For preschoolers (kids under the age of 7), play is central to learning and development, and it is their way of practicing all other areas of development. Play can be planned well for it to be educational, and there must also be a balance between child and facilitator input for it to be meaningfully engaging.
We want kids to discover why some foundational competencies matter, and how mastery can lead to joy and discovery. This sparking of intrinsic motivation is crucial for self-learning.
Attempting to foist competencies on children can backfire and lead to a fear of certain topics. Fear itself is a perfectly natural and even healthy reaction as the child anticipates a difficult time and has no idea that behind this difficult trek there are the rewards of life waiting for them. Our goal as facilitators is to highlight and celebrate these rewards first.
Here is a list of competencies we will explore. Often, a single activity will “hit” multiple notes. We attempt to introduce these through playful learning opportunities :
*An example: Literacy
To give you a sense of how we explore these, here is one example. Literacy is what we call a foundational skill, a skill that forms the basis for many activities we take up as adults. While most learning comes effortlessly to children, some domains require effort and guidance. Reading is one example. Reading in English is trickier than other languages because of the highly irregular mapping of sounds to letters. We first start with reading, exploring the joys of unfolding stories and new worlds with reading. With reading and dramatization of story-telling we explore the basics of learning to read: phonemic awareness (learning to split words into sounds and combining sounds into words), letter shapes and sounds, non-standard letter and grapheme sounds (for example, the /th/, and /ee/ sounds in three). At all times, the rewards of reading are in view. Literacy is incorporated and embedded wherever possible. In board games, where kids will learn how different cards help in different ways. In dramatic reenactments and projects where labels are created to identify objects. Reading is also widely recognized as a great way to hold a mirror to young readers' feelings and emotions. Experiencing reading and learning to read with the right material can be emotionally enriching and engaging. You might also like our primer on learning to read.