatic play, and a variety of sensory and art activities. They need open-ended questions and plenty of time to answer. These activities support children’s cognitive development because they ask them to think. Instead of putting children in the position of being right or wrong, they put them in the position of inquiry, of finding what the possibilities are. They also need plenty of real world experiences to build the foundation for later construction of knowledge. It has been shown that the more children have exposure to a variety of different real world experiences, the more easily they learn to read later.
Unfortunately the trend in America’s schools is to force the elementary educational model onto younger and younger children. There are kindergarten programs that are forsaking playground and recess times to spend more time drilling children on the alphabet. This is happening despite the research showing that this unequivocally does not improve later school performance. It is important that we are advocates for children and educate others about the importance of play in healthy development.
At Suzie’s Angels Child Care in Irvine we plan activities that encourage cooperation, experimentation, and communication among children. We do not force children to operate as a large group for long periods of time. Instead we encourage children to let their curiosity and initiative drive them to make choices from a variety of classroom activities. Our teachers act as guides for these explorations, and investigators alongside the children. Our emergent curriculum and extensive projects speak to the children’s individual interests and allow learning within a meaningful context. The children in our centers learn to negotiate, solve problems, and construct their own code of ethics; thereby learning true compassion and developing intrinsically motivated empathy and social skills.