Pre -school Playgroups Nov 1995

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Essentially a playgroup is group of 3- to 5-year-old children exploring, discovering and adjusting socially through a play situation under the guidance of a responsible adult who is aware of the needs of the preschool child. The playgroup provides an environment rich in opportunity for experience from which a child can learn through exploring and discovering for him/herself.

The playgroup leader is on hand to answer questions, to encourage discussion and to provide an extra comment or an object that will stimulate the child to explore again.

Playgroup sessions are held usually four or five mornings a week; each session lasting between two and three hours.

Play is nature’s way of preparing the young for adult life. Safe, satisfying play builds the foundation for learning. Play is essential to a child’s emotional, social and physical development, i.e. intellectual development.

Playgroup Activities:

Painting: Colour awareness

Sand Play: Weights and Measures

Water Play: Science—Floating, Sinking,

Hot/Cold, Volume etc.

Play dough: Shapes and Sizes

Threading, Grouping & Matching: Concentration and Hand/Eye co-ordination.

Duplo Stickle brick etc: Creativity.

Cutting and Gluing: Finer Motor Skills

Drawing, Colouring, Chalk, etc: Concentration

Jigsaws, Peg Boards, etc: Pre-math, and Writing skills

All the above activities require a great deal of concentration, planning, skill and controlled use of hands and eyes; they also give the child a sense of fulfilment and confidence.

All activities should include an awareness of the need to develop language, to stretch and interest children. Activities need to be offered in an exciting and stimulating way, with variety.

Children need to be encouraged, praised, helped, given time to listen and talk to them in a relaxed atmosphere. They need time to master skills for themselves, be helped but not have it done for them. They will play and learn for its own sake and put no value on the end product. Painting or junk ant may not “be” anything or may be representative in a unique way. It is important not to interfere with their play but allow freedom to “do their own thing” within their own limits.

Piaget, Swiss psychologist who studied development and produced a theory of stages in development which much educational practice is now based, described several types of play. Master play, in youngest children: the practice of skills, eg. grasping, walking, talking, with an inborn desire to achieve. From about 2 years plus, children develop such skills as language and drawing. Symbolic play or make-believe – exploring aspects of their lives by playing out roles they have observed but are not assuming in their own lives.

The Playgroup Curriculum

The learning that goes on in the playgroup forms the essential basis for later studies in school and beyond. Children in playgroup learns:

To use language to communicate with adults and other children outside their family.

To listen and respond as part of a group.

To enjoy stories, poems and music.

To recognise the use of print to carry information, ideas and stories.

To create and recognise patterns and sequences.

To use their sense to explore and enjoy their environment.

To observe living things.

To differentiate between objects and groups of objects.

To acquire the skills and co-ordination needed for handling writing and drawing implements.

To operate as part of a group from which they begin to learn kindness and compassion towards people and other things.

Children who find that learning is not a burden imposed on them by adults, but an exciting expression of their own instinctive attempts to live in their own world, have discovered an essential ingredient for success.

Play gives children an opportunity to learn to give and take, sharing and taking turns and to get along with others. When their interests and stages of development are respected, they learn about their own dignity and value in the world. They learn to come to terms with their own strong feelings and to find acceptable ways to expressing them.

All of this learning is important, therefore it must be presented in ways which are known to work best with young children. They need to be able to experiment and come to conclusions free from fear of getting things wrong. They progress a their own rate, building on previous experience. Children learn best when they start with what is familiar and what they can do, and progress from there.

For anyone considering sending their child to playgroup here are some steps to follow:

l. Contact the playgroup leader (not during playgroup hours).

2. Ask if the leader has completed an Irish Pre-school Playgroup Association Course.

3. Ask if the leader is a member of I.P.P.A.

4. Ask if the playgroup is insured as all playgroups should have Public Liability insurance.

June O’Grady, Playgroup Leader, Athenry.

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Written by June O'Grady

Published here 31 Oct 2022 and originally published 1995

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