Kindy: Just Child's Play?

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by missrachael
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Kindy: Just Child's Play?

The Issue:The Kindergarten YearKindergarten is becoming an influential year in a child’s life. Where play and laughter have historically abounded, they still do – with a whole lot of learning and foundational academic knowledge added into the mix.Due to increasing numbers of parents both continuing in the workforce following the birth of a new addition to the family, children’s care is often shared with early learning and education centres, with approximately six thousand centres all over Australia, and a total of more than 870,000 children in these services regularly (Aust. Gov.; 2010).International research has proven the importance of the early years of education, and is highlighted in the Australian Government’s decision to mandate guidelines nationwide for the standard of care we provide for our children. The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) guides carers and educators in providing early learning experiences which benefit the whole child, and positing them for success later in life. Queensland Government has also published the “Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guidelines” (QSA; 2010) to supplement the implementation of the EYLF by university-qualified educators in the year prior to the start of formal schooling (Prep, or Foundation Year).Parents may feel a significant pressure to send their child to kindergarten, in order for them to be prepared for their first years of school, an understandable pressure given media coverage of kindergarten recently, where Professor Alison Elliott, early years education expert from the University of Sydney, is quoted, saying,“Children who’ve had a good preschool education, whether that’s in childcare or preschool, are definitely advantaged in their first year of school. That advantage continues right throughout their schooling.” (Speranza; 2012)Kindergarten is a learning environment to be explored in order to answer parents’ questions. Is it really necessary? What is this going to cost? What are the benefits – or what negative consequences could this cause for my family? Can’t they just play at home?Is kindergarten really just child’s play?

Relevant Documentsand PoliciesThree primary documents govern the running of an early learning centre environment, such as the kindergarten. In Queensland, these documents are:- Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guidelines (QKLG)- Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF)- National Quality Framework (NQF)Together, they provide standards for the centres and care environments children are looked after in, as well as guidelines for educators regarding the education value of play experiences shared with children, particularly in the kindergarten year. The National Quality Framework outlines, under Quality Area 6, that the relationship between parents and educators should be a ‘collaborative partnership’. As such, in an early learning environment as a kindy teacher, I have responsibility to maintain effective and regular communication between the centre and home. This includes recognising through my actions and speech that families are the child’s primary caregivers and educators (highlighted further in the EYLF), and as such I must respect their role and work with them in support of their parenting choices. In the learning environment, I hold responsibility for freely allowing families to access the classroom to observe their child playing and learning. In creating the community parents (above) referred to, I hope fulfilling this requirement comes naturally. In the greater early learning community, parents can be valued and their opinions heard through parent-teacher conferences, forums and possibly a representative board, where ideas and opinions are shared for discussion. While the Early Years Learning Framework and Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guidelines focus primarily on children’s education and knowledge, they do highlight the importance of security for a child in any outside of home care environment. The EYLF also describes the importance of the parent-educator relationship for the wellbeing of the child. Educator Vicki Davey, currently the nominated supervisor of a kindergarten setting, describes consistency as the key to effective early learning. “Routine is so important, whether in the home or the early learning centre environment.”

Own Biases and UnderstandingBy reflecting on my own biases and understanding of my professional relationship with families as an educator, I can clearly identify two primary areas that I need and desire to develop. 1 – Confidence in communicating with parents to build professional friendshipsThough I blame this primarily on my age, age is really no excuse. Being still a teenager, and on track to complete my Bachelor’s degree the week after I turn 20, my youth could be a cause for concern to parents I encounter in early learning environments. I also experience some fears of the responsibility that comes with having a classroom all of my own – though it is an exciting prospect! By applying myself to my studies, I can strive to gain as much as possible from each course in my degree. Knowing I have the skills and knowledge regarding education and teaching will assist in giving me the courage and confidence to share with parents – knowing what I’m talking about is always good! Demonstrating willingness with parents to discuss issues or concerns which may arise and having an open attitude to parents in my classroom or office will help to maintain the level of mutual trust and respect necessary for effective teaching. I would hope, though, that I am not afraid to admit if I have made a mistake, and strive to fix it, or to see further assistance if I do not know the answer to a question. I believe the network of professionals in the teaching environment could be my greatest asset when assisting parents in understanding and encouraging their children’s learning and growth. 2 – Deeper understanding of the relevant curriculum and legislative documents for the kindergarten year, early learning centres and the National Curriculum (Foundation Year) program which Kindergarten leads into. Due to the recent introduction of these documents, and my few short years of experience in the industry, I must ensure my familiarity with the documents relevant to a kindergarten or early learning setting. I could easily allow my own beliefs or experiences regarding ‘how young children should be taught’ influence my practice in a greater manner than professional understanding, research and legislation, developed by people with a fair greater understanding than I have. To ensure a sound understanding of, particularly, the Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guidelines, I can make every effort to attend training and workshops relevant to the kindergarten context, during my study years. I have already attended one such workshop, provided by the University of Southern Queensland, and regularly hear of similar programs offered by the university, Queensland Studies Authority, Early Childhood Teachers Association and Office for Early Childhood Education and Care. I can also access, and work through, the self paced professional development modules presented on the Queensland Studies Authority website, to increase my knowledge and understanding of the implementation of the QKLG. Accessed online here. I believe each of these skills, attributes and understandings can be developed as I grow and begin practicing as an early childhood educator. Through purposeful learning and experiences, just as I offer my students, I can increase the effectiveness of my partnerships in care and education with parents and families, particularly in the early years of schooling such as kindergarten.

Resource 3 – OECEC “Kindy Aged” Resource PageFor parents who choose to do kindy at home, or desire to supplement their child’s regular kindergarten program, the Queensland Government has provided an excellent page of digital resources for parents to view and use with their children. These resources can be viewed here. This resources page includes documents and video clips, sharing ideas for play, music, craft and everyday experiences families can share with their children. Fact sheets provide ideas parents can implement with simple resources, and video clips present songs to be sung together. Discussion for exploration of natural environments and digital technology are included, encouraging holistic education with children experiencing a wide variety of new ideas and learning domains.

References Arthur, L. (2005). Programming and planning in early childhood settings. Australia: Thomson.Australian Government, Department of Education, Training and Employment (2010). State of Childcare in Australia. Canberra, Australia: DEEWR.DETQueensland (2012, October 7). Benefits of kindy [Video File]. Retrieved from, D. T., & Colker, L. J. (1992). The creative curriculum for early childhood. Washington, DC: Teaching Strategies.Image: Banner News Kindy. (n.d.). Queensland Studies Authority. Retrieved October 14, 2012, from Qld Gov Kindy Tick. (n.d.). Home page | C&K. Retrieved October 13, 2012, from, J. P., Jalongo, M. R., & Isenberg, J. P. (1997). Creative expression and play in early childhood. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Merrill.MacNaughton, G., & Williams, G. (2004). Techniques for teaching young children: Choices in theory and practice. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson/Prentice Hall.Metcalfe, S., (2011). Education and Care Services National Regulations. Sydney, New South Wales, Australia: Minesterial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affiars. Nixon, D., & Aldwinckle, M. (2003). Exploring: Child Development from Three to Six Years (2nd ed.). Australia: Thomson Social Science Press.QKLG_PD_RES_BANNER. (n.d.). Queensland Studies Authority. Retrieved October 14, 2012, from Government: Office for Early Childhood Education and Care (2012, September 6). Kindy aged. Department of Education, Training and Employment. Retrieved October 15, 2012, from, C. K., & Rider, E. A. (2009). Life-span human development. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.Pica, R., & Pica, R. (2004). Experiences in movement: Birth to age eight. Clifton Park, NY: Thomson/Delmar Learning.

My Role: Daughter, Big Sister, Nanny, Educator, FriendWhen it comes to kindy, I am in an unusual position. As the eldest child in a family of {soon to be!} ten children {yes, all to the same Mum and Dad}, who went to kindy herself, I have a few fond memories of my year in that classroom – and strangely enough, more memories now that I have taught in that room for a year myself. I have watched my siblings grow at home, in preparation for their first year of ‘big school’, whilst I home-schooled my way through high school. I am now a nanny to 12-month-old triplets, and their big brothers – 3 years and 6 years old. I saw the now-Preppie through his last months of Kindy blossom and grow, allowing his siblings more of my already shared attention and care. From the age of 15 {I am now about to turn 19} I have taught as an assistant and leader in both childcare and private Kindergarten settings, being trusted with the almighty task of teaching someone else’s child… and these parents are now dear friends. How do I combine these experiences, roles and perspectives? Simple. I use my professional understanding and observation, combined with my deep desire to see children trained as much as possible with parents at home, to assist families in choosing the right path for them. Sometimes a family might need a second income, and the centre based care setting allows them this support. Families of multiple young children may find older siblings have too much energy to just stay home and help Mum with the baby – and kindergarten provides a wonderful, nurturing opportunity for this. Perhaps Mum is quite contentedly home and loves playing with her 4 year old whilst managing homemaker tasks. Though differing in each, I can encourage holistic, creative and laughter-filled learning through my partnership in support of parents, and application personal skills and passions for young children.

Rachael HardieStudent Number:0061027273Course Code:EDO2104Families and Society

Resource 1: QKindy 2012The Qkindy 2012 booklet has been distributed to families and carers Queensland wide through early learning centres. The document provides up to date information for all carers regarding the opportunities and benefits kindergarten has for children 3 to 5 years of age. The document can also be viewed online, at Department of Education, Training and Employment Director-General Julie Grantham describes the increase in kindergarten profile as, “… remarkable… more children are taking part in a wide range of teacher planned and supported learning experiences which develop their language, literacy and numeracy knowledge, and social… skills.” (2012; pg 1)Parents will gain a greater understanding of the Government’s support through the perusal of this booklet, and it is a brilliant resource to support educators in promoting their approved Kindergarten Programs to families. Implications for relevant legislative changes occurring over this and the next few years are clearly explained, highlighting the numerous advantages to National Frameworks for early years care and education.

Resource 2 – Queensland Kindergarten Programs Media CampaignOver the past 12 months, the Queensland Government has produced a media campaign for television and radio, to promote awareness of kindergarten programs all over Queensland. Featuring entertainer (and Play School presenter) Jay Laga’aia, the series of advertisements highlight the lasting effect kindergarten has on children, providing the skills necessary for a flying start to school in Prep. Selected videos can be viewed on You Tube by clicking here. The advertisements present a beautiful kindergarten environment, with children smiling and playing together. Children are presented creating with cardboard boxes, exploring solar reflection on water and talking to a group of classmates – and captions describe these children as future town planners, solar energy experts and motivational speakers. While there are many life skills gleaned during the kindergarten year, these are not skills that could not be gained later in life. Parents may be presented with unnecessary pressure to send their child to kindy in preparation for university 15 or so years later. For stable family environments where parents had previously not sent their children to kindy, this could be an influencing factor, though not essentially a core reason for kindergarten. Overall, the campaign presents a positive impression of kindergarten to families and the wider Queensland community.

Hearing from ParentsDuring the course of my research for this portfolio, I discussed the impact of kindy on families with a number of friends whose children have gone through kindergarten programs in the last 3 years. Each responded overwhelmingly positively; here are some of their comments. Yolanda, mother to daughters 14, 11 and 6 years, said, “I felt it was extremely positive and beneficial… [they] loved making friends, learning new skills… they would bring home stories of that they had read, learned and what activities they did with their friends… I think broadening a person’s horizon through various experiences is essential from young to old and enables us to keep growing as a person.”Karen, mother to daughters 6 and 4 years, comments, “For us, the social aspect was very important… a personal consideration was that our first daughter demonstrated an asynchronous development and we worked with… the teacher to work on catching up her… skills. From a fun/learning perspective, the [kindy] year also helped because our daughter was able to engage in heaps of creative activities at school that I would never have been able to manage at home.” Lyndrea, mother to son 10 years, twin daughters 7 years and son 3 years, mentions a similar lacking at home, “I don’t believe I have been focused enough on the education needs of my preschool-aged children to be able to confidently send them into the rigors of school having spent their whole pre-school time just with me.”Caitlin, mother to sons 6 and 3, and boy-boy-girl triplets, 1 year, appreciated the community: “My husband was a member of the kindy committee and established relationships with a wide variety of people… [it] was also a remarkable place of support by the parents within it when they heard we were expecting triplets… it all enhanced the kindy experience for my [eldest] son.”Community between kindy families and the messy crafts being enjoyed – but not at home! – were similar threads running through other responses. Perhaps there is a significant aspect of kindy that is not for the child, but rather for the parent and family. While academic or cognitive growth was important, these parents often remarked that it was the relationship with educators, families and children’s peers that marked the kindy year apart from other school years.



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