Authors: Guadalupe Díaz Lara, Cesiah A. Vega, Wendy Ochoa & Lucia Alcalá
As early care and education programs including preschool classrooms continue to deal with the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents are understandably hesitant to take their young children back into the classroom. Although we want to encourage parents to do what is best for their own children, we also know that there are many benefits for children who attend high quality preschool in person. Research shows that children who attend high quality preschool have a strong learning foundation that promotes school readiness and healthy development. Let’s explore how attending in-person preschool can promote early learning in each of the developmental areas!
Cognitive development focuses on how children think, explore and learn about the world around them.
Children learn and develop by building on their prior experiences and knowledge. At a young age, children are constantly learning from their day-to-day activities, always attentive to what is happening around them. The classroom setting provides children with new opportunities to develop a wide range of cognitive skills, including planning, problem-solving, collaborating, and ways for understanding the physical and social world. Although the activities they do at home are important learning experiences, as children participate in high-quality preschool activities, they improve their attention to surrounding events, manage their attention to focus on what is relevant and important, and ignore what is not, and learn to work with others.
Language development focuses on how children learn to communicate in multiple or one language.
It is well known that one of the best ways to support children’s language development during early childhood is through frequent face-to-face interactions with more experienced adults in their home and/or English language, such as their preschool teachers. This is because the teacher can use these opportunities to intentionally engage in high-quality reciprocal interactions with the child through the use of questions, validations, requests for elaboration, and taking turns in a conversation, all of which support language development. Moreover, the materials (e.g., toys, books) and structure (e.g., themed centers) of preschool classrooms offer children the opportunity to engage in multiple conversations with their teachers and peers in a manner that is effortless and likely fun for the child.
Socio-emotional development focuses on how children learn about their emotions and relationships with others.
The development of social-emotional skills at the preschool age, just like in any other area of development, are crucial to helping the child form a sense of self.The teacher in the classroom plays a major role as the facilitator and model to the students. The teacher is facilitating and/or modeling foundational skills such as respect and understanding others’ feelings which helps in supporting the children’s ability to express their own emotions. Children in preschool settings are learning skills such as sharing, cooperation, regulating emotions, developing positive relationships with others, and being part of a community. Preschool classrooms give children the opportunity to explore problem-solving with peers, practice developing friendships, express emotions, and learn to share.
Physical development focuses on the development of children’s bodies and brains.
Giving children opportunities to move around not only supports their physical development, but also their social emotional skills, and academic learning. Children who engage in play are more attentive when they are inside the classroom, and are better able to regulate their emotions. In high quality preschools, teachers provide opportunities not only for free play outside the classroom, but also incorporate intentional teaching that helps children develop their gross motor skills, which involve large muscle movements such as walking, crawling and running and their fine motor skills, which involves smaller muscles of the hands such as using pencil, scissors and picking up small objects.
The evidence is clear; high quality preschool education can support children’s development and help them build a strong foundation as they grow and learn!
If you are concerned about your child being exposed to COVID-19 when attending preschool, you have the right to express these concerns to the teachers and staff. You can also talk to your child’s pediatrician and ask them about safety precautions.