A little bit about early childhood education…and a little bit about Hand in Hand.
Early childhood education encompasses a large variety of programs. Here in Canada specifically, we have childcare centres (typically offer full time care with an education aspect), preschools (typically 2-3 hour classes up to 5 days a week), early intervention programs (activities and opportunities for children and their families with developmental delays or family issues that require additional support) and kindergarten programs.
We also have family child care- a parent, family member, nanny or a dayhome provider- often these are private or informal care arrangements- they can include aspects of education as well, and many do.
An early childhood education program is designed specifically for young children- it should also include family focused information to help provide parents and other caregivers information on children’s well being and early learning. Most programs also include a form of non- parental care.
A good education curriculum is based on developmentally appropriate practices- it can introduce academic methods, emergent literacy and numeracy. It should help develop fine and gross motor skills, with a focus on sensory learning and play-based learning. Materials that draw the children in, and encourage their use. At the core of the program, there should be values that are based on the well-being of the child- curriculum that provides stimulation and activities, positive relationships with program providers and children.
Respect for children- high quality programs honor the child- where they are. Childhood has an importance of it’s own- not just as a preparation for later years, but standing alone. The relationship between your educators, parents and children is the most important component of any quality program.
An example of a day in our program:
Children enter the classroom and are greeted enthusiastically by Miss Tammy, Mrs. D or Miss Natasha. They spend a few minutes chatting and catching up after the weekend, sharing their experiences with their teachers and each other. After reviewing the calendar, days of the week, singing a song or two, they do a few minutes of minutes of quiet mediation or yoga to set the tone for the day. They then wash their hands (safety and hygiene are very important with little ones) and begin their work cycle. One child may be reading a story to a teacher, another is adding beads together to create math equations. Another is building a tower with a friend- seeing what different combinations will do. Someone is coloring a picture and a teacher is helping them write the story that goes along with the drawing. A child is using playdough to create alphabet letters, showing their educators and their friends as they create each letter. Someone is stringing beads carefully onto a pipe cleaner to make a bracelet for their mom. One is taking our alphabet letters and practicing the sounds each letter makes. Another is carefully mixing colored water to create new colours, methodically emptying and cleaning the containers and trays with a sponge so that when they are done, it goes back to the shelves ready for the next person.
When work time is completed, everything is placed carefully back where it belongs and tables are tidied and wiped. Hands are washed again, and it’s time for snack. Snack time is a time for visiting and giggling (as well as eating!) and sometimes making up silly songs and rhymes. After snack, we gather together on the carpet to share a story, or having “sharing time” – where a student gets to show their friends something that is special to them- it can be an article from home, a poem, a song, something they have picked up in travels. A few times a week, this after snack time is spent doing gymnastics, creating art, working on languages, learning about music. After this, it’s taking off our indoor shoes, putting away our work folders and getting ready to head home.