What better way to learn than through play and that’s exactly what your kid does when they go to preschool. During their first 6 years, a child’s learning is all about developing skills as they play and use their whole body and engage their senses. The best preschools are those that ensure that your child receives a holistic education through a combination of free play and adult-guided play.
Preschoolers spend all their time just playing but they learn everything while playing. The early years of a child are the most crucial and what kids learn in preschool contribute greatly to their overall development. A good preschool ensures that there are certain skills and abilities that are instilled in children using different creative and fun methods.
Gross Motor Skills
Physical development depends on the development of the large muscles of the body and gross motor skills like throwing and catching balls, climbing and hanging, skipping, hopping, singing action songs, running and chasing to name a few. Preschoolers move non-stop and is the most important skill to develop in the early years as all other learning depends on it. Movement helps in the development of hand-eye coordination, agility and core strength. They also develop balance and body awareness. Movement boosts learning and concentration, increases the oxygen supply to the brain and stimulates both sides of the brain. The development of fine motor skills is dependent on the development of the gross motor skills.
Fine Motor Skills
Creative arts and play in the preschool help in enhancing fine motor skills. Activities like drawing, cutting, pasting, painting, playing with playdough and puzzles and constructing with building blocks or cardboard help in the development of fine motor skills. Hopping, skipping, throwing and catching a ball also strengthen fine motor skills. The ability to hold a pencil and form letters is possible because of the development of fine motor skills.
Early Mathematical Concepts
Preschool is where children learn the first basics of mathematics. They learn rote counting, usually from 1 to 20, sorting, classifying, shapes, weight, capacity,length. Temperature, area, time and space. There is no formal training, they learn it through fun and play and hands-on activities like baking, playing with water, playing in the sand pit, building with blocks and even when they are tidying up.
Problem Solving and Critical Thinking
Problem-solving and thinking skills is something they begin to develop in preschool and this greatly helps them with mathematical problem solving when they start regular school. These skills are learnt through board games, solving puzzles, building blocks, resolving problems while playing and asking open ended questions during story time.
Language and Vocabulary
A child’s language expands in leaps and bounds as preschool children learn things by imitation. In preschool they begin learning sentence construction, correct grammar and tenses and the meaning of words. This happens during circle time discussions, singing nursery rhymes and songs, listening and telling stories, playing games alone or with friends and is imperative for their cognitive development.
Pre-writing skills have to be learnt through art and play activities before a child can start to write. The 4 pre-writing skills that a child will learn in preschool are pencil grip, crossing the midline, learning about letters and their formation through play and learning to form patterns which are the shapes found in letters.
Listening is often not given the importance it deserves but should be focused on in preschools. Children learn listening skills by listening to stories, following instructions, music activities and class discussions.
Music in preschool learning is not just about teaching musical skills to kids, it also develops vocabulary, auditory perception, concentration and understanding of rhyme and sounds. Action rhymes enhance gross motor skills, finger plays develop fine motor skills, counting rhymes develop mathematical skills and games like musical chairs boost decision-making skills.
Visual Perceptual Skills
Reading skills in children come through visual and auditory perception and visual perception in preschool comes through activities that teach about colours and shapes, puzzles, patterning activities, memory games and card games.
Auditory Perceptual Skills
When auditory perception is developed, the brain is able to make sense of what we hear. This is essential for children to learn sounds for reading. Auditory perception is developed in preschool by reciting nursery rhymes and poems, playing word and sound games and by playing with instruments.
Children learn pre-reading skills which are essential for them to learn formal reading. Learning to read requires auditory and visual perception and so they need to learn print awareness, have motivation to read, listening comprehension, letter knowledge and phonological awareness. They learn this through playing rhyming games, word games, listening games, following instructions and playing games involving hearing syllables.
At preschool, kids strengthen their memory, something they will require throughout their education. Memory card games, circle memory games where each child has to add an item to a shopping list, but must first recall all the previous items of the list are good ways to build memory. Games like Chinese Whispers, where children stand in a circle and say a word while also repeating everything that the previous children said, sharpens the memory.
Early Science Concepts
As children explore their environment in their preschool, they learn about early science concepts. Water play teaches them basic physics like water makes sand heavier, water changes the texture of sand, water falls through space when they use a sieve, air moves water, water is a liquid because it can be poured and water takes the shape of the container it is poured into. These early science concepts encourage curiosity and make them sharper.
Social and Emotional Skills
These skills are as important as physical and mental and are usually an essential part of a preschool curriculum and what every child should learn in preschool.
Social development includes building healthy relationships, learning communication skills and interacting appropriately with others. Children learn important social skills like sharing, showing empathy, taking turns, considering the opinions of others, cooperating and negotiating, resolving conflicts and following rules in games.
Emotional skills include self-awareness, emotional intelligence, expressing emotions in a healthy way and empathy, so it’s important to know how to motivate preschoolers to learn.
A child’s creativity can really shine in a preschool through art activities like painting, drawing and constructing. Musical activities like singing, dancing and playing with instruments brings out their creativity. Drama and puppet play, telling stories, dress-up play and outdoor play like building forts and bridges are other ways to foster creativity in preschools.
One of the most important things that kids learn at preschool is independence. They learn to take care of themselves, become responsible and try to be competent. Regular tidy-up time, looking after their belongings, self-care like washing their hands and going to the bathroom, taking accountability for their actions and making choices during free play or activities with choice are all activities that foster independence in preschool.
What you should be wary of are preschools that focus more on academic skills than learning through play. It is not developmentally appropriate as play is most important during preschool. Preschool makes kids independent and they learn to look after themselves, become responsible and try to be competent. What we have mentioned is not a complete list as there is so much that kids learn at a good preschool. If you want more comprehensive information on what kids learn in preschool. Do touch base with EuroKids for the latest updates.