There are numerous preschools in Singapore and many offer different learning curriculums. As a parent, one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is which preschool to send your child to because you not only want to give the best education to them but also ensure that they can adapt and grow well with the preschool learning curriculum.
Preschools are classified under the pre primary category, which aims to prepare children for kindergarten and school readiness. They also emphasise the importance of play, exploration, and hands-on learning. Their activities include dance, art, music, physical exercise and dramatic play.
Preschool learning is important for children as research has shown that students can reap benefits that last through their lifetimes. The study includes analyses of rigorous evaluations of 21 extensive public preschool programs, which demonstrate that children who attend preschool programmes are significantly better off academically than those who don’t go to preschool.
Early childhood is a crucial period when a child’s environment and genes have a significant impact on their brain development. Additionally, it also affects other aspects of their development. Therefore preschool learning is critical as it sets the child up for success in the later stages of their lives.
Depending on the child’s interests and personality, it is also important to take these into consideration when choosing the right preschool curriculum. In this article, we will talk about the advantages of preschool learning and the key principles of different curriculums so you know what is the best choice for your child.
3 Significant Advantages Of Preschool Learning
1. Active Brain Development
As mentioned earlier, a child’s genes and environment have an impact on their brain development. More than a million new brain connections are made every second throughout the first few years of life, so infants are born prepared to learn.
Prior to the development of early language abilities and higher cognitive functions, vision and hearing pathways are established. Between the ages of two and four, a child’s vocabulary frequently quadruples. As the child ages, these connections become more intricate and impact early brain development to produce positive learning behaviours.
According to a study by Duncan, G on “School readiness and later achievement”, children who take part in high-quality preschool programmes are more likely to enter school with the social, cognitive, and emotional abilities they need to support them in continuing their education.
These benefits go much beyond primary school. Moderate levels of engagement in high-quality early childhood education have all been associated with higher levels of academic performance, employment success, and social skills.
2. Learn New Routines
Your child can learn to adjust to a new routine outside the house by going to preschool. Routines can aid in a child’s emotional and cognitive growth, and knowing what to anticipate makes them feel safe and at ease.
Routines can also help children control their expectations of their surroundings and lower uncontrollable behaviours like tantrums. Early childhood teachers and educators will take into account a mix of active/ passive, indoor/ outdoor, and child-directed/ adult-directed activities while creating daily routines in preschool.
Moreover, schedules are created based on the children’s ages to allow for nap time, take any special needs or medical conditions into consideration, accommodate their attention spans and other requirements associated with their age.
3. Foster Independence
When children start preschool, it is the beginning of their first prolonged absence from their families. Being in a new setting can help children develop their confidence and find their individuality.
Between the ages of three and five, children learn important self-regulation abilities as part of their growing independence. These abilities could include paying attention, sharing and taking turns. Toddlers may demonstrate self-control, for instance, by waiting to play with a toy or by paying attention to someone speaking to them.
Children’s confidence and independence, as well as their ability to understand their identity and create connections, depend on their self control. Thus parents, caregivers, and early childhood educators serve as Important role models for healthy self-regulation.
Key Principles Of Popular Preschool Learning Curriculums In Singapore
Respect for the child
The essential tenet of the entire Montessori approach, respect for children is demonstrated by refraining from breaking up their focus. Giving students the freedom to make decisions, complete tasks by themselves, and letting them learn independently is another way to demonstrate respect. Teachers must be role models of respect to all students, learn to observe without judgement as well as implement peaceful conflict resolution.
The absorbent mind
Imitation plays a major role in early childhood so children are constantly learning from the environment around them. They constantly absorb information through their senses and thus they try to derive logic as they are thinking beings.
In Montessori pedagogy, children are more prepared to master specific abilities at certain times. They are referred to as sensitive periods, and they only persist for as long as the child needs to learn the skills. The order and timing of sensitive periods is different for each child. Eg. A sensitive period for writing. Montessori teachers must spot their students’ sensitive periods and give them the resources they need to thrive during these times through observation.
The prepared environment
The Montessori approach suggests children learn best in an environment that has been set up so they can take care of themselves. The learning environment should always be child-centred and support the children’s freedom to investigate any resources they choose. Instructors should set up the learning environment by providing children with experiences and materials in a systematic and independent manner.
One of the Montessori method’s core principles is believing that children can educate themselves. For children to educate themselves, Montessori teachers provide the environment, inspiration, direction, and motivation.
2. NEL (Nurturing Early Learners) Framework
Refreshing beliefs about who children are and their overall being
Children are joyful learners who have a natural desire to understand the world via play, exploration, and discovery. They don’t just watch the world and ignore the difficulties they face. Instead, they have an innate curiosity about the world.
As social beings, children seek to form positive and meaningful relationships with others. Opportunities should be provided for them to play, learn, and grow alongside others as Singapore is made up of diverse groups and people with different backgrounds, needs, and interests. They learn to take into account the needs of those around them and how to be other-centric by engaging with others in a kind and caring manner.
Warm and responsive interactions between children and educators
For learning to occur, it is essential to develop positive learning behaviours and attitudes since “the acquisition of knowledge and abilities alone does not guarantee that they will be used and implemented” (Katz, 1993, pg. 17).
Children with positive learning dispositions are receptive to learning from others and are motivated to keep learning and exploring, applying what they have learned to various settings, regardless of hurdles or difficulties.
These children will be well-positioned in becoming lifelong learners, and they will flourish in a fast changing world. The following learning dispositions could be encouraged by teachers in order to help students develop the behaviours and attitudes that encourage a love of lifelong learning (PRAISE) – perseverance, reflectiveness, appreciation, inventiveness, sense of wonder and curiosity as well as engagement.
Active engagement with families and other educators
To assimilate social norms and culture, relationship management enables children to establish and maintain healthy relationships with others. Through practising perspective-taking and comprehending the effects and results of their actions on others, they also develop empathy.
Children’s learning is enriched and overall holistic development is supported by learning how to interact and create relationships with family, friends, and important adults in their lives. Children who are engaged help them to stay focussed, be genuinely interested in what they are learning, and take an active role in it. They are inspired to study, pay attention, and enjoy their learning. They take ownership and do their best.
3. Reggio Emilia
The Reggio Emilia approach is about children being able to learn for themselves through their inherent curiosity and creativity. What they are and develop an interest in plays a significant role in their own learning.
Teachers and parents are co-learners
Instructors and parents collaborate and support the children’s learning instead of leading the learning process. They are encouraged to share their expertise and provide assistance under the Reggio Emilia approach. Most importantly, teachers and parents listen, monitor, document, and support children in whatever activities they are interested in.
Classroom environment is the third teacher
A child’s environment serves as a wonderful medium for enhancing their learning. Therefore the Reggio Emilia approach demands an open, cosy, and welcoming classroom. Thus children must have access to a variety of learning resources in the classroom.
Such a classroom design also promotes peer interaction and mobility as this principle places an emphasis on group and peer communication. Children are frequently involved in small and big projects.
Learning process is documented
The Reggio Emilia approach emphasises a child’s own learning, hence meticulous documentation of the child’s academic development is essential. Such documentation must be done in a visual manner.
Teachers take photographs and save student work (such as drawings, crafts, works of art, or “transcripts of children’s thoughts”) to display in the classroom. Children, instructors, and parents are able to keep track of how each child is progressing in their individual learning.
Teachers focus on multiple learning methods
According to the Reggio Emilia approach in early childhood education, children have “an unlimited number” of methods to learn. Thus a variety of tools, methods, instruments, activities, concepts, and other resources are used. All these educational resources are made available to children based on their ongoing interests. It adopts a very practical approach to discovering and learning.
4. Play Based
Play as a core learning resource
People are engaged and challenged when they play, mental states that are conducive for learning. Through play, children and adults experiment with ideas, test theories, try out symbol systems, explore social relationships, take risks, and reimagine the world.
They expand their sense of agency, empathy, and creativity. They also learn to manage uncertainty. This reveals a variety of emotional, social, and cognitive features that can significantly aid learning.
Play with a purpose
Children go to school to acquire the necessary abilities, information, and character traits required to be contributing members of their communities. A play-based pedagogy in schools involves play with a purpose, bringing together educators’ learning objectives and students’ natural ways of learning via play.
The play-based approach emphasises on play without adult supervision. Curriculum objectives, topics, and activities are placed in a larger context of assisting learners in understanding, exploring, and shaping their world through playful learning.
Play in a safe environment
Play is timeless and children forget themselves when they are playing. On the other hand, preschool has a schedule. Play can be disorderly, untidy, and noisy; schools aim to be fun and orderly environments. While adults typically set the agenda at preschool, children are in charge when they are playing.
When children take risks while playing, schools prioritise student safety. The play-based approach encourages children to experiment and explore without getting hurt. Thus, it is crucial to foster a culture of playful learning through inquiry-based teaching.
Playfulness as the primary ingredient
Students and teachers that use the play-based approach involve learning with a playful mindset. Adopting a pedagogy of play is more than just adding a game or activity to a lesson. It also entails triggering mindsets in which students and teachers see experiences as opportunities to be creative, imaginative, and curious and to take pleasure in exploring the “what if…?” area of learning and play.
Playfulness flourishes in supportive school cultures
Play-based learning flourishes in preschools where teachers and children feel supported. While it is possible to make small changes to encourage more playful learning in the classroom, lasting transformation requires creating a culture of trust between students and teachers.
A culture of playful learning for adults is necessary to nurture a culture of playful learning for children. Teachers are encouraged to experiment, take chances, and make changes to their methods. Hence teachers adopt a playful approach to their work and conduct ethical experimentation.
Tots & Teddies
Tots & Teddies is a multi-award winning, immersive-bilingual, full-day infant care and preschool centre in Singapore. We cater to discerning parents who want the best quality care for their infants from 2 months through to kids under 7 years old.
We’ve carefully crafted a well-balanced curriculum – a hybrid of strengths from the various mentioned curriculums. We adopt a thematic, inquiry-based approach through purposeful play, with the last term specially devoted to projects.
Children construct knowledge through hands-on activities while concepts are reinforced through learning centres, rhymes, songs and field trips. Numeracy and phonics are introduced from Nursery onwards.
We believe that strong, nurturing, secure and positive relationships help to enhance learning. Our classroom environments are designed to encourage fun, spark and curiosity, invite exploration, manipulation as well as a sense of discovery in a safe space.
We also weave arts and crafts and storytelling in our classes. Moreover, we engage quality external specialists for weekly enrichment activities at no extra charge. They include bi-weekly excursions to the children’s playground at Gardens by the Bay, indoor gym sessions, speech and drama, coding classes that introduce logical thinking in a fun way (for pre-school K1s and K2s) as well as Chinese wushu classes.
Additionally, children can try their hand at making pizza and cookies with our in-house professional chef, amongst many other fun and enriching activities between terms. Infants are included in the fun too. This is to ensure the overall holistic development of the child including their cognitive, socio-emotional, motor, literacy and maths skills.
We partner closely with parents in a collaborative manner to further enhance the children’s learning. Besides engaging them to participate in our classroom and school activities, we also document the children’s learning with photos regularly and update parents on a daily basis via our digital app, phone calls and email.
Weekly summaries are also provided with the types of classes that will be taught each week. Termly reports are given with a development checklist of progress that is personalised for each child. We also hold half-yearly parents-teachers meetings and at our year-end open house.
In summary, it is important to find a preschool that aligns with your educational beliefs, your child’s interests and consideration of their future development. It must be a nurturing environment that provides fun and explorative learning through various activities and resources.
When children are raised in a nurturing environment with parents’ active participation, they develop better cognitive, socio-emotional, motor and communication skills which sets them up for success in the later stages of their life. .