We have chosen a play-based curriculum for our preschool classroom programs ages 3-5 years old because we believe that it provides the most effective and most enjoyable way for your child to learn and develop to their fullest potential. There is a great deal of research in support of a play-based approach for children with and without developmental difficulties, and we would be happy to give you further readings if you are interested.
Children learn best when they are actively engaged, when they are involved in "hands-on" experiences, and when activities are pleasurable to them. From the very earliest age, children explore and learn about their world through play. Through play, nearly all aspects of development may be addressed including, language and communication skills, perceptual-fine motor skills, cognitive and problem-solving skills, social and self-help skills, and gross motor development. Your child may have special needs in specific areas of development, and they can be directly addressed through play:
Beginning cognitive skills include understanding of object permanence (that things continue to exist, even when they are out of sight), cause and effect relationships (that doing something makes something happen), and imitation. More advanced skills include categorizing (sorting), basic size and quantity concepts, matching, and sequencing. A play setting offers many varied and interesting opportunities to explore and learn these concepts.
Play is the most natural and effective setting for developing communication skills. Research has shown that play-based activities provide one of the most effective ways of providing speech and language therapy. Whether your child is just beginning to use language or using more complex word combinations, play provides rich opportunities for vocabulary expansion. A play setting provides many natural social situations that are highly motivating (for example, to say "my turn" or "I want a turn", or to join in a familiar song such as "Itsy Bitsy Spider"). These opportunities are difficult to provide in a more traditional "drill" approach to speech and language facilitation. More elaborated language skills can be acquired through pretend play (for example, carrying on a conversation, telling a story, using more complex sentences). If your child needs to practice a specific sound (for example, the /b/ sound, the speech-language pathologist can arrange the environment so as to give lots of natural practice on that sound (for example, playing with the baby, ball, or bubbles). In this way, speech and language therapy is provided throughout the class session.
Many young children need to learn important social skills such as sharing, taking turns, being part of a group activity, following a routine, and expressing their feelings appropriately (for example, saying "no" instead of hitting!). They also may need assistance in becoming independent in self-help skills such as eating, dressing, washing hands, and going to the bathroom. We incorporate these areas of development into the classroom routines in a natural and functional way. The children take part in short group activities, snack time, and cooperative play. They can practice dressing skills in the dramatic play center; hand washing and toileting are part of the daily schedule.
Manipulative materials such as peg-boards, puzzles, shape-sorters, and bead stringing provide children with practice in fine motor skills such as eye-hand coordination, visual perception, and using a more mature grasp pattern. The sensory table (filled on different days with water, sand, rice, or other sensory substances) helps children learn to tolerate different textures, practice pouring, digging, and shaking while also providing important information through touch (for example, guessing objects by feel). Gross motor skills are enhanced through movement activities during music time and outdoor play.
Thanks to quality research we've made great strides in the areas of childhood development and learning methodology. With so much knowledge at our fingertips, we don't settle for less than the best for your children. Our teachers take the latest research seriously. Our curriculum is grounded in research and recommendations from the following:
•“Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children” by The International Reading Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
•”Indicators of an Effective Curriculum” by The National Association for the Education of Young Children. (NAEYC)
•The American Academy of Pediatrics: Developmental stages for ages 18-36 months
•The work of Piaget, Erikson, Vygotsky, and Gardener.
The physical environment of the classroom has been designed around five centers to stimulate learning. These include (a) a literacy center, (b) blocks and manipulatives center, (c) dramatic play center, (d) art center, and (e) a sensory area which includes water/sand play. As apart of the initial circle, children are asked to select one of these areas for play. The purpose of these centers are explained in detail below:
The literacy area is designed to foster a love for numbers, reading, and writing, which opens the world for young children. The specific area includes a computer with various number-based and print-based software that is designed for young children as well as a selection of books. The skills learned in this area will form the foundation for successful numeracy, reading, and writing in the early school years. To further understand the importance of this Center it may be helpful to consider the five developmental stages in using books, which include book exploration, sequencing events, relating stories to the pictures, and focusing on the text. Likewise, there are predictable stages in writing and development of numeracy concepts. During the first stages the child's attempts are indistinguishable but they are meaningful to him/her and differ from drawings. In the second stage scribbles are intermingled with identifiable marks. Finally, the child's writing becomes more purposeful and organized. The computer is used to enhance many developmental tasks. These include cognitive (e.g., causality, memory, classification, number, space, seriation, and time), and perceptual-fine motor skills. All of these developmental tasks facilitate language, reading, and writing.
Blocks and manipulatives (e.g., puzzles, peg-boards, shape-sorters) play important roles in the emergence of developmental skills associated with fine-motor (e.g., eye-hand coordination, visual perception, use of a more mature grasp pattern), cognitive/problem-solving (e.g., concepts of size, shapes, numbers, order, area length), and language and social interaction. The stages of block usage include carrying blocks; piling blocks and laying blocks on the floor; connecting blocks to create structures; and making elaborate constructions.
The dramatic play area is essential in creating a language-enriched environment. Children are given the opportunity to act out scripts by role-playing and interacting with their peers. During dramatic play children develop their imaginations and sometimes act out fearful situations. There are three stages of dramatic play. Stage one consists of imitative play with concrete objects (e.g., talking on the telephone to mommy). Stage two incorporates make-believe play and is characterized by events beyond real-life happenings. The child is no longer dependent upon concrete objects. When a child becomes three or four years old, he/she enters the final stage of dramatic play, socio-dramatic play. Children will seek interactions with their peers, which requires verbal or non-verbal initiations and appropriate responses to initiations.
Teachers set up the housekeeping area with props that are an integrative part of the unit/theme and give the children different roles to play in designated scripts. Favorite scripts at CDT Kids include barbershop/hairdresser, fix-it-person, supermarket, restaurant, doctor, and post office. Teachers should be aware of the children's role-playing behavior, use of props, use of make-believe, time spent in dramatic play, interactions with other children and verbal communications.
The art created by children helps them to develop creativity, eye-hand coordination, control over small muscle movements, and an appreciation for beauty. In addition, they develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments. It also gives them the opportunity to discuss their projects with family members. The developmental sequence for drawing and painting is basically the same. Children go through the stages of disordered scribbling, controlled scribbling, naming pictures that were not planned, creating pictures that are representational. At least one art activity that is theme related is included in the daily classroom setting.
Different textures are used in the sensory/water table so that children will have the opportunity to explore the world in a safe environment. Some children are not comfortable with their bodies and the stimuli they receive from the environments. They have difficulty organizing information and appropriately acting on it. At the sensory table children learn, through the medium of sand, water, beans, Easter grass, birdseed etc., that interactions with the environment can be safe and enjoyable. One sensory item is selected for each unit planned.