This more experimental approach that is more child-led than authoritarian or punitive in nature will be at the heart of learning approaches as well. For instance, it will be important to pay attention to how specific children use various information processing approaches to address problems. By observing these while children are at play, the instructors at the preschool can provide parents with valuable information about their child’s general cognitive development and how they seem to work best when approaching problems. Children are constantly learning through trying out different information processing approaches and the freedom to explore different approaches through the provision of toys and age-appropriate games that challenge and encourage different ways of approaching problems or perplexing questions is critical. This can also be addressed through practical application of Vygotsky’s ideas regarding the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), which Feldman defines as “the level at which a child can almost, but not fully, perform a task independently, but can do so with some assistance of someone more competent” (233). To better put this in context, children’s different information processing approaches can be enhanced through the types of toys and games discussed above when the adults act as “standby” help for the preschoolers. They passively let the child progress until they finally need help but do not interfere with the valuable process of experimentation that occurs. This encourages the process of scaffolding as children gradually build “ladders” of information based on questions and answers and direct experience and constantly seek a higher level of correctness and adequacy with what they are addressing. The preschool that is being proposed will not have a television set of any kind for any purpose.
Although it may not be significantly harmful for children of this age to watch one hour of television—even high-quality age appropriate programming, this school’s philosophy will be based on the idea that this is an area of parent choice. In other words, if parents want to allow television, it will be in their homes. The main thrust behind this preschool’s program will be to encourage cognitive reasoning and during this sensitive time, especially for children under the age of 5 who are developing the important protective membrane in their brains through the process of myelination, should be encouraged to develop sound cognitive reasoning through practical activities and interactions, not through passive observance of television. The emphasis is, as stated before, on learning through open and free experimentation through process. By running and climbing on the soft equipment, children are allowed to take risks that help them learn; by encouraging free associations between language and symbols in play and self “conversation greater symbolic and functional language relationships are developed; and through permitting opportunity for exploration, both guided in the view of Vygotsky’s “hands off” byster approach and through free exploration of ways to solve problems, children will learn through experience and guide their own process toward cognitive development as much as possible.
There are some practical concerns that a preschool designed for children between the ages of 3 and 6 should take into account that involve issues of eating healthy foods, for instance. During this period of rapid overall growth, a preschool’s staff will need to pay careful attention to what types of foods these children ingest. Their appetites may vary and while sound eating habits need to be encouraged with minimal “pushing” of undesired food, on the other side, obesity might be an emerging issue for some children. This preschool for the desired age group will attempt to delivery daily amounts of food that are appropriate for the age group and staff would be instructed to encourage children to eat, but not to force them beyond their food limits, which is not difficult to do with this age group. Staff should note issues such as obesity and also keep track of other developmental markers and potential problems.
In addition to recognizing signs of early obesity, staff must be well-trained at spotting other potential problems, such as lead poisoning, especially for children from lower-income backgrounds where lead paint might exist. Other notes that instructors at this preschool should make involve lateralization; they can report to parents what the observe about preferences of hand usage and look for their own connections between the boys and the girls. In short, through careful observation of development and spotting of potential problems as well as through an approach that does not “force” matters of food intake or toilet training, children will be able to develop appropriately for their age.
Feldman, Robert S. Development Across the Life Span. New York: Pearson, 5th ed., 2007.