You may be getting ready to send your sweet, little child to preschool. You have visions of what your ideal preschool looks like–easels, dollhouse, a rack of dress up clothes, kids digging in a sandbox.
Unfortunately this ideal is fading fast from the preschool world. In its place, we have a shocking growth of academic-based preschools that have one goal in mind: preparing our kids for school in a way that’s not developmentally appropriate for these young minds and bodies.
Hi, I’m Erica, full-time preschool director/teacher for 4 years + counting, part-time preschool teacher for 2 years, board member for the SW Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children, and early childhood advocate. Trust me when I say that not all preschools are created equal.
I’m here to tell you what preschool should not be.
What Preschool Should Not Be & What They Should Be Instead:
If you are a parent of a preschooler, and are currently searching for a preschool, I want to help you make the search a little easier. There are some key things to look for when touring preschools. But let’s focus on the big things right now, the objective of preschool.
If one of your big goals is to prepare your child for elementary school, then an academic preschool will suit you just fine. But, if your goal is to develop your whole child (meaning social, emotional, cognitive, and physical), then today’s academic preschools will leave you with much disappointment.
Play-based preschools are becoming a thing of the past, and many preschool teachers are crushed by this. There are many professionals in the field of early childhood education that understand the benefits of a play-based learning environment for preschoolers. It’s crucial, actually.
What Preschools Should Not Be:
If you walk into a preschool and see any of the following, please re-consider that choice.
- Children being forced to memorize facts by rote memorization
- Children sitting in desks all day
- Long circle times
- Paper to pencil tasks (especially worksheets!)
- A teacher-directed lesson–I’m not talking about a teacher-guided experiment or a teacher helping the children along with a hands on lesson, what’s being referred to here is a teacher handing down facts or lessons to the children and the children just expected to listen.
- Assessments in any way that requires a child to show what they know via paper or computer-I’m not insinuating that teachers shouldn’t be assessing the children, of course they should! But, the children shouldn’t know about it. The assessing should be done using anecdotal notes that the teacher observes from the child during play.
- Escalated curriculum
- Lack of excitement from the children–they should WANT to be at school. This doesn’t refer to those kiddos who struggle with separation anxiety.
What Preschools SHOULD Be:
- A place for kids to be kids
- A play-based learning environment
- Full of hands-on learning
- A sensory experience
- Full of open space for children to move around
- Real-world experiences, aka: a home living center, a pizza shop, baby dolls to be cared for
- A room that encourages self-sufficiency
- The freedom to experiment, observe, and showcase creativity
- Child-led with guidance from teacher
- Print-rich: books and labels everywhere
- Developmentally appropriate curriculum
- Full of laughing, carefree children
Wanting the best for your child should by all means include wanting them to know their alphabet, how to spell their name, how to count, but let’s not get lost in the academics for three, four, or even five year olds. There’s enough of that once they get to Kindergarten. It’s not a race to see how fast children can learn or who can learn more. Early childhood education is about developing the whole child-mind, body, and spirit.
Let’s get back to what preschool is all about. I hope this helps you find a quality preschool that embraces what early childhood education should be.