To the naked eye, the assumption can easily be made that children aged three to five are simply ‘playing’ and no-matter the experience, be it at home, kindergarten or school, a simple toy or activity will achieve the same opportunities and outcomes.
The term ‘playing’ can be dismissed without consideration for the fundamental learning opportunities happening within a young mind during this time.
Given the right environment, climate and level of engagement, these early learning experiences can be crucial in positively starting a child’s interest and engagement in language, learning and investigating and provide the fundamental foundations from which all future learning and education will develop.
The finely-tuned intricate workings of an early years setting in school, therefore, come as quite a shock to those not immersed in its rationale and pedagogy; even more so to a parent who is walking for the first time into this web of decision making about which setting will be best for their own child.
Increasing research, building on the child development theories by John Bowlby, BF Skinner and Jean Piaget and Albert Bandura, continues to show that children’s early learning experiences at this age directly link to their successes much later in life.
This research has meant that over time, significant emphasis has been placed on the importance of learning, progress and development of children between the ages of three and five and that parents are now more than ever paying careful attention to their child’s education at this stage.
For a parent, this can feel as if a tsunami is on the horizon. That each decision they may make, could in some way harm or deprive their child.
That before they have embarked on their child’s educational journey, they may have messed it up.
This feeling is completely understandable and can often be capitalised on by early years’ providers using it as a marketing tool. This is simply not the case. I do however agree that it can feel overwhelming.
As parents, you are the experts about your child. You know them best and you are best-placed to take the information from the early years foundation stage settings around you and make informed decisions about your child’s first steps into education. You are in the driving seat and in control.
The early years foundation stage sets the standards that all quality early years providers should meet to ensure children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe.
It promotes teaching and learning to ensure children are ‘school ready’ at the end of their time together and gives children the broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the right foundation for future progress through school and life.
The early years foundation stage is based on four important principles that should shape practice in early years settings.
1. Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.
2. Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships.
3. Children learn well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents or carers.
4. That children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates.
When considering what is best for your child, you should take these statements and your valuable knowledge about your child and begin thinking about what sort of setting will be best for them in the crucial coming months and years as they embark on their educational journey.
This is your decision and no one else’s! Take your time, ask questions, read and learn!
There is no rush; focus on what feels right for you and your child.