Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Playschool: Not what it used to be!

By: DEBORAH REYNOLDS

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Over the past decade, there has been a seismic shift in how Early Years Services operate. Parents who have used Early Years Services over this time, will definitely have observed these changes. Every year there seems to be new requirements for settings. It can be difficult for us professionals to keep up with new policy and regulation. Playschool is not what it used to be, so it’s not an overstatement to say, it can be confusing for parents too.

 

Policy Changes
There are five main government policies influencing this new approach; Siolta, The Quality Framework; Aistear, The Curriculum Framework; the 2016 review of Childcare Regulations; the Equality and Diversity Charter; and the DES Early Years Inspections. These developments are influenced by international best practice and early year’s theory. They put children’s interests, voice and needs at the heart of practice. The overall intention is to create high quality Early Years Services for children.

As I see it there are four main areas of change. Firstly, we have moved away from an adult led curriculum with a highly structured and planned day, to an emergent curriculum with a flexible day planned by and for the child. Secondly, we have stopped the early introduction of academic subjects, in favour of a curriculum based on learning skills and dispositions. Thirdly, we have moved away from template based crafts, in favour of process art and creativity. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we recognise Play as paramount to each child’s learning and development.

Toy picnic on the floor - Playschool: not what it used to be!

The Emergent Curriculum
A day in Playschool using the older approach may have been highly structured, with routines and times strictly kept. There may have been lots of adult planned activities, based on what the adults felt children should be learning. The new approach is called the Emergent Curriculum, meaning that early educators observe what children are interested in; reflect on why they may have this interest and figure out what to do next, to create meaningful learning experiences for children. The Emergent Curriculum focuses on play that compliments the interests and needs of children, so every aspect of the day is enjoyable and fun.

To give an example of the Emergent Curriculum; One Monday morning, we had planned to plant with the children, based on their interests the previous week. During lunch, a discussion began about the birthday wall and how everybody has a different month, but some people have to share. The adult mentioned that on that day it was a new month, and pointed out the children who would be celebrating their birthdays soon. One child in her second year exclaimed, ‘it’s a new month, oh my god, we have to do a fire drill’. So, our day changed and we had a fire drill and discussed fire safety, we followed the child’s lead and had a very valuable learning experience.

Boxes of toys - Playschool: not what it used to be!

Academics in Playschool
The older approach to Playschool probably involved academic work, the provision of templates and worksheets along with teaching ABC’s and 123’s in a formal way, similar to the junior infant’s curriculum. Now, we don’t introduce academic work. Instead, we focus on pre-academic skills, which are also life-long learning skills.

To give some examples, we encourage pre-reading skills by having books available, we read aloud, we encourage pretend and dramatic play so children can create their own stories and develop imagination. Pre-writing skills are developed through access to pencils, paint and paper, and physical pre-writing strengths are developed through experiences like sand and water play, and outdoor play. Pre-numeracy skills are enhanced through songs, rhymes and real -life experiences.

Conkers and leaves - Playschool: not what it used to be!

Our scientists are at work every day in the sand-pit. Our engineers are building and knocking towers. Our naturalists are planting and watering flowers. Many of the skills that children need for life and school are being developed in Playschool.

 

Process Art
The older curriculum focused on adult designed crafts, similar pictures made by the children for display, with each child filling a folder of craftwork every year. The new focus is on Process Art where the value is on the experience of doing, thinking, creating, problem-solving, having fun. Children are offered creative experiences, where the end product is not the goal. It may disappoint parents if sometimes their child doesn’t bring anything home, but know that even if you don’t have something to hold on to, the skills built during these creative experiences stay with children for life.

Easel with child's painting - Playschool: not what it used to be!

To give an example of process art; Glue, collage paper, card, sparkles and paint are available to children. Some create cards or a picture using their imagination and creativity, some will take two minutes, others will take part for longer. Some children don’t like to touch the glue, but others grab globs of glue with their hands, to spread on the table and rub their hands together, and enjoy the stickiness, and the strings of glue between their hands. Each child experiences a process unique to them.

Play
In the past Play may have had a minor role, with the opportunity to play freely for only a short time each day. We now identify play as the child’s most vital and natural means of developing and learning. The learning outcomes of play are vast, that is why it has a key role in Playschool. There are many types of play; characteristics of play; patterns within play; dispositions built by play; and skills learned through play.

It can sometimes look disorganised, and this can make parents unsure of its value. Perry Else (2014) describes ‘play as a process’, the focus is the doing, and sometimes the doing involves boxes of blocks tipped out, a doll in the sand, dinosaurs in the dollhouse, a chair wrapped up in Sellotape or paint spilled. Even though play can sometimes look chaotic, it must be taken seriously, because it’s crucial for children.

Sand pit with toy cars and cows - Playschool: not what it used to be!

Peter Gray, (in Ken Robinson 2015): describes play as ‘nature’s way of insuring that young human beings acquire the skills that they need to acquire, to develop successfully into adulthood’ and further describes free play as ‘the means by which children learn to make friends, overcome their fears, solve their own problems and generally take control of their own lives’.

To conclude, I encourage parents not to worry, Playschool might look different, but it’s full of learning, friends and fun. We are working hard to ensure your child’s experience in Playschool will enhance their learning and development for life.

 

Deborah Reynolds is a Playschool Leader in Kilkerrin Community Playschool, a play-based service in East Co. Galway. Deborah has qualifications in Childcare, Fine Art and Forest School, she recently graduated from Athlone IT with a Level 7 in EYCE. She is currently completing the LINC course and she is on the National Committee for the Big Start Campaign. Her main influence in Childcare has been her Mum, Therese. Therese planted the seeds of a play-based approach that have firmly taken root. She offered to write this Scéalta post, outlining how she demonstrates to parents the benefits of a play-based approach.

6 comments Comments

6 Responses

  1. Lilian Joyce says:

    very uplifting article, thank you

  2. Denise Collins says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article…so true too.

  3. Carol Duffy says:

    Wonderful competent and accessible blog, you know you are talking the walk. I can see you are sowing the seeds of play just as Therese did for you. Congrats Deborah and when Therese stops grinning with pride you can congratulate her too for sowing the funds of knowledge.

  4. Deborah Reynolds says:

    Thanks Lillian, Denise and Carol 🙂

  5. Aileen Healy says:

    Very well said Deborah . It actually names and addresses parents fears. Aileen

  6. Geraldine Doran says:

    Lovely blog Deborah, particularly the emerging curriculum and the value of play. I think as practitioners, we too are more motivated by the spontaneity of play and the endless possibilities of valuable learning experiences for the children.

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

Favouritism(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Laughter(1) Supernanny(1) trust(3) Facebook(1) Leprechauns(1) Inspirational(2) Diversity(1) relationships(14) Mealtimes(1) dining(1) Relaxation(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Self-Esteem(1) listen(1) Event Guide(1) Consent(1) Maths Week(1) Light table(1) Nonverbal(1) Inclusion(3) Budget 2018(1) Quality(3) Running(1) Home Corner(1) National Awards 2018(2) Pobal(1) Support(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) The Jelly King(1) Time Out(1) Competent(1) parents(5) Loss(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Seas Suas(1) RIE philosphy(1) Identity and Belonging(3) Ariana Pucci(1) meals(3) Celebrate(1) Xbox(1) feisty(1) Kerry(1) Research Seminar(1) Map(1) Positivity(1) Celebrations(4) Buddy Bench(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Malaguzzi(1) Titles(1) Technology(2) Well-Being(6) Maria Montessori(1) Care routines(1) education(2) Potential(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) food(1) Magnavacchi(1) Interests(1) University(1) outdoor play(6) Maths Week Ireland(1) Síolta(100) Inter-generational(1) AsIAm(1) Aistear(105) Dr. Emer Ring(1) journey(1) Pen green(1) Limerick(1) Childhood(1) Exploring(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) outdoors(3) Human Resources(1) supportive environments(1) mushrooms(1) Arts(1) Santa(2) Sequins(1) Yoga(1) Interaction(1) TOY Programme(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) New Appointments(1) Weather(1) Love(2) routine(2) RTE Investigates(1) Visitors(1) Wesco(1) Recycle(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) baby room(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Universal Design(2) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Window(1) European Project(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Penguins(1) Builders(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Care-giving routines(1) Children(1) Body Language(1) Academic Skills(1) Obesity(1) Mathematicians(1) Irish(1) Rituals(1) Exclusion(1) Line-ups(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Wonder(1) Grief(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) Blocks(1) Employee(1) Vietnam(1) Spiders(1) Role play(1) dining experiences(1) Affordability(1) Mental Health(3) Environment(2) Gratitude(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Family wall(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Nutrition(1) Norway(2) Decision Making(1) Jenga(1) linc(1) Qualifications(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) babies(7) Music(3) under 3's(3) Mount Everest(1) Ceremony(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Self Help Skills(1) Time(1) environments(1) play(29) learning(15) Professionalisation(4) Child mental health(1) Learning Story Awards(1) Christmas Creativity(2) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(1) Sustainable(1) friendships(1) Impact(1) Treasure(1) Sociodramatic play(1) dogs(1) communication(4) Behaviour(3) Shoes(1) budget(1) refugees(1) Sweets(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Interactions(2) eating(1) development(8) Wendy Lee(2) Traffic Lights(1) AIM(2) Awards 2019(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Social Skills(1) Glitter(2) Prexit(1) Book Club(2) Death(1) Magic(1) Flowers(1) educating(1) Confidence(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(1) risk assessment(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Mixed age groups(2) dublin(2) Early Years(1) Certificate(1) Childcare(2) Smiles(1) National Holiday(1) Workplace Relations(3) play stories(1) NCCA(2) Appreciation(1) Little Buddies(1) Art(6) Plants(1) Shapes(1) Children's Rights(1) Our Little Seed(1) Early Years Educators(1) Names(1) blog(28) scéalta(25) Patterns(1) Snack Time(1) Primary School(2) Japan(1) Mo Scéal(1) educarer(1) Liz Kerrins(1) National Pyjama Day(1) reading(4) books(4) Syria(1) MECPI(1) Horizon 2020(1) Wilenski(1) National Awards 2019(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Giraffe(2) Trick or treat(1) Frustrations(1) emotions(2) ECEC(1) Study Trip(1) Feeding(1) Inter-generational learning(1) Mayo(1) Breathing(2) Training(2) listening(1) Touch(1) Siolta blog(2) curriculum(5) Graduate(1) Self-regulation(1) CPD(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Routines(1) ECCE(6) Kilkenny(1) christmas(8) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Exit interview(1) DCYA(4) conversations(1) ReCreate(2) Traditions(2) Learning journals(1) Leargas(1) role playing(1) Upcycling(1) Empathy(1) CCTV(1) Montessori(2) Easter(1) Workplace well-being(1) Painting(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Challenges(1) Community involvement(1) pets(1) risk(2) San Minia(1) early years research(1) Administrative Burden(1) SPICE Framework(1) Snacks(1) Craft(1) Margy Whalley(1) respect(5) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) Playdough(1) Learning Story(1) Awards(2) Iceland(1) grandchild(1) Treasure Chest(1) Culture(2) Health(1) Engineers Week(2) Fabric(1) Dance(1) Winter(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Laugh(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Independence(1) emotional environment(1) Imagination(3) Arithmetic(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Cork(1) Sport(1) ICBN(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Exercise(1) Orla Kenny(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Meal time(1) Cognitive development(1) Playschool(1) risky play(2) Twitter(1) maternity health(1) Budget 2019(2) bonds(1) Decisions(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Sculptures(1) TRAP(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) research(6) Communicating(1) Engineering(2) Autism(3) Maynooth University(1) preschool(2) Meet the Members(1) Snakes(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Visual Impairment(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Albert Einstein(1) Identity(4) Sleep(1) Reggio(1) planning(1) Wrapping paper(1) Children's Research Network(1) Maths(4) Online(1) Recycling(2) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Reggio Children Network(1) UN(1) Photographs(1) IGL(1) worries(1) Trade union(1) Maynooth(1) Belonging(3) toddlers(3) Trigonometry(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Maternity Leave(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Funding(1) First 5(1) PIP(1) Mindfulness(2) curiosity(3) Italy(1) Workforce(1) Family(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) social media(1) Brain(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) Through the looking glass(1) transitions(10) overhear(1) Síolta QAP(1) Party(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Trade Unions(1) Change(1) Gardening(1) Kids Own(1) ERASMUS+(3) Bereavement(1) Design(1) Biting(1) Capable(1) CIT(1) documentation(2) Reggio Emilia(1) Masterclass(2) Awards 2018(3) Games(1) Thank you(1) Policy(2) Creativity(4) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) San Miniato(4) science(3) UD(1) Plastic(1) Story(1) Iraq(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) science week(2) UNCRC(1) EECERA 2016(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) stories(2) Settling in(3) Buddies(1) Lego(2) MA(1) Valentine's Day(3) ears(1) Degree(1) animals(2) STEM(2) Advocacy(1) Socioemotional development(1) Eritrea(1) GDPR(1) NAEYC(1) Investment(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) First 5 strategy(1) outdoor space(3) early childhood educator(1) INTO(1) Sustainability(3) Annual Conference 2019(1) story time(1) Confident(1) Arlene Forster(1) interacting(2) InspireMe.ie(1) Drawing(2) Creative(1) Queues(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Oireachtas(1) child-centred approach(1) Scéalta Blog(82) Learning Stories(7) community(5) United Nations(1) Halloween(2) Thinking(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) College(1) Fantasy play(1) Anxiety(2) Adoption(1) Performance Management(1) Scents(1) Mark Twain(1) memories(1) Vertical grouping(1) Performing(1) Communications(1) Educators(1) Teamwork(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) experience(1) Mud kitchens(1) Storytelling(2) Stress(2) Academics(1) Magda Gerber(1) Mantra(1) EM Standing(1) Thanks(1) Graduation(1) Afghanistan(1)

SIGN UP FOR BLOG UPDATES

SUBSCRIBE
Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine