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Play-based learning

What is the full-day kindergarten (FDK) program?

The full-day kindergarten program helps establish a strong foundation for learning in the early years, in a safe and caring, play-based environment that promotes the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development of all children.

The program reflects the belief that four- and five-year-olds are capable and active learners, full of potential and ready to take ownership of their learning. It approaches children as unique individuals who live and learn within families and communities.

The program aims to provide every child with the kind of support he or she needs in order to develop:

  • self-regulation;
  • health, well-being, and a sense of security;
  • emotional and social competence;
  • curiosity and confidence in learning; and
  • respect for the diversity of his or her peers.

What is play-based learning?

It has long been known that there is a strong link between play and learning. Children are full of natural curiosity and they explore this curiosity through play. When children are playing and happy they are ready to learn.

Play teaches children:

  • how to problem solve;
  • how to make friends;
  • how to express themselves to enjoy the world around them; and
  • how to recognize letters and numbers.

In the full-day kindergarten program, teachers and early childhood educators take time to observe and get to know each child. The educators design learning areas that focus on the interests of the children, providing them with opportunities to explore, question, discover, and think critically.

While children play, they chat with other children, and work together to solve problems. They use art to express their thoughts. They tell stories through role play. All of these activities help children develop, learn, and build the skills that they will need in grade one and beyond.

A play-based program allows all children to join in learning experiences at their own level of development. Educators will accommodate the child's current abilities and intentionally plan for next steps.

For more information check out our blog Will play-based kindergarten really prepare my child for grade 1? (external link)

Why is play important?

Play is the work of children, it creates opportunities for developing important skills such as:

  • large motor and fine motor skills;
  • thinking skills (for example, problem-solving);
  • social/emotional skills (for example, taking turns, getting along with others);
  • stress management skills;
  • story telling; and
  • self-regulation.

Social development includes children’s growing abilities to empathize and get along with others. Emotional development nurtures children’s advancement of self-concept, self-reliance and self-regulation by creating a warm and responsive environment.

Children need multiple opportunities for meaningful play in a variety of settings and environments. These opportunities help children:

  • foster respect for individual differences;
  • develop an understanding of the concepts of equality, fairness and tolerance, capacity to understand and express emotions to others;
  • develop a positive sense of themselves;
  • acquire self-confidence to become more receptive to relate to others;
  • become successful learners in life; and
  • manage their stress and frustration more easily.

For more information about play-based learning, check out our website and blog on the Importance of Play (external link).

What can you do within the school?

You are the first and most powerful teacher and role model to your child. Knowing your child as well as you do, you can provide teachers with important information that makes the team better able to meet your child’s individual learning needs.

As a parent you can become actively involved by:

  • communicating with children and other parents in your child’s class;
  • volunteering in the classroom or in organizing school events;
  • helping your child learn at home; and/or
  • participating on parent council.

Parent engagement matters. Study after study has shown us that student achievement improves when parents play an active role in their children's education, and that good schools become even better schools when parents are involved. It is recognized that parent engagement is a key factor in the enhancement of student achievement and well-being.

Students are more likely to be motivated, to earn higher grades, to have better behaviour and social skills, and to continue their education to a higher level when their parents are actively engaged in supporting their success at school.

Once school starts

  • Make learning a regular activity in your home. Take time to read, join in with your child’s play, and play family games together.
  • Talk to your teacher and/or early childhood educator about ways you can support your child at home every day. Ask specific questions about what your child learned or did during the day. For example:
    • What centres did you work at today (for example, blocks, sand, water, library, dramatic play)? What did you do there?
    • You had a special visitor in your class today. Who was it? What did they talk about? What did they bring with them?
    • I saw the picture you did hanging in your classroom. Tell me about how you made it. How did you decide what to draw?
  • Show an interest in your child’s learning. Ask your child about his or her school day and make school and learning an important part of family conversation.
  • Attend information meetings and other events organized for parents and families.
  • Speak to your child’s teacher or early childhood educator if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s school experience.