Let’s face it – parents tend to worry when their kid is starting Kindergarten. They stew about how Junior will fasten his jacket, manage his backpack, open his lunch and snack containers and get along with his classmates. They worry about him doing his business on his own before the start of Kindergarten. (I know I was frustrated enough to blog about it!). They picture their little boy lost in the halls of a massive school, alone and afraid and wonder if he’ll be on the bus, as he should be, at the end of the first day of big-boy school. I’ve got news for you – all this is normal and folks in our community share these thoughts and fears with me all the time. If you’re feeling this, you’re not alone.
But recently, something new has come up in my conversations with parents of kids starting Kindergarten: emergent learning. Now the concept isn’t new, but over the past year or so I’ve seen quite a surge in folks asking me about it, concerned about what it means to their child’s learning experience. Parents have also heard that their child’s full-day Kindergarten learning will be done largely through a play-based model. Some fear it is non-academic and much unlike the rote learning that you and I enjoyed (ummm – maybe for me enjoyed is the wrong word).
So (being the resourceful sort that I am – LOL) I enlisted the insight of some of our Halton Region child care professionals and got myself a crash course in play-based/emergent learning so I could give you the straight goods. Here’s what I think you need to know:
• Emergent learning means just what it sounds like – allowing the child’s learning to emerge as they play. Kids are given the opportunity and environment to carve their own path and “go where the spirit moves them” in exploring their surroundings. Kids are more likely to be interested in learning about things they actually care about and seek out independently. Makes sense, no?
• Emergent learning is supported when teachers, early childhood educators and other adults (like us) pay attention to a child’s areas of interest, personal experience, delight, excitement and attention and use those observations to direct their play/learning. It’s as simple as creating opportunities to play games, engage in activities, read books and ask questions about the Rocky Mountains (a hearty dose of geography) when Junior reports excitedly about his summer trip to Banff.
• Play is learning – all of it. No matter what game or activity your child is engaged in at school, he is learning. Brain pathways are developing. Play is the foundation for early learning.
• Play has an academic base – seriously. Try not to sweat this one too much. Having lived the full-day JK/SK experience with my son a couple of years ago, I can tell you firsthand that I did detect the language, mathematical and science base of the “playing” he was doing and saw his understanding of countless concepts skyrocket. He was learning to learn – and I noticed.
Proudly sporting the “been there/done that” t-shirt allows me to completely annoy you all by saying, “This too shall pass” (forgive me; I know it may sound condescending.) Seriously though, enjoy the Kindergarten journey knowing that your little boo is going to be just fine. He will grow and learn, and by next summer you’ll be shocked at how much he knows. (Then he’ll suddenly seem to know too much…but that’s a blog for another day.) If the transition to school concerns you or you just want to learn about it, we have blogs and webpages to help you through. Happy first day of school!
Feeling good about play-based Kindergarten? Let us know:
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- Call the HaltonParents line for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.
About this blogger:
Paula D’Orazio RN is a public health nurse with the Early Years Health Program at the Halton Region Health Department. Wanna know more about her? Read her blogs! She’ll tell ya! (She kinda likes to talk.)