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One 'hidden' benefit of education and care at Little Tot’s is the mixing of age groups.
“Our field of early care and education is just beginning to understand the family model of child care and its emphasis on close, caring relationships. In too many centers the business and elementary-school models still dominate, with their focus on hierarchy, productivity, efficiency, and inclination to define people by their “jobs’ rather than by how they relate to others. In the business model, the director’s job is to make sure the center meets licensing regulations and is fully enrolled. She supervises staff and puts out each day’s inevitable fires. Teachers receive direction from the director and are expected to follow regulations, attend training, and perform duties assigned to them in the classroom. Parents are the consumers; their role is to pay for services provided. Children and their needs take a back seat to financial and staffing considerations. Relationships are secondary, cordial but formal. This model may be good for business, but it is inappropriate for raising young children. Research and experience show that if we want young children to thrive, they must be in places were the adults care about them and about one another.”
“High-quality family child care can teach us a great deal about care that is relationship-based. In family childcare homes, relationships tend to resemble those in an extended family. Parent-caregiver connections are broad and enduring. The children in care generally get to know the provider’s own children, her husband and other family members.”
Baker, A. & Manfredi/Petitt, L. (2004). Relationships, the Heart of Quality Care. United States: National Association for the Education of Young Children
The sense of safety and stability is consistent at Little Tot’s. Because we provide care for and educate children of all ages, children never have to experience the loss of their caregivers, environment or surroundings. They maintain the same friends and caregivers from infancy to preschool.
“Children learn in the context of important relationships. The best way to help very young children grow into curious, confident, able learners is to give them warm, consistent care so that they can form secure attachments to those who care for them”Rethinking the Brain Rima Shore
IN THE FIELD OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, IT IS WELL UNDERSTOOD THAT CARE AND EDUCATION ARE INTERTWINED AND THAT QUALITY CARE IS EDUCATION.
One very important thing families should consider when looking into care for their child, is trying to find a stable nurturing caregiver that will suit their childcare needs until their child starts elementary school. A child’s sense of comfort provides him or her the optimal opportunity for learning. Recent brain research has shown that children who receive erratic care have higher levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in their blood system. The presence of elevated levels of cortisol inhibits cognitive (thinking) abilities, and therefore drastically affects learning abilities (Building Children’s Brains, Lessen-Firestone Ph. D.). What this means in laymen’s terms is that when children are under stress, their brains do not function normally. For a child moved from place to place, they are so concerned (stressed) about the new environment, children and caregivers, that they lose any opportunity for learning that is provided to them.
Children learn best in a play-based environment. We use the High/Scope model to set up both our indoor and outdoor classrooms as active learning environments. “Active learning is defined as learning in which the child, by acting on objects and interacting with people, ideas, and events, constructs new understanding. No one else can have experiences for the child or construct knowledge for the child. Children must do this for themselves. Active learning involves; direct action on objects, reflection on actions, intrinsic motivation and invention and problem solving” (Educating Young Children, High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, Hohmann & Weikart).
Play is children’s work. Through play, children learn to socialize with others, to form relationships, develop skills of empathy, cooperation, and self-regulation. Children use play to make sense of their world. During play, children learn the functional use of many different materials, how they work and how to manipulate them. It is during this type of play that a child will work to master a new experience prior to putting it to work in real life. For example:
· learning to zip or button a baby dolls clothing
· learning to pour using rice in the sand and water table
· learning to hold a pencil while coloring
Children also learn mastery through designing play experiences that build upon current knowledge. Many preschool materials are open-ended, meaning there is no right or wrong way to play, examples would be blocks, Lego’s, housekeeping, sand and water play, playdoh etc. Through the manipulation of these items’ children can master new goals without feeling a sense of failure or frustration. Children will continue to pursue their interest in a material over and over again until it is mastered. Some items within a preschool classroom are self-correcting, such as a puzzle, game, scale etc. Through this type of play children’s cognitive (thinking) skills are developed. When play is on their own terms, children play for the fun of it, not recognizing that they are learning, only concerning themselves with the action at hand.
“Contrary to what one might expect, the benefits of rich play experiences during the preschool years are extensive and address academic goals for reading and writing, math, science, social studies, and the arts. Several decades of research show that high-quality preschool programs that aim to strengthen social and emotional skills through play have positive effects on all aspects of children’s development, including cognitive or intellectual development. What’s more, these positive effects are long lasting. Programs that overemphasize academic learning through teacher-directed instruction in preschool may produce short-term results, but they fail in the long run to improve children’s success in school and in life” (Preschool for Parents, Trister-Dodge & Bickart).
Numerous studies done over the past several years have shown that children construct their understanding of the world based on direct manipulation of objects and experiences that are provided to them. At Little Tot’s our methods are to immerse the children in an environment filled with interesting, educational and challenging materials to facilitate the quest for discovery. We then observe and interact with the children encouraging their exploration and curiosity. Through our observations of the children, we learn what things are currently making an impression on them, and we act to implement a theme or lesson surrounding their interests. It is by acting on those interests that we so easily can teach a child important life lessons and skills. When you find that ‘teachable moment’ the door is wide open for learning, and here at Little Tot’s we are ‘opening doors’ everyd
“It is the everyday relationship between the teacher-caregiver and the child –the greeting in the morning, the comments made when the child has drawn a picture, the affection and respect demonstrated – that is the single most important determinant of quality.”
(The Preschool Years, Galinsky & David)