Advice for Enhancing Preschool Education Programs

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Preschool education programs are an important pillar in early childhood development. Children experience their most formative and foundational growth up until the age of 8, so it is crucial that they have great experiences both socially and academically to be able to build on in their future life. High quality early care and educational experiences can go a long way in creating the habits and attitudes they’ll need for success both in later educational years and in their life after school.

Certain practices can greatly enhance preschool education programs and early educational process for young children. Here are four of the top things to consider for enhancing a preschool education program.

1. Creating a caring community

The community in which children spend a lot of time directly affects their development. It is crucial that this atmosphere be conducive to a sense of safety and full of support for the child as he or she learns new things and develops in a number of ways. Some specifics that can foster this sense of support are low child to staff ratios, a zero tolerance policy on bullying or any sort of negativity, the encouragement of positive social interactions at all levels and safe, healthy practices across the boards. Children exposed to this sort of positive atmosphere are far more likely to succeed and thrive.

2. Curriculum that enhances development and learning

Obviously, the choice of curriculum in preschool education is the main portion of what these programs are all about. Without good, solid curriculum, there is no preschool program. Ideally, the curriculum and class choices should include a variety of elements including hands-on learning, opportunities for autonomy and choice, the promotion of collaboration between children and an emphasis on self-regulation and individualization.

Studies have shown that preschool age children experience enhanced interactions with peers while they are engaged in creative activities than when doing other less creative types of activities. Doing activities that are open-ended and experiential tends to be more beneficial than projects with a defined, expected finished product. Allowing children even a small amount of autonomy such as the ability to choose class activities and materials can affect them and their growth in a very positive way.

An ideal curriculum framework includes:

  • A way to assess and gather information about the students
  • Developmental and contextual areas that will be addressed
  • The activities and instruction that will be taught
  • Methods of progress monitoring to determine success

3. Regular assessment of each child’s learning and development

Assessing preschool children’s learning and development is crucial for determining the effectiveness of the curriculum being employed. Regular assessment of how children are experiencing their preschool education is helpful for both the students and the preschool’s structure going forward. Assessment may take the form of regular tests and/or observation of the students. In addition to various areas of aptitude, testing should also be employed for less tangible types of development such as social learning and cognitive ability. The results of these assessments will allow for even more effective education going forward.

4. Establishing relationships with families

Another powerful indicator of success at the preschool level and in later years is active family involvement in educational programs. This involvement should include active collaboration and communication between faculty and family members. Collaboration with families helps to design early experiences for preschool children that use communication strategies and a collaborative spirit. Family involvement is an enduring value that has many positive benefits for a child’s development. For example, family literacy programs can enhance a child’s ability to learn to read successfully.

To be sure, the early years of a child’s life are pivotal and foundational. It is a time when children should ideally learn specific skills that they can build on for a lifetime. These skills and experiences can help to maximize success in school, in overall mental health and in optimal social development. The programs and practices that early childhood educators implement during the preschool education can potentially impact the rest of a child’s life. Knowledge of the best practices that lead to success can help provide preschool children with a strong foundation of positive experiences to build on.

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  • Kristie Pretti-Frontczak, Ph.D., Sarah Jackson, Ph.D., Susan Korey-Hirko, M.Ed., Teresa L. Brown, M.Ed., Michelle Smith, M.Ed., "Big Ideas for Early Learning"

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