The extended periods of free play in our supportive play environments are the base of our program. The free play is so important because it is through this type of play that the children best learn and develop. Above all, self-directed play leads to feelings of competence, confidence, and independence, which is the basis of security for a self-guided approach to learning. Among the many skills that children learn through open-ended play activities of their own design are:
all manner of social skills from leadership and collaboration to humour and empathy
social problem solving in negotiation, conflict resolution
imagination and creativity
As well, many teachable concepts are explored by the children in their own activity, so that notions of floatation, mechanics (like using scissors, etc.), gravity and many more are encountered.
All learning steps are supported by caregivers, in particular by helping children with guidance and encouragement wherever possible. Our help aims to provide a learning ‘scaffold’ from which the children themselves can continue and complete their learning experience. It may sound complicated and theoretical but it is the kind of attention, attentiveness and caring that goes into caregiving at the Kinderschule. (See also the Role of the Caregiver.)
The free play periods at our centre are from the beginning of the day until circle and snack time at around 10:00, and from about 10:30 till 11:20 for the day’s final circle. The first session is in the regular play room, with all its toys and activity areas, and the second session is in our gym, with its play structures and vehicles. Each session is about an hour -- the children need the time to settle in and to become fully engaged in meaningful experiences.
The Play Environment and Caregiver Interactions also shape the children’s free play activities in important ways.