“The first five years have so much to do with how the next 80 turn out.” Bill Gates
A topic which two mommies, even complete strangers can easily discuss at length is the schooling of their child. I often see young anxious mothers deliberating which school to send their growing toddlers to, and it sends me on a trip down the memory lane when my babies were actually babies, and were to step out for their learning away from home. It was the time for terms like Playgroup, Kindergarten, Nursery, Preschool etc. to invade the privacy of my family life. Amidst all the confusion I was very sure about one thing, that I want something informal, a place which will concentrate primarily on developing social and emotional skills of my child, and also help overcome the separation anxiety which will eventually come in focus when the formal schooling begins. And this is why I chose to send my children to a playschool instead of a formal preschool. We often confuse between the two.
Playschool is a part of the generic term ‘preschool’ and related to elementary learning; you may consider it to be the first step of the learning ladder. The role and purpose of playschool is to help the children become used to the idea of being away from home for a couple of hours a day, and helps those who are not yet ready for school activities, to socialize. It prepares the young learners for formal preschooling and primarily focuses on sensory motor development and inter personal skills. It does not emphasize on achieving any academic milestones or goals, in fact there are no such goals here. Though children will be introduced to pre literacy skills, there is no stress on performance and they learn at their own pace through play based activities with a lot of freedom of movement, which also helps them become self- confident and independent. They learn to follow instructions and directions. A playschool caters to the emotional needs and stability of the children. It helps in developing age appropriate behavior at right time; remember emphasis is on behavior, both verbal and non-verbal, through observation and imitation.
A preschool on the other hand is a little more serious affair if I may say so. It’s an extension of the playschool, but lays foundation, and prepares children for the academic demands of the formal schooling. It is a more structured setting where children learn their alphabet and numbers, which would have been introduced at the playschool as fun activities. To put it in simple words, the children will begin learning academic skills like reading and writing formally, and boost their knowledge and confidence. It is more focused on education, with time for outdoor activities and games, and the children are gradually guided towards the classroom experience. They will also learn important skills like listening to others, expressing their own ideas, being friendly, sharing, taking decisions and being accountable for their actions. The skills learnt now are the building blocks that a child will need throughout their life, which will help them face the challenging and demanding world.
The cute little innocent world of a playschool combined with the active and involved preschool is the best that we can gift our children. I still cherish the memories of carefree playschool days as well as the high on energy and learning preschool days of my children.