As a parent, a big part of your job is to do your best to safeguard the health of your child — physical, mental and emotional. This task has never been easy, but it’s especially difficult right now.
The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened everyone’s sense of health and well-being. And being stuck at home has increased family stress and left many parents fretting about their children’s development.
Primrose Schools® is working hard to help lift some of the pressure from parents’ shoulders. In addition to following stringent health and safety protocols to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, Primrose Schools is focused on the many aspects of child development that overworked parents can’t fully address alone.
“Children thrive when they are in a predictable environment. And the environment in a Primrose school is consistent,” says Dr. Lauren Starnes, vice president of early childhood education, research and development for Primrose Schools. “There’s an established routine. It gives children a sense of security and confidence. While the world around the child may be changing, Primrose has not faltered and is a source of comfort for the developing child.”
Read on to learn how Primrose Schools fosters child development every day.
Any parent of a little one can tell you that you could spend all day following a small child around the house while he or she investigates, touches and moves objects. Primrose helps fulfill this need to move and explore with classrooms designed with children’s safety and learning in mind.
“Everything in the classroom is built to foster the child’s physical, social, emotional, cognitive and language development,” Starnes says. “It’s purposeful, interactive and safe. It is designed to fully engage a child’s sense of wonder.”
Children at Primrose schools move their bodies throughout the day, both indoors and outdoors, building a sense of balance and body control. The Thumbs Up!® program focuses on guiding physical development and motor skills for the active child in a safe, developmentally appropriate and holistic way.
Additionally, twice a day, children receive music lessons through the Harmony & Heart™ program, which encourages them to “experience the music with their bodies” through dancing, clapping or stomping their feet, Starnes says.
At Primrose, the Balanced Learning® curriculum lays the foundation for math, literacy and scientific thinking skills. Children learn through curiosity and asking questions; teachers don’t always give an immediate answer, in order to inspire problem-solving.
“Children are encouraged to make their own discoveries,” Starnes says.
For example, a classroom of preschoolers might be given magnets, and they learn through playing with these objects that sometimes magnets attract one another and sometimes they repel. Then, the teacher will purposefully introduce the words “attract” and “repel” to describe what’s happening as the children continue to play. Eventually, the children will adopt the vocabulary, Starnes says.
“The child’s play leads the learning,” she says. “When a teacher allows for curiosity to drive learning, it leads to more complex play and deeper questions.”
Teachers in Primrose schools are wearing masks to follow applicable health and safety protocols. Many teachers wear clear masks so that children can still see their mouths and facial expressions, which is helpful for language development.
A big part of a young child’s development is simply being around other children, Starnes says.
“What a child learns from his or her peers is different from what a child learns from an adult,” she says.
They learn how to collaborate and how to be independent; they develop self-esteem, confidence, problem-solving skills and their vocabularies. Being with peers helps young children learn how to manage emotions, navigate conflict and think ahead, all under the close supervision of teachers who can help guide the interactions. The early childhood years establish the foundation for forming and maintaining friendships, a critical social development skill.
And while siblings can be great playmates at home, they don’t offer the diversity of experience and perspectives that classmates from other families do, Starnes says. “Other children challenge their perception of the world,” she says. “It’s important that young children learn to appreciate diversity early.”
Teachers are trained to lead the children in using emotion vocabulary to express their thoughts and feelings, and to learn to empathize with others. For example, a teacher might see 2-year-olds fighting over a ball and say, “I see you want the ball and you are frustrated and angry that Molly has the ball. But taking the ball from Molly would make Molly sad, and I can see that Molly is sad because she has tears in her eyes. What can we do to make you happy and make Molly happy? Can we share the ball?”
Emotion vocabulary allows children to express themselves with words rather than behaviors such as hitting or having a tantrum, Starnes says.
At Primrose Schools, even very young children are given the opportunity to have a positive impact on the world around them. Teachers use the Primrose Friends puppets to teach character traits such as honesty, cooperation and respect for others.
As early as the toddler classroom, teachers introduce the concepts of service learning and giving without expectation, Starnes says. For a toddler, that might mean giving a classmate a teddy bear to cuddle because she is sad. Preschoolers might write letters or draw pictures for residents of a senior center. Children help collect nonperishables for an annual Caring and Giving Food Drive and help to tend school gardens that grow flowers and vegetables.
“Service learning is a lofty concept for a child, but we instill this early,” Starnes says. “Children learn that giving to others is fulfilling in and of itself.”
For children growing up during these challenging times, the question of “How can I help others?” is more important than ever.
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