Between the ages of three and six, children require preschools that can adapt to and encourage their rapidly developing linguistic, social, and motor skills. “The years between 3 and 6 are hardly a mere waystation in life, an interval spent anticipating and getting ready for the start of a child’s formal education, through which society will begin the process on its intellectual tools to a new generation” (Feldman 212). This is a time of rapid growth that varies widely among children and it will be critical for the instructors at this proposed school to ensure that the environment is safe enough to accommodate the physical experimentation of the children, is open to allowing children to use language in a symbolic, functional, and exploratory manner, to encourage various theoretical principles to be addressed within curriculum (including ideas from Piaget and Vygotsky), and finally, to pay keen attention to potential developmental or other problems so proper action and reporting to parents can occur.
One of the most important features of a preschool for children ages 3-6 is how play areas are designed with the utmost attention to safety-related detail as possible. Children of this age are experiencing dramatic rises in confidence with their physical and motor skills and tend to take risks that can lead to injury of the self or others. Feldman notes that boys tend to take more risks than girls, although both genders in this age group will require a safe play area. A few ideas would include a large, open space for children to play in with large, plush or otherwise soft objects for them to climb on. Climbing pieces, which should not injure them if they were to fall against the surface and would not have sharp corners, would be high enough to encourage climbing, but not so high that this physically experimental and risk-taking age group could fall any significant height from. Long, plush couch-type areas where they could bounce and climb would be appropriate. The goal with the play area is to encourage physical development and activity but with understanding of risky behaviors in mind, mitigate possibility of injury through open spaces (which also eliminate tripping and collisions).
Language skills are among those that will be heavily emphasized at the proposed school and children will be encouraged to freely explore concepts of language in their own desired contexts. If they create an imaginary friend, for instance, who is able to utilize language in a non-traditional way, this can be extremely beneficial to their cognitive and linguistic development and should not be shunned since some consider imaginary friends to be unhealthy. This is not unhealthy at all and is a natural part of a child’s growing awareness of the symbolic functions of language. According to Piaget and the idea of the symbolic interactions between language and thoughts, “language and thinking are tightly interconnected and that the advancements in language that occur during the preschool years reflect several improvements over the type of thinking that is possible during the earlier sensorimotor period” (Feldman 224). This period should be celebrated and children at this age will be encouraged to indulge in acting out their fantasy playmates, settings, and situations rather than admonished for doing so. The more subtle issue behind these experimental relationships between symbolism and language through verbal expression is the egocentric thinking that characterizes this age. Children, sometimes with hilarious or at other times embarrassing results, say exactly what they think without regard to feelings or other halting factors adults consider before speaking. Again, this is important to their development and should be encouraged, although with some limitations in mind if a child becomes completely uncontrollable and is a disruption through his or her inherent lack of verbal restraint.