Playschools and nurseries are a popular form of pre-school early education experience for children, but how do they help with learning?
Between the ages of three and five years old, before they’re eligible to start school properly, children are able to attend various forms of pre-school, including playschools and nurseries. It’s highly beneficial to let your child attend such sessions, as they offer a valuable opportunity for children to try out new activities, learn new skills and socialise with their peers (plus, it provides some parents with a welcome break!).
In fact, attending nurseries and playgroups is something that is actively encouraged by the government in England, as the early years are an important stage of children’s development and learning, and the more learning they’re able to experience, the better start in life they gain. As a result, all three and four years old in England are currently eligible for 12.5 hours of free early learning classes each week, for 38 weeks of the year. There are various different forms of free early learning sessions available, including through attendance at playschools and nurseries.
Whilst nurseries are usually easy to find and have their own set buildings and environment, playgroups tend to be held on a more ad hoc basis. For example, they’re often held in church or village halls, or sometimes in a hall at a primary school. Depending on the area and size of the playgroup, they may run only once or twice a week, or every day, with sessions in either the morning, afternoon or both. The age range of children varies and some playgroups may take children from the age of two and half years and upwards.
What Do Children Learn?
All playschools, nurseries and other forms of pre-school learning environments follow the Foundation Stage of early education. This is a introduced scheme aimed at children aged from birth to five years of age, and ensures that, wherever in the country children are, they’ll all get the same basic learning approach.
There are six so-called Early Learning Goals within the Foundation Stage, which means that children learn new skills and experiences in six main areas. These are:
- Personal, social and emotional development.
- Communication, language and literacy.
- Mathematical development.
- Physical development.
- Creative development.
- Knowledge and understanding of the world.
All of these six goals are taught through a wide range of fun and enjoyable play activities. For example, a typical session of learning at either playgroups or nurseries will consist of time when children can play on their own and choose their own activity, time when they learn together with the rest of the children, arts and crafts activities, music and singing, physical play (perhaps using equipment and either inside or outside), reading and playing puzzles or games.
Both playgroups and nurseries aim to provide a fun and stimulating environment for children. They’re still only young, so don’t need strict formal timetables or hard work – by making learning fun, they help instil basic educational concepts – like literacy, reading and maths – which provide a great introduction for when children start school.