At one time day care centers were based primarily on ensuring that children were well-cared for and supervised. Today that is no longer the case. An increasing number of day care centers are now providing early education programs to help ensure children are well-prepared to enter school.
The learning environment in your child’s day care center should provide ample opportunities for your child to begin learning basics, such as the numbers and the alphabet. The best approach for this is often to present opportunities for learning with the context of daily life. When touring prospective day care centers, make it a point to observe whether or not there are pets and/or plants in the classroom. Do children appear to be engaged in group activities and other meaningful activities?
Education experts are increasingly stressing the importance of reading to young children. Always ask whether the teacher read to the children in the center. In an ideal situation, reading time should take place one-on-one as well as in small and large groups. In addition, reading should occur at various times of the day, rather than in designated story times for groups.
Curriculum is critical. All children have different needs. Some children are brighter than other children their age, while others may require more individual attention. In a good learning environment, curriculums are adapted for advanced children as well as for those that might need a little extra assistance. To ensure your child is in an optimal environment for learning, find out whether teachers or care providers have received training to help them understand the various rates at which many children learn.
As education in day care centers becomes increasingly common, the types of educational curriculum offered continues to expand. Options today include cooperative, play based, Montessori, and many others. Regardless of whether you already have a good idea of the type of teaching method you prefer for your children or whether you are completely new to this, it is still a good idea to be somewhat familiar with the more common early education philosophies. You certainly do not have to be an expert, but developing a general understanding of the various approaches can help you in determining which type of learning environment is the right fit for your child.
The educational philosophy of most day care centers has much to do with the way the provider interacts with the children, the learning goals emphasized by that program and the types of materials and toys available. When reviewing the various approaches of different day care centers, try to envision your child in each setting. All of the many approaches have their benefits, but ultimately it is up to you to determine which approach is right for the needs of your child.
One of the major differences to make note of among the various approaches is whether a day care center has an education program that is child-centered or teacher-centered. You may well find that many of the centers you consider incorporate a bit of both at some point during the day.
In an educational program that is child-centered, the children are allowed to select the activities they wish to participate in and when they wish to do so. This type of program is somewhat unstructured, allowing children the flexibility to learn at their own pace. Children in a child-centered educational program often play in small groups or by themselves.
In a teacher-directed environment, there is more structure. Providers instruct the children as to the activities they will do and when they will do them. All children in the center are expected to follow a schedule of activities already established by the teacher. Children engage in the same activities at the same time.
A teacher-directed approach often focuses on preparing children for math and reading readiness skills. They may learn the names and sounds of letters and how to count. The basic premise behind this approach is that it allows preschoolers to be better prepared for kindergarten and advanced grades at an earlier age. Through planned activities, each day remains predictable and consistent. Such activities might include learning how to measure time, identifying colors, reading, solving basic math problems, etc. Lessons may also be planned around a theme, such as seasons, holidays, etc. This type of problem will also often focus on teaching basic classroom etiquette, such as following the teacher’s directions, raising your hand to ask a question or speak, and sitting still until a lesson is over.