The first five years of your child’s life are pivotal, not only in the acquisition of language but also in becoming socialised and working as a member of a group. These skills also are crucial to developing long-lasting academic benefits. The earlier your child is exposed to quality learning experiences, the more confidence and resilience they will gain leading into primary education.
Early Learning assists in improving your child’s health and wellbeing, the development of strong social interactions and actively promotes a thirst for knowledge. Within the first five years of your child’s life, you will see increased brain development, faster than at any other stage of their life. The breadth of your child’s early learning experience is more influential and has more permanent impacts on the brain than at any other point in their education and even in their career. Research shows that up to 90 percent of the brain development has already taken place before a child begins primary school. Pre-Primary education then becomes the critical point of your child’s brain development and, as it rapidly grows, children must be stimulated in order to process and be encouraged to retain and recall knowledge. The brain at this age is like a sponge; it soaks up information both consciously and subconsciously. The more knowledge and stimuli you can feed your child’s brain before they begin Prep, the more nourished it will be for years to come. This is more significant than when senior students enter the workforce or adults changing occupations. It may be hard to envision when they are so young, but by investing in Early Learning education, you are choosing a pathway and steering your child in the right direction for a bright educational future.
How can you ensure your child’s future is as bright as it can be?
Look for progress markers that can inform how your child is developing academically
At the beginning of your child’s Early Learning journey, they should feel excited to start a new chapter in their life. In the first year as a three-year-old student, the learning objective is focused on developing independence and resilience. As a four-year-old, academics start to play a prominent role in their daily regime. Literacy and Numeracy lay the foundations for their learning as they are exposed to new experiences that enhance different parts of the brain. The brain controls our thoughts, memory and speech, movement of the arms and legs, and the function of many organs within our body. Our Early Learning curriculum touches on all these key areas of the brain to ensure your child is being stimulated academically, mentally, emotionally and socially. As they approach five-years-old, your child should be able to organise themselves, go to the bathroom alone, brush their teeth, arrange their lunch box and recognise social and moral situations. The year from Pre-Prep to Prep is the biggest leap they will ever make in their academic journey with the change in environment from constant supervision to minor supervision (particularly at lunch time), so it is vital that your child is equipped with the independence and resilience to excel in Prep and beyond.
It is never too early to begin learning
From the age of two, children can enjoy music lessons, dance lessons and playgroup. At Playgroup, children and their parents work together with other toddlers and adults. Children are taught how to turn-take, become more spatially aware and respond to the emotions of others. These skills are introduced through intentional social interactions, sensory tasks and motor skill development tasks. These can be sport-based; playing with soft balls to enhance their motor skills and coordination or performing arts-based; dancing to music, singing and interacting with others. Your child’s interpersonal qualities will increase and be honed by exposure to other children. By participating in activities such as this, brain development and personal growth opportunities are promoted. As a result, your child is also observing other children playing, communicating and problem solving; skills which are acquired much faster through observation and purposeful play.
Keep the brain stimulated to enable child development, both academically and socially
At Pre-Prep, children learn skills that they will need throughout their life. They continue to learn how to play with others, begin to learn the art of compromise, develop empathy, gather emotional intelligence, recognise that words communicate meaning and convey emotion, and above all, develop a sense of who they are in the world. To ensure your child gains the necessary social, emotional and academic toolkit, enrolling in Early Learning is the best solution. At a minimum, your child at three-years-old should be invested in external programs to ensure regular brain stimulation. It is important that a child never hits a plateau in their academic journey as that is precious time wasted that could have been used to stimulate the brain further. If they feel comfortable in their current program, it may be time to increase the days so that they maintain at a level that poses challenges and rewards.
The transition into Prep is the biggest leap, so ensure they have the wings to fly
An Early Learning program should be well-structured, allowing students to spend a lot of time with nature, being outdoors, and participating in play-based, purposeful learning experiences. At this point in a child’s development, they begin to enjoy and rely on the routine of a daily program which responds to their curiosity, fine and gross motor skills and allows them to become effective communicators (verbal, written and pictorial). Developmentally, a four-year-old child should be able to recognise and draw shapes, speak in coherent, sequential sentences, walk and run in all directions with coordination, ride a bike, get dressed without help and be able to learn another language. At Toorak, our Early Learning students are exposed to specialist subjects that include Language and Library, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), Performing Arts, Health and Wellbeing and more. In addition to these specialist subjects, Literacy and Numeracy are heavily addressed in Early Learning. The intentionality of this teaching ensures that as children transition to formal primary school education, they already have a bank of knowledge and skills that they can easily recall upon. Success therefore comes more readily and a child’s self-esteem and efficacy increase. The amount of stimulation required to develop children’s brains is vast and therefore in a formal program, led by expert educators, differentiation is a strong consideration.
Children who participate in Early Learning curriculum thrive
Research shows children who do not attend some form of preschool are 50 percent more likely to start school ‘developmentally vulnerable’ both academically and socially. These children may not yet have developed the resilience and routine of a structured day nor may they have had the exposure to the correct, foundational teaching of basic Literacy and Numeracy skills. Once beginning Prep, children who have not participated in an Early Learning program spend the bulk of their time working out routines, interpreting social cues and making connections with the formal learning presented. This may result in them not appearing as confident or unable to excel or progress at a similar level to their classmates.
Children learn instinctively through play and it is vital to allow this natural growth to occur within an Early Learning setting that incorporates both explicit and implicit learning. Early Learning covers the curriculums of social-emotional learning, language and literacy, STEM, creative arts and health and wellbeing. Although some parents can be hesitant about a child’s readiness for a five-day program, it is important to remember that the rate of growth and development that children of this age experience and viewing your child as a capable learner. The five-day program at Toorak ensures your child is exposed to all learning curriculums and is thriving in routines prior to commencing Prep. Carefully planned learning experiences by highly educated staff, ensures your child’s holistic educational journey is closely monitored and supported, which results in them reaching their full potential in their formative years of schooling.
Miss Melissa Schoorman is the Head of Wardle House, Deputy Principal of Toorak College.
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