The magic of the kindergarten years

by Andrea McArthur

“Is it Kindy Day today, I want to go!” This is what I have heard every day this year after my four-year-old started kindergarten in 2020. Enrolling Taylor into Alderley Kindergarten has been one of my best parenting decisions to date. This year Taylor’s personality has had a chance to be supported and shine, she loves her kindy friends, especially her educators, doing puzzles, kicking balls, drawing, writing, and all things letters.

It is a fact that children’s brains develop and learn at the fastest rate of their entire lifetime in the ages of up to five years. At kindergarten, children’s development milestones are built in to play and they don’t even realise they are learning. Recently after attending a stay and play day with Taylor’s class, I was able to see how a day at kindy is structured and I saw the foundations that our little ones are learning. I even picked up a trick or two when it comes to four-year-old motivation, giving preparation time to begin a new activity works, “five minutes until the cleanup bell” said the educator, preparing kids – makes it a smooth transition to a new activity.

At Alderley Kindergarten their philosophy is: “To provide the best possible foundation for a lifelong love of learning, of wellbeing and making a positive contribution to the world… We strive to provide a supportive, joyous and nurturing environment for the children and families of our kindergarten, one where they feel they truly belong.” After seeing firsthand how supportive the kindy has been to the kids especially through the pandemic it is so warming to see their learning philosophy come to life for my child.

When thinking about getting your child ready for big school and transitioning into Prep or Kindergarten there are many things that parents can take-away from a kindy program:

  • Self-esteem, inclusiveness, belonging, and cultural understanding

It is important that a child feels that they belong, that they understand that being different is okay. That they have the confidence to try new things and have a positive mindset to attempt things a second time in a space that feels safe.

At Alderley Kindy every morning the children recite a child-friendly Welcome to Country. You can find a video of the kids reciting it on the kindy’s Facebook page. “We acknowledge the sky, and the trees, the possums and the bees, as we learn and grow through play on Turrbal land, thank you, Turrbal people, for loving the land we play on today.” This inclusiveness displayed at the kindergarten is so positive. There are many different cultures which are celebrated here and different family structures which are also included on special days giving the children opportunities to share each other’s different experiences.

I loved it when Taylor told me about an incursion that happened earlier in the year with “The Dude That’s Different – Jason Morris”. My brother was physically disabled with Muscular Dystrophy and to have Taylor talk and ask questions with Jason who is a proud indigenous man who lost his arm in an accident was eye-opening for the children. They got to think about how Jason felt and how he deals with everyday life.

  • Health, independence, and physical development

As you continue along your parenthood journey you quickly realise how much learning needs to happen before your little ones can become fully independent (with many daily tasks). Independence is a key component of the this Kindergarten program, building on learnings so that the children feel empowered to complete tasks by themselves. Each morning Taylor has her own ‘jobs’ that she completes; putting away her lunch, separating her belongings; her library bag, her rest sheets, and her school bag. At first, I didn’t realise how important it was that Taylor completed the jobs herself but now I realise that by completing these jobs she is gaining her independence and showing respect for the kindy environment.

One area that we need a little practice in is physical development, Taylor is still learning about her physical abilities. Fortunately each morning at kindy the kids complete a perceptual-motor program that focuses on different areas of gross motor development. They walk on beams, jump on one leg, throw balls, and complete lots of different activities all developing their physical abilities. During the lockdown period this year the kindy shared the program as a learning@home resource, this received lots of positive results with many videos being returned of proud kids completing the program at home.

  • Alderley Kindy child-writing-1440Communication, thinking, and problem-solving

Play… is the genesis of innovation, and allows us to deal with an ever-changing world. (Stuart Brown, 2009, “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul” p199).

What if…? But why? The curious kinder kids ask. At this age, children develop working hypotheses and problem-solving strategies from first-hand explorations and exchanging ideas through play. These problem-solving skills grow slowly as they use them throughout childhood and into adulthood. There aren’t many situations in life that arise that don’t require some level of problem-solving or critical thinking. To support growth in these areas each day the kids are given long “blocks” of play so that they can (with educators support) explore, experiment, problem-solve, hypothesise and question what they are seeing and doing. By allowing the kids the time to explore and experiment they start to make sense of the world around them!

Also at this kindy, they engage in whole group meetings on the big mats. All of the children sit around the big mat in the classroom and discuss and reflect on the activity that they have just completed and brainstorm where their learning journey could be taken. Each week we get a note in our Storypark app on “future possibilities for learning” and often the educators have asked and recorded each child’s suggestion, for instance, Taylor wanted to further extend her horse show play by “buying real horses from the markets”. At this Kindy, they challenge the children to be independent and creative thinkers in a way that they know that their voice and ideas matter.

What a year 2020 has been, thankfully Taylor has been guided through it. We made lots of new friends, learned so many things to help her transition to Prep/Kindergarten and she has loved every minute of this period of her young life.

It’s never too early to put your child’s name down on a good Kindy waitlist – Taylor and I recommend it.

Alderley Kindergarten has been operating and teaching kindergarten kids in the local community for over 70 years. It was recently awarded (with their original rating of) ‘Exceeding’ the National Quality Standard (by the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority).

Andrea McArthur is a parent member of the Alderley Kindergarten Parent Committee.