EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION PRINCIPLES
At Moomin International Kindergarten we believe the child comes first. Our teaching is based on inquiry, exploratory and holistic learning approaches integrating foreign languages and Finnish educational practices. Our early childhood programs are built upon the following general principles:
Children always come first. Early learning is an exploration that children pursue at their own pace and through their unique developmental and care needs. Children’s brains are designed to be stimulated and challenged and to carefully examine and interpret their environment. Putting children first and offering a holistic open ended curriculum catered to each child ensures that every child engages in developmentally appropriate activities and takes an active role in learning.
Every situation is a learning opportunity. Learning is as natural as breathing for children. When children are trusted, loved and respected, they feel powerful and competent to achieve any task. Patient guiding adults that give children time not only to do/make/experience but also for children to notice and correct “mistakes,” allow children to become less dependable. Children then gain the curiosity, energy, determination, and patience to learn in every situation.
Child development plans build relationships and knowledge. Educators can be most effective in their teaching and build relationships with each child when they fully understand the child. Listening to parents, observing and interacting with the child for a period of time before a curriculum is determined is fundamental to effective care and teaching. A child development plan contains past knowledge about the child and new information gained by educators to be able to cater to the child’s unique needs, build trust and support each child to thrive.
Parent and educator partnerships embrace the child. When children’s full set of needs are met and they learn that their ideas have value, their confidence and creative ability is enhanced. Parents and educators encourage and support children at every stage of their development and learning. They partner to communicate with each other to ensure the child is fully understood and all needs are fully met, including appropriate food, rest, and medical needs as well as intellectual and social opportunities.
Autonomous educators lead to innovation. Educators must have knowledge about children’s development, about the content they’re teaching, about effective teaching practices, about the needs and abilities of the children in their classrooms, and about themselves. When parents and the community trust and appreciate educators to do their jobs effectively, educators feel challenged and respected. They gain pedagogical freedom which facilitate greater creativity, pro-activity and innovation based on the group. When they work in teams, the quality of their teaching is enhanced and the children’s needs are better met.
Celebrating the gift of the human imagination leads to building multiple intelligences. When children are able to interact with different disciplines in different ways, they are able to experience the dynamism and interactivity of intelligence and the brain. Supporting and encouraging adults enhance this process leading to curious children able to imagine numerous possibilities in any scenario and come up with ideas that have value. When creativity is embraced as much as literacy, mathematics and other subjects, children flourish.
Children are natural researchers. Children actively try to understand their environment by examining it with hypotheses to understand how things really work. Intrigued children develop an interest in subjects and start to ask adults for further explanations and to look in books. A lot of examples give children opportunities to construct rules, replay experiences and act out observed roles in order to construct their own knowledge. Repeating situations help children track what has happened, gain more information, and clarify misconceptions.
Exploration and asking open ended questions teach children how to think and learn. Children are excellent observers and their natural curiosity is satisfied through exploring the world around them. Experience, instead of rote learning, is the natural and most effective way for brains to gain knowledge. Open ended questions focus on the process of thinking and reflecting, creating and doing, promoting further imagination. When asked questions, children create explanations for why stated facts are true. As children develop, they generate more detailed answers and in the process are learning how to think and are gaining confidence in their abilities. As abilities improve or as new abilities emerge, the brain is changing physically, functionally and chemically. Those changes account for the child’s learning.
The brain learns best when having fun. When learning happens in a positive emotion environment, it is stored in the hippocampus. This is later transferred to the brain cortex, where long term memory happens- thus affecting our ability to remember. Unpleasant events and fast learning, on the other hand are stored in the amygdala, the part of the brain that stores "what not to do". When children are having fun, learning happens effortlessly. Children start to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat, their creativity rises, energy levels rise and they become more resilient. All of this leads to an increase in optimism which leads to happiness. Happy childhoods lead to productive, enjoyable and rewarding lives.
Movement fosters learning. Physical activity helps kids develop social, cognitive and physical skills. Movement activates the brain and helps children to think, increase their ability to focus and become independent. Children have energy to go to the park, play outside, jump in a trampoline, climb walls or stall bars, do indoor activities, all in one day, everyday.
Character strengths and values are learned early. True learning is fun, exhilarating and gratifying, but it can also be daunting, discouraging and exhausting. Every situation is an opportunity for learning and for children to gain character strengths and virtues such as self control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, curiosity, zest for life, “sisu” -a Finnish word generally meaning determination and resilience, among others.
Environment shapes learning. Creative spaces facilitate various kinds of playful exploration, are safe but also provide opportunities for challenge and risk. Children’s imagination and creativity can be inspired through the environments they spend time in. Well organized and flexible indoor spaces, coupled with rich well planned hands on activities and a balance of wondering and playing in nature and the outdoors, clears the mind and enhances learning. Being connected with nature, the cycle of seasons and the passage of time promote imagination and adventure.
Children learn through play. Play is perhaps children’s most important way of learning, it is the children’s work. This learning process occurs even when children act on their inborn curiosity and actively explore their environment. Parents and educators have the opportunity to enhance this natural process by encouraging interests and efforts of children. By talking to children about what they are experiencing, adults can help them elaborate and extend their play.
Children learn with support. Using supportive language helps children to view adults as their advocates, helping them to solve situations rather than turning them into adversarial struggles. When adults guide children through the process of waiting for a turn, having a role while waiting, for example, the children internalize those strategies and use them the next time. Often, when asked first how children could solve a problem, they think of the best solution.
Positive Suggestions Guide Children. When adults respond positively and with excitement to children, children interact effectively with others. Often the first response to children’s undesirable behavior is negative, controlling, emphasizing what they cannot do. “Don't throw the ball inside." A more effective approach suggests what the child can do. “Let’s go throw the ball outside."
Children emulate Positive Models. In an almost unconscious and natural process, children follow the examples set by others around them, modeling behavior and the accompanying emotional tone. When children see their parents or educators use different languages or read regularly, they want to repeat and emulate, read and be read to. When they experience negative, disrespectful or violent behavior, whether is live or on television, children are just as likely to imitate it.
Mixture of abilities develops confidence and peer learning. When children play with other children of different ages, they learn from each other. As challenges, conflicts or questions arise, children learn how to solve situations and problems. Children learn in two ways, both by modeling the behavior of older children and by "teaching" younger children. By having 2 or more professionals working in conjunction, different stages of development can be catered for within a group and older children get additional responsibilities.
Children Learn by Using Basic Materials. The more hands-on experiences children have, the more curious and capable they become. The more encouragement children have, the more joy they feel when learning. Helping with “real work,” chores and cooking, is of tremendous interest and value to children and they learn valuable skills for life. Young children learn by doing and hands-on experimental learning is encouraged with open-ended materials such as:
- Utensils for drawing, writing, and constructing such as paper, crayons, scissors, glue, tape, pencils, cardboard boxes and others, offer children many opportunities to represent their ideas
- Tools for safe and easy experimenting
- Paints, water colors and easels for painting (we make our own paints
- Natural items such as water, sand, play-dough, beans, flours, pasta, for sensory experiences
- Hardwood building blocks, Legos, and puzzles for manipulating and building
- Dolls and doll clothes, for children to play out roles they have experienced
- Props, hats and clothes for taking on roles
- Opportunities to listen to music and simple musical instruments
- The outdoors for investigating nature and phenomena, for running, climbing, and other active play essential for large motor development
Less can be more. Making education less about burden and more about fun, fosters an environment of achievement through self reliance. It encourages imagination and freedom. It also encourages doing things very well, without making a fuss.
Children are our most important resource now and in the future. We have an opportunity to create the foundation for children so their interests grow, they can quickly adapt to any environment and they are able to break any barriers in life. They will live in a world with different challenges than those of today and we can prepare them today for a bright future.