WHAT DOES 'SCHOOL READINESS' LOOK LIKE WITHIN A PLAY-BASED LEARNING ENVIRONMENT?
Is my child school ready?
When parents think of school readiness, subject skills such as the ability to write their name, count up to 20 or recite the alphabet are often the usual things that come to mind. As a parent, we often worry whether our children will have the necessary skills to ‘keep up’ with their peers when they begin their learning journey at Primary School, and the idea of ‘play’ as an effective learning context can viewed as futile. However, research has long suggested that play is in fact fundamental to the learning and development of our tamariki and the concept of play-based learning encompasses the pedagogical framework of Te Whariki-New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum.
Importance of play
Here at Our Kids Glendene we view open-ended play as a much valued approach to learning and development for our Tamariki. We strongly believe that child-led play within a rich and intentional environment promotes the self- confidence and the independence of the child as they gain a sense of agency to initiate and direct their own learning path. Through everyday play experiences, not only are tamariki developing their social competence, imagination, creativity, critical thinking and physical development, they are actually developing key concept knowledge such as literacy, science and mathematics in a more meaningful and exciting way.
How do we support school readiness?
Here at Our Kids we are committed to supporting our tamariki to develop these integral skills through a range of different modes of play- based experiences. We actively facilitate the learning through intentional teaching practices such as the use of open-ended, thought prompting questions and the careful integration of content knowledge vocabulary within the meaningful interactions we have with our children. Here are some examples of the deeper learning taking place within these experiences.
Exploration of water, sand and other natural substances and textures, finding bugs and insects within the natural environment, sensory experiences such as exploration of light and colour, even racing the toy vehicles down the ramps, are examples of everyday activities that take place within the centre. Through these experiences the child’s innate sense of curiosity, wonder and excitement are fostered as they explore, experiment, investigate, ask questions, theorise and problem solve. Science and mathematical concepts are intrinsically weaved throughout these experiences as they explore with basic measurement such as volume, depth and quantities, trajectory concepts such as height, distance and force, basic physics concepts such as gravity and electromagnetism (light and shadow), while also developing their knowledge and understanding of the basic properties of the natural and material worlds.
Painting, drawing, play dough, clay and messy play are just some examples of the everyday activities we provide. The development of fine motor skills are fostered during these activities as they grip paint brushes, pencils, crayons or scissors. What many people may not realise is that the act of simply creating brush strokes on the paper with a paint brush is supporting the child’s pre-literacy skills through the exploration of the basic form and shape of alphabet letters, numbers and symbols. Basic scientific concepts are introduced within these experiences as they explore a wide range of textures, materials and substances. The ability to express themselves creatively is fostered as they explore with different avenues to channel their thoughts, ideas and feelings in an artistic manner.
Imaginary/ pretend play
Playing mums and dads, caring for the dolls, occupational play, or cooking/ baking in the family corner are all common play scenarios within the centre. Although this type of play appears to be just fun and games, the learning that takes place during these experiences is foundational to the way that children make sense of the adult world. Through the act of role play and imitation children are in fact developing their understanding and knowledge of real life events and everyday situations such as ‘going to work’ or ‘having a baby’ or even ‘getting married’. Language and communication skills are fostered here as children converse with one another, negotiating the rules and roles within the play scenario. Play involving caring for the dolls is also a fantastic opportunity for children to develop a sense of caring, compassion, kindness and empathy for the infants or younger children in their lives. Mathematical concepts such as counting and measurement are a key aspect of pretend cooking or baking as they measure out their ingredients, count how many cupcakes or cookies they are making and estimate the time it will take them to cook.
Riding the bikes or scooters, throwing and catching the ball, running, jumping, climbing and swinging are just some of the many ways in which tamariki actively play within the playground. You would be incredibly surprised at just how much learning is taking place during these fun and exciting experiences, for example, the development of gross motor skills. Balance, coordination, agility, power, speed and reaction time are being supported as they play. Mathematical concepts are explored in a meaningful way as children develop their knowledge and understanding of trajectory (distance, height and force) and spatial awareness (height, length and width) as they explore and experiment, pushing their bodies and challenging their physical abilities on a daily basis.
Social Intelligence is paramount
One of the most valued and fundamental skills a child needs to be ‘school ready’ is social intelligence. The ability to communicate their thoughts, ideas and feelings, a basic understanding of appropriate social rules and responsibilities, the ability to self- regulate emotions, sharing and turn taking skills and the ability to empathize and care for others are just a few examples of the critical social competencies necessary when children embark on their learning journey at primary school. These skills are meaningfully and intrinsically interwoven within nearly every play experience provided within the centre, as our intentionally set out environment strives to promote and encourage collaborative/ group play. Here at Our Kids Early Learning Centre we strongly believe that the rich and meaningful relationships which are formed between children, their peers and their kaiako is integral to fostering a lifelong passion for future learning and development.
Read more about transition to school.
“What is the most important thing in the world? He Tanga ta, He Tangata, He Tangata. It is the people, the people, the people” ( Simpson, 2012).
Bachelors of Education (ECE)
Head Teacher at Our Kids Glendene
Sarah has been a member of the Our kids Glendene teaching team for over 5 years. She is passionate about working within a mixed age setting and she believes that forming strong, reciprocal relationships between kaiako, tamariki and their whanau is foundational to achieving the best possible learning outcomes for our tamariki.