Will play-based Kindergarten really prepare my child for grade 1?

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.Little Boy Going To School Wearing Backpack

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.

Group of Elementary Pupils In ClassroomProudly 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:

  • Leave us a comment below
  • Tweet with us @haltonparents
  • Email us at haltonparents@halton.ca
  • 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.)


This entry was posted in Children & Tweens, Emotional Well-Being & Mental Health for Your Child/Tween, Parenting, Parenting Your Child/Tween, Play, Growth & Development, Preparing for Kindergarten, Toddlers & Preschoolers and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Will play-based Kindergarten really prepare my child for grade 1?

  1. Crunchymum says:

    I totally agree that they learn through play! My 3yo son has learned shapes, colours and a bunch of letters and numbers. We didn’t teach him, he just picked all this up on his own. He just started preschool but learned all this prior.

  2. Pingback: Top 3 “Big Kid Skills” to learn before Kindergarten | HaltonParents

  3. Amber White says:

    My concern is not with the play based system, its with the transition from that play based curriculum to first grade where they are expected to then handle structured times, activities and schedules without the freedom and independence in their learning/activities they have become accustomed to. How do you transition them in a positive way so as not to develop negative associations with school and learning in the primary grades where it’s so important for them to develop a love for learning?

    • Karen Hay, RN says:

      Dear Amber,

      That is a great question! You are right, the transition from kindergarten to grade one is very important. For some students, the transition from kindergarten to grade one is just as big as the transition to kindergarten. It may take students a few weeks to get used to the new structure. While the teaching and learning is more formal than in kindergarten, children still play and spend time learning social skills like they do in kindergarten. The support of parents and the school are key ingredients to making this a positive transition.

      There are many things you can do as a parent to help your child start grade one confidently. Here is a great resource I found that you might like: http://ow.ly/XWnzv

      In addition to your support at home, many schools have transition plans in place to support children at this time. I would encourage you to speak with your child’s kindergarten teacher or school administration to ask specifically about the plans to help prepare children for the changes in grade one. Here is a helpful resource from People for Education that has some great tips for starting school and communicating with the school. http://ow.ly/XWpIZ

      Thanks for your question Amber!


  4. Colin f says:

    I read this and I’m at a loss for words… Lol… your story starts by playing on people’s fears. If your child never feels lost in the hall or never gets on the wrong bus how will they learn???
    These mistakes are essential for growth. Fear is an important aspect of life… the faster we learn it the better… I run a small biz and for the past 7 years I have took part in the co-op education program by providing opportunities for students to gain experience… the parents who try to make a life that is void of mistakes and fear are the ones who’s kids have no clue how to survive in the real world… Lol… please don’t try to control a childs environment to the point they never experiance the real world.

  5. Nice post and good comments. The concept of kinder garden is to prepare your child for future education. So it is important that parents and children’s both should take part in it and enjoy it.

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