Children are encountering everything in the universe for the first time: language, people, objects, form, weight, balance, wind, rain, space, and time. What an individual child absorbs and the range of skills she develops through each encounter is incalculable.
It is of the utmost importance that we provide the time for each child to progress through the overlapping learning stages without skimping on or skipping on any. At Laurel Hill, we provide an environment in which nursery school is not only a preparation for kindergarten and later life, but also a fully valid experience in itself.
Although parents and teachers tend to be very ambitious for their children to show intellectual progress, it is much more important for adults to provide the opportunities for fulfillment and avoid the pressures and tensions bound to arise when the child enters elementary school. By allowing each child the time and environment to discover and develop at their own pace, we create a love of learning that will continue through life.
To create a stimulating and challenging climate in the nursery school, we have a wide variety of activities available to the children at all times, including art, music, building projects for large and small motor skills, books, dance, gardening, outdoor exploration, puzzles, imaginative play and much more. Our children are able to exercise their growing minds in problem solving of all kinds, and explore the realms of balance, weight, color, form and order, cause and effect.
For most children, the first sustained group or out-of-family experience begins with the nursery school. It is a big transition. Within the family, the value of the child is understood no matter what he or she may do. Outside the family, and particularly in the nursery school, the child builds his or her place and acceptance as a result of developing personality and skill.
Unlike the situation in the family, children find themselves in a group made of contemporaries whose interests and capacities are comparable to their own. Each child must find ways of handling the complexities, conflicts, friendships, and the sharing of adult attention.
Children’s experiences in a group gradually help them to shape an awareness of themselves and each person’s special individuality.
One of the most important functions performed at the nursery school is to help children find acceptable and fulfilling ways to express feelings.
At this age, the eruption of negative feelings may require restraint by an adult, redirection, interpretation and guidance, all of which must be done in such a way as to support the self-esteem of the child. If a child’s frustration is unbearable, we can help the child to solve the problem; if a child’s wrath is uncontrollable, we remove the child from its source. Accepting emotions does not imply accepting the behavior they produce.
Understanding a child’s fury does not mean that we tolerate biting, hitting or scratching. We can help to prevent tension and frustration by controlling the environment, by having enough similar materials and toys to reduce competition, by providing opportunities for participation, or by finding a quiet spot or activity when there is over-stimulation. When necessary, we can step in to prevent anger from developing to an unacceptable level. It takes a long time and a lot of trust for a child to be able to wait, share, take turns or relinquish.
At Laurel Hill children handle tasks that require the most complex small muscle control: scissors, crayons, puzzles, and beads. They develop large muscles by playing with wagons, blocks, boards and tricycles. They haul, build, ride, climb and slide in a protected and supervised play yard. These physical skills are important in and of themselves as a child builds self-awareness and self-esteem, but are also important as foundations for later school skills. For example, through stacking blocks, a child learns hand-eye coordination. Later, that coordination helps the child learn to write.