A lot more than teaching and nurturing goes on at early learning centers. See below for six practices that you may not know about!
1. Facilitate opportunities for “constructive boredom”
In a world of overstimulation in the forms of smartphones, television, and extracurriculars, early learners are sometimes left at a loss as to what to do during unstructured and unscheduled time. In other words, has your early learner ever said to you: “I’m bored”? Through unstructured, or free choice playtime, teachers at early learning centers give opportunities for children to choose between multitudes of activities without dictating what activity they should participate in. When a student approaches a teacher and says “I’m bored,” it is an indication to the teacher that they need to further facilitate the choosing of activities with the child. Through developmental assessments, teachers have a keen understanding where the child is developmentally. Therefore, the teacher will individualize a curriculum plan for each child so the feeling of being interested and challenge surfaces rather than boredom.
2. Collaborate in the planning and layout of the learning center
Has a building with a plain, boring exterior ever surprised you with its beauty once you walked inside it? According to Vicki L. Stoecklin and Randy White of Community Playthings, early learning centers are one of the few buildings built with the interior of the building as the primary, and sometimes the only, focus (excepting the playground). Teachers and directors work with the contractor and architect to create rooms and fixtures that are safe and intellectually stimulating for early learners. Stoecklin and White give the example of creating sinks for a toddler room—sinks that are too high can be unusable, while sinks that are too low can be dangerous. It is through the collaborative working of teachers, directors, contractors, builders, and sometimes parents, that safe and creativity-promoting early learning centers can be created.
3. Utilize creative immersion in a language environment using lullabies and more
Early learning centers know that one of the most important services they can offer is introducing their early learners (infants+) to as much language as possible. They work tirelessly to surround your child with language, ranging from lullabies and simply talking with babies, to fuller conversations with older students to assist in developing their vocabularies.
4. Have a community of teachers that share practices and get to know your child
Early learning centers are tight-knit communities that work together as teachers, directors, and parents to create a healthy learning environment for each child. Early learning centers frequently hold meetings to discuss any difficulties or concerns, and work together to find solutions and create improvements.
5. Facilitate “dramatic play”
Dramatic play in early learning centers, or pretend play, is essential for early learner brain development and learning. When children imagine situations and act out roles it allows them to develop skills in math, abstract thinking, social skills, and more. Early learning educators know this, and provide the materials and situations that facilitate dramatic play in the classroom. Many teachers make unstructured time for dramatic play, provide costumes and props, and sometimes even join in!
6. Help children develop compassion and empathy for others
Over the years, early learning educators have noticed growing deficits in children’s social skills, particularly compassion and empathy. Teachers combat this by providing increased opportunities for social interactions between students. Additionally, in order to promote collaboration between early learners, teachers create unstructured academic situations (as opposed to independent and structured ones) to promote both learning and positive social skills.
Have you ever noticed your child’s early learning center doing something you didn’t expect? Let us know in the comments!