Do you sometimes question the choice of a play-based program for your child?
Do you wonder what the teachers are doing to promote growth and learning for your child?
Do you need assistance in articulating the benefits of play to family and friends?
Each child that attends our school comes to us with his or her own unique qualities, temperaments and talents. Our philosophy here at FUMP states that we are a developmental program, creating an atmosphere for each child to develop cognitively, physically, socially,emotionally and spiritually. In other words, we believe in developing the whole child. Through this philosophy and developmentally appropriate practice, we create learning environments for all children in our care.
As we place children in each class, we work hard to maintain a maximum age span of 12 months. Often times we are able to have age spans as close as six months.While birth dates are an important guideline in determining where children are developmentally, we find that children come to us with a wide range of abilities. For example, let’s take two children with birthdays in the same calendar month, let’s say September. Child one is socially adept, feeling very comfortable in dramatic play and in group settings. Child one is not very interested in art and table activities at this time. Child two has a strong grasp of many cognitive concepts; abc‘s spatial concepts, patterns, etc. Child two is reserved with peers, but very outgoing with family. (I suspect that you can visualize the stereotypes given here!) Both of these children are developing normally with different strengths and talents in the classroom. I am sure that you are thinking, “But how can the teachers possibly meet both of these children’s needs, as well as the other eight individual personalities in the classroom?”
That is the beauty of the FUMP philosophy and developmentally appropriate practice. As you stroll through the preschool hallway, you will see that learning centers are available to the children. Within those learning centers are a variety of age-appropriate materials, such as puzzles, books, blocks, art supplies and more. Children can self-select activities and engage in play individually, in small groups or with a teacher. Our staff takes great care in selecting their materials for the classrooms based on the developmental levels of the children that are enrolled, and the interests of each child. They are knowledgeable about where the children are developmentally and where they need to go. For example, they ensure that they have incorporated easy, medium and challenging puzzles on their shelves with a variety of themes and subjects. Puzzles are then selected and put out in the classroom.
Let’s go back to the two children we discussed earlier. Child two may walk over and pick up a 24-piece puzzle and complete it within a few minutes. Child one doesn’t usually spend time at the puzzles, but the teachers knows that child one loves dogs, and has chosen a simple dog puzzle that week. The teacher mentions this to child one that morning. Child one approaches the table and begins to work the dog puzzle. And perhaps, child two begins to help child one when they get stuck, and it begins a morning of the two playing together-child one helping with puzzles, and child two exploring dress up in the classroom that day. The teacher notes this and finds ways to encourage the children‘s cooperative play. Each gets the opportunity to lead and to grow in a new area.
This type of scenario happens throughout our school each day. It is how we ensure that each child gets what they need while here at school. If you relate to child one or two, please know that your child has so many opportunities to learn and grow, even in the area in which they excel. If your child is cognitively ahead of his classmates, the materials in the FUMP classrooms provide the flexibility and creativity to allow your child to experiment in their own way. For example, let’s say that your child loves blocks. Even from infancy, your child
was drawn to them. We have soft foam blocks in our infant and toddler rooms.We have wooden unit blocks in each preschool classroom. Each set gets larger as the age progresses. There are predictable stages of block play for children. In the early stages, they will carry them from place to place and that is the extent of their play. They will then begin to make single block towers, and then move on to bridges and representational structures. All of these types of block play can happen in any classroom by any child at any time. Children will spend that time with the blocks experimenting and learning, through cause and effect and from their peers. So if a two-year old child begins the year already at bridges, they have the flexibility to naturally move through the current stage and on to representational building. Our teachers are here to support that growth and development.
Predictable stages occur with all types of play—from pre-reading, to social play, to drawing, to use of scissors, to dramatic play, to use of playdough, to science concepts. The list goes on and on. Here is another example for you to consider. If a child is showing an interest in letters, the teacher may put alphabet blocks on the manipulative shelf. That particular child may spend a few minutes talking about what letter their name starts with and inquire about the names of a few other letters as well. A second child may make a tower and a bulldozer knocks them down. A third child may come over and copy the letters off of the blocks for an art project. Each child used the blocks in a different way, and in exactly the way that was important to them.
Within the examples noted here, we hope to give parents tangible illustrations of our philosophy at work.We know that through playgroups, friends and family you hear about many types of programs with their own strengths and advantages. The staff at FUMP is educated in developmentally appropriate practice and how to implement it into the classroom.When you walk into any classroom of children at play, you see children active, busy, and engaged in their play. Our teachers see that and so much more. They see each individual child, what they are each interested in, how they fit in with the group, what their strengths are. They also look for opportunities to interact one-on-one, to assist socially, to extend play, to build on current skills, to help children love learning and love school now and for their lifetime.
We have found this type of learning and play to be the most beneficial for young children.We work hard to preserve this philosophy in this day and age of worksheets and testing. Parents of FUMP graduates tell us that their children have gone on to very successful kindergarten experiences after their time with us.We hope that this insight into the foundations of our philosophy has been helpful.