Kindergarten is for Growing Children

Construction paper and paint collage

Throughout my life, I have been under the impression that the definition of Kindergarten is “a Garden of and for Children.” It is a place where the natural curiosity of children is nurtured, where they are encouraged to grow in their ability to get along with other children, and the materials they will need to express the knowledge they glean through interacting with their world  are provided for them: colorful paper, crayons, markers, paints, glue, safety scissors, stamps, stencils, games, seeds, soil, flour or sand to trace letters in, a variety of materials to build with, etc. They need lots of play and sunshine, and even a little rain and snow, to grow – not time with computers. This was my experience as a Kindergartener, and I had hoped that it would be my daughter’s. She did enjoy some of the playful, hands-on, nature of Kindergarten, and her teachers were lovely, but there was so much “busy work” and computer time that could have been replaced by movement or a hands-on craft project.

The Physical World Rules!

An abstract playground design made from construction paper

In the interests of “No Child Left Behind,” the federal government, along with many state departments of education, has become rather unrealistic about what each grade level should be expected to achieve. Younger children who are entering school need to be given a chance to meet their world on their own terms, and their strengths used to foster learning. One of their strengths is the high level of natural energy that they possess. So why is it that in the twenty-first century, young children with a plethora of natural energy are forced to sit in chairs at desks with so much less time to move around than students who have spent time in Kindergarten classrooms before them? They may be able to achieve more, but there is a cost to pushing them forward too soon. Leaving some of the writing for first grade in favor of experimenting with physics through games and meaningful materials may be met with greater excitement. Kindergarten is a time to explore with one’s whole being!  It is meant to be a “garden of experiences.” Past field research has proven that children learn better when they have a chance to exercise at least an hour or two each day. This includes yoga. Or, why not create a labyrinth at school that children may have a chance to walk each day? I am sure that the teachers, as well as their students, would love those options better!

Basic Human Social Relationships

Three-Dimensional "Arboretum Garden" made with recycled materials during Spring Break

Interaction with others is vital to the developing brains of children. Fellow students and teachers are the people who will give them the experience of learning what it means to be human through working together on projects, sharing, taking turns, and working out differences with respect. Play is the form of learning they do best. It is through interaction with others that children learn empathy, ethics, and diplomacy.  This type of learning is seldom quantifiable on an individual basis, so the time for it has been shrunk. Yet this type of learning takes time and is vital to the future of our students. Important life opportunities and true career success is dependent upon the quality of our relationships with each other. Moving to the next stage of one’s learning depends as much on social relationships to those who hold the open door to meaningful opportunities as they are on the skills that the individual brings to them!  The foundation for a successful and fulfilling life for our children is laid out while they are still very young. Let’s make Kindergarten a place for these relationships to strengthen.

Lego house with yard

A Kindergartener’s World Is Three-Dimensional

Sitting in chairs at desks is not as important as getting down and dirty with the materials that are part of everyday life, both solid and liquid. They are meant to listen to stories, tell stories, act out stories, and express themselves through the arts!  Keeping a small daily journal is good, but prefabricated pencil-and-paper “busy work” is not necessary. Sitting in front of a computer only delays growth of brain cells, it does not help them. The so-called child-friendly, “educational” programs that are used as a replacement for one-to-one interaction do not add to knowledge. They are just more “busy work.” What Kindergarteners learn from more readily is creating things with their hands and observing how things work, drawing their observations and writing a just few words about them. The materials they use are most meaningful to them when they are made by the students themselves.

Husband + Daughter = Ozymandius, almost (De Cordova Sculpture Park and Art Museum)

Play at Home, Too!

No Matter what path you take to your child’s Kindergarten education, playing with your child will be a great way to find out what is happening inside them each day, and keeping the family bonds strong.

Playful Parenting by Larry Cohen is a great book to read if you’d like to know more about that.

Links to Meaningful Education

Below are some online links to more information and examples of learning that uses the strengths of young people in their educational plan

Physical Education and Learning

Kindergarteners and Learning

Robert Fulghum, and others, about Kindergarten

The Race to Nowhere

Hands-On Homeschooling

De Cordova Sculpture Park and Art Museum visit

Have a Happy Year!

You are invited to visit my home page and order my book, The Complete Guide to Growing Your Own Fruits and Berries: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply.