Hands Up! Preschool visionaries researched and thought carefully about education components for three- and four-year olds. Our philosophy of preschool education will directly affect how we use our time with children enrolled at Hands Up! and their parents.
- The preschool years are crucial years
A Student’s and an adult’s success is affected by the attention they receive as young children. According to an article in 2011 by National Public Radio’s Planet Money reporter Alex Bloomberg, Nobel-Prize-winning economist James Heckman found in a study that adults who had gained “soft skills” — the ability to learn new things — as preschoolers were more successful in entering the workforce than those who did not possess soft skills.
- Children learn best by being active and getting their hands dirty
Three- and four-year old children need developmentally appropriate activities in order to succeed at learning. At their age, being active is the most effective way to teach children foundational tools that will make learning easier as they grow up. Gross motor skills are developed by running, skipping, jumping, throwing a ball, and other physical activities. Using scissors, playing with clay, finger painting, and holding crayons develop their fine motor skills. Young children learn by being active. Centers that expose them to dramatic play, blocks, nature and science, art, music, movement, manipulation of objects, sand and water provide invaluable backdrops for hands-on learning.
- Indoor and outdoor activities are both important
Another important aspect of pre-K development is access to “green space.” Children need outside activity every day, weather permitting.
Books are one of the most important indoor activities for children. Exposure to pictures and stories sparks a child’s imagination and their curiosity. Talking about the books they read also have lasting benefits for three- and four-year-olds. Children in preschool who are encouraged to have interactive conversations about books they read enter kindergarten with a better vocabulary than other children, according to a 2011 study by Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College professor David Dickinson. Several studies have shown that the better vocabulary children have in kindergarten, the more likely they are to succeed in elementary, middle school and high school.
- Both rules and encouragement are important in the classroom and at home
Children thrive with safety and structure. Classroom routines that children are taught to follow not only make them feel comfortable, but teach them to listen to authority and to work and play with others their age. Individual attention and encouragement directed toward each child when he or she does something correctly or kindly is another important aspect of a healthy learning environment.
- Parents play the most crucial role in equipping their children for success
Loving parents are the ideal providers of the nurturing activity three- and four-year old children need in order to develop into boys and girls who are curious and equipped to learn well. One of the most important roles of a preschool for at-risk children is to help the parents understand that nurturing a child’s learning can and should happen throughout the day — from conversations over a nutritious breakfast, to giving hugs and words of encouragement throughout the day, to reading a bedtime story at night.