Child development in Kindergarten
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Child development in Kindergarten

A workshop about child development in Kindergarten and learning through play saw parents play with the same resources their young children use in class. It was interesting to see that almost all developmental areas in early childhood could link to what the children show when playing.

By Elvira Oskam, Early Years coordinator

Parents of Kindergarten students were invited into school to attend a workshop led by Elvira Oskam. Not only did the parents have a chance to play themselves; they also gained a deeper understanding of play-based learning.

At ISUtrecht we believe and work from the following definition of play: Play is an activity chosen or initiated by the child without any tension or stress, to reach a personal goal. Children should be able to play  with an open mind and experiment with materials around them. This way they can learn to engage with others according to their own wishes. Children set their own rules and goals when playing, meaning these rules and goals can be changed according to the child’s perspective on the topic.”(Groot-Koerkamp & Kuyk 2002).

This definition clearly demonstrates that emotional and social development (in relation to peers and adults) comes before academics. For example, think about a day that you went to work even though you were feeling under the weather, or you had just learned about the loss of a friend. Were you able to perform and how did you feel while you were going through your day? Often people will say that they didn’t function to their full potential and that simple tasks did take more effort, often making them feel even more weary or cranky. However, when all is well in life and one feels in balance,  people generally perform well and even try to go beyond and above, feeling powerful and good in themselves while doing so.

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Children will play about what they know and experience. Parents or caregivers are the most important adults in their lives and children like to mirror them. You might recognise this when you hear your child say a certain phrase and you think: ‘He/ She sounds exactly like me or my partner’. Children naturally want to learn from their parents or caregivers and mirroring is an important part of their development.

The interactions with your child quite often form the basis of their play. For example, if you frequently engage with your child when cooking, your child is more likely to play kitchen scenarios that are ‘authentic’. If you regularly let your child help you make a shopping list, they will naturally incorporate that knowledge in their play.

As quite a few parents asked for play ideas during the workshop, Ms Oskam made this handy overview. Before you start it is important to reflect on the amount of exposure your children have on a certain topic. Before playing a kitchen scenario, think about how often your child helps you in the kitchen.  And if they do, do they for example know how you use the oven (what kind of food do you prepare in it, the functions of the oven, what the buttons and symbols mean, etc.)? Or do they help you with cutting up the ingredients beforehand (how to hold a knife, what you cut with a knife, how to work safely, the reason for cutting the pieces)? The play needs to stem from something that your child often comes in contact with for it to be authentic.

Please note that the next Early Years workshop will be held in December 2018. This workshop is meant for all parents who are new to the school.