This is a question that many parents ask, and the short answer is “very”. Kindergarten should prepare the young learner for the 12 years of formal education, which makes it a critical time in any child’s life, and with that in mind, here are a few aspects to consider when looking at kindergarten schools for your child.
- The Overall Environment – If you are looking for a kindergarten in Bangkok, for example, you ideally want one that has several outdoor areas when the kids can explore. Any decent kindergarten school would have outdoor play areas, indeed, these would often be used instead of the classroom, as nature is a great teacher. The school should have controlled access, with video surveillance that covers every location, and access would always be monitored.
- Setting your Child’s Habits – A couple of years of kindergarten education will go a long way towards creating learning habits for your child, and by enrolling your child in a kindergarten that uses a hands-on approach to learning, they will be given the essential tools for self-learning. Young learners should be encouraged to question everything, and an enquiring mind is a very powerful tool to motivate learning, so look for a school that actively encourages asking questions.
- Experiential Learning – There are specific learning styles that are all about experiential learning, such as the Reggio Emilia approach, which is globally recognised as being a first class system of learning, and when looking for a kindergarten school for your child, find one that utilises the Reggio Emilia approach and you certainly won’t be disappointed. Research shows clearly that children learn best using the hands-on approach, and the sooner a child is introduced to experiential learning, the better.
- The Focus Should Be Developing Creativity, Imagination & Social Skills – The primary goals for any kindergarten program should be to develop creativity, imagination and also to help the child develop essential social skills that will help them throughout their life. While academic learning is important, it has no place in an early learning program, where the kids should learn through art, movement and natural objects. There will be time enough for the core academic subjects when the child enters formal education, but the first few years are when the child learns about their surroundings.
- Fun-Based Learning – Learning should be fun, regardless of age, and this is especially important in the early years, otherwise children can develop a dislike for learning, and that can be a very difficult thing to overcome. If a child does not enjoy kindergarten, something is drastically wrong, and when visiting early learning programs, all the kids should be having fun.
The first step to sourcing the right kindergarten is to carry out an online search, which will give you a list of websites of local early learning programs, and after some careful browsing, you should end up with a shortlist of kindergarten schools that you can visit. Prepare some questions to ask the school principals and generally make observations during your visits and that should lead you to make the right choice of kindergarten school for your child.