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DD can choose how she spends her time at pre-school. I'm not sure what I think about this.

(30 Posts)
puffling Wed 08-Oct-08 22:47:29

DD is 2.5 and has been at pre-school for a few weeks. She took some time to settle in and got attached to activities that she feels secure with. These are jigsaws with a male worker (she calls him 'man auntie') then outdoors to play for most of the session.
Children choose what they'd like to do and in some ways I like this. it means dd has been able to settle in by doing what she feels safe/happy with. perhaps as time goes on she'll start to join in with other activities.
However, on the other hand I feel sad that there's so much going on there that she doesn't do. She loves all craft work but never chooses to do it at pre-school. She never has a snack or a drink as it's up to her whether she wants to go and her it. it makes me feel sad. When i leave her there, i get the feeling she'd love to do painting, for example, but can't bring herself to join the table.
I've talked to her keyworker and others who say, she'll do things as she gets more confident. i broached the snack issue and her keyworker said,' Well she'l have to learn to come and ask like she'll have to do when she goes to school.'
I'm not sure if a small child should habe freedom to choose how they spend their time, if it's actually inhibiting them. I'd love to know what other parents and pre-school workers think.

Prufrock Wed 08-Oct-08 22:50:54

Unfortunately it doesn't matter what parents and pre-school workers think (and I think most of them agree with you) the govt in it's infinite wisdom has decided that all pre-school activities must be child led. Oh, and planned for to ensure they fulfil all the learning goals of the Foundation stage - we are still working out how exactly to combine those 2 goals.

FAQ Wed 08-Oct-08 22:55:53

DS1 spent almost him entire year at nursery playing on the computer and with the cars and trains. He stuck with his few real interest during reception - now at 8 he's into anything and everything.

DS2 has always been into everything and reguarly flitted between activities at nursery (and has done the same at school for the last few weeks since he started).

I personally think at that age it should be child-led.

Would you make your DC have a snack, paint or do any other thing that they weren't really interested in doing just to ensure they did a wide range of activities?

puffling Wed 08-Oct-08 22:57:22

So can I expect all pre-school to work on this principal then? She'll be at her primary pre-school next year and I'm really hoping there'll be more structure there.

mabanana Wed 08-Oct-08 22:58:15

I love tghat my dd gets to choose her activities, but it was also important to me that she has communal meals with turn taking etc - eg they all sit together for snack time and take turns being, say, the biscuit distributor, which is a much-coveted role.

Simplysally Wed 08-Oct-08 22:59:23

My daughter went to a creche one session a week and after a couple of weeks, she complained that she didn't get to do painting. I told her to go and ask at the painting table next time - and from then on in, I was inundated with craft work hmm. I'm a bit shocked that they're not given a snack or drink automatically. I know it was only one setting my daughter went to but they worked to a timetable and all the children had to sit at a table, after washing their hands, to have their drinks and a biscuit as part of teaching them social skills. Some activities were whole group, such as the winding-down storytime towards the end of the session and certainly the snack time whilst the others were a drop-in basis on different tables. Maybe your daughter has to ask to do craft time and to ask for a drink/snack. 2.5 is very young to expect them to work it out for themselves. Is it possible for you to stay a bit longer in the sessions to see how she interacts generally?

puffling Wed 08-Oct-08 23:01:08

FAQ - It's not that I want to force her into a wide range of activities that she doesn't want to do. I just worry that she does want to do some of them but won't do them. She tells me she didn't do painting/didn't eat any toast etc. bcause there were other children/aunties at the table. I think she wants to do some things but being shy doesn't dare.

mabanana Wed 08-Oct-08 23:01:11

Sounds like my dd's nursery, SimplySally. I think it's the best system.

Prufrock Wed 08-Oct-08 23:09:02

Latest guidelines discourage set snack times and encourage a rolling snack at the children's choice. I do think child led is good to a point, but I also think children should be encouraged to try other things so that they can find out of they like them - and yes I do do that with my children at home- I had to ensure ds sat down and was given a snack mid-morning, because he'd often be too busy to realise he was hungry, but would then get grumpy because he was very hungry and thirsty. I'm an adult - it's my role to teach and provide a wide range of experiences for my child to try, not just supervise them in doing teh few they have discovered for themselves

cat64 Wed 08-Oct-08 23:21:41

Message withdrawn

mabanana Wed 08-Oct-08 23:50:43

Really Prufrock?? What STUPID guidelines! Agree with you and Cat64 that meals should be sociable, civilised occasions and it is lovely for the children to sit at a table and talk and share. DD was beside herself with pride when she was made biscuit monitor. And you are right, often young children don't realise they are hungry or thirsty, and just get completely beside themselves.

nappyaddict Thu 09-Oct-08 01:10:07

At Ds' preschool they start in one room which has activity tables with jigsaws, a wooden castle, kitchen etc. then they move to a bigger hall like room with bigger toys like a slide, ride ons etc. when they are in these rooms they can play with what they like.

before switching over the the other room they all sit down for a drink and snack. they don't have to have one but they all have to sit at the table (although they are allowed to wander around a little bit). they have set times when they do singing, painting (although ds has refused to do this a few times - he has issues with being messy and they let him do something else), outdoors play etc that they all take part in together.

LadyOfWaffleIsScaryEnough Thu 09-Oct-08 01:19:25

Goodness, DSs preschool is bedlam - he just runs in (while I out up his bag etc.) and goes to do whatever he wants. It's more like a big playgroup to be honest, but he's not there (thank god!) for the educational aspect, I only started him to socialise a bit with other kids. He does only go for 2.5 hours twice a week, probably be different if he started a 'proper' pre-school... although I do think this one goes up to 5? Hmmm....

nappyaddict Thu 09-Oct-08 01:27:42

oh yes ds' is called playgroup. i thought they were the same thing. it isn't attached to a school or anything.

LadyOfWaffleIsScaryEnough Thu 09-Oct-08 02:16:14

DSs is actually called pre-school, it's in the grounds of a school, but it's attatched to a childrens centre which is in the grounds of the primary school, and the primary school has it's own nursery. All very confusing! Just checked the ofsted website and apparently they do get snacks at ours, but I think they get it when they want. Unless DS is told he would have no idea really, but he goes straight after lunch anyway.

FrockHorror Thu 09-Oct-08 02:36:17

The idea of rolling snack time was so that children were given opportunities to be independent and to recognise their needs and how to meet them without interrupting any play and learning that they are engrossed in.

For this same reason, during an inspection by Ofsted in a nursery I worked in, circle time was frowned upon (although the benefits of circle time cannot be argued) because the inspector felt that the children were being called away from self initiated learning and that this would impact upon their learning, particularly if they were called to take part in an activity they had no interest in. She asked us how we would we feel if we were called away from something important to please someone else. It's a bit of a rubbish example but I did kind of get what she meant.

I think it is a good thing that children have the opportunities to dictate how and when they learn, but think it is equally important that the adults working with the children can recognise that the learning needs to be steered appropriately in order to extend it.

Personally, I would give your DD a bit more time to participate in the activities she would like to and I agree that once her confidence grows in her surroundings, she will venture further into the activities provided. She is still quite little and so may feel comforted by the select activities she likes to take part in. The other way of looking at it is that all the time she is doing what she wants, her learning is going to be more meaningful to her.

twentypence Thu 09-Oct-08 02:37:54

Ds spend a whole blissful year in the sandpit between 4 and 5 years and then started school. He has had no problems in the structured environment of school and tries new things happily, including craft which he would never do at Kindy.

The kindy did cheat when it came to meals and mat times though. They would mysteriously disappear when the Education Review Office came in!

At 2.5 I think they should absolutely have a choice about what they play with. But I think they are too young to remember to have meals and should be asked if they want to eat.

egypt Thu 09-Oct-08 07:00:50

Yes the guidelines are mad. If a school has it's wits about them, they know to lead the children towards other activities which they might not otherwise try. They also do the snack thing altogether. dd's preschool in the UK couldn't get its head around the snack thing and had a snack table for 4 children, where, in the eyes of an inspector, the children cold come and go as necessary. In actual fact they called them all over in turn.

So maybe they did get it right

And they did do whole class story and songs anyway.

I think it all goes a bit far, and some schools take it a bit far.

nappyaddict Thu 09-Oct-08 10:56:46

DS goes to a different playgroup one afternoon a week. they are split into 2 groups and they take it in turns to do different things. it seems both playgroups he goes to would be frowned upon by ofsted for doing this.

Plonker Thu 09-Oct-08 22:51:03

Well, i think it sounds fantastic ...and exactly what i would look for in a pre-school.

I'm a bit baffled about parents preferring 'structure' for little children. Children learn best when they are engaged in activities that they are interested in ...not activities that someone planned at the beginning of the year when surmising what the children will be interested in.

If a child was looking longingly at the craft table, I'm pretty sure that any practitioners worth her salt would gently guide the child to do the activity, but hey, to not make them do something that they don't want to do can only be a good thing, no?

Rolling snack is quite different to lunch.
I do believe that children should be encouraged to sit down to eat their lunch - and i agree that it is a social occasion, but i don't think they should be made to sit down to snack ...would you eat something when you're not hungry? I think we'd all agree that its not healthy to eat when we're not hungry so why should litte Johnny sit at the table when he's not hungry just because someone else has decided that now is the time to eat?
Again, i think any decent practitioner would remind the room at large that the snack is there, but no way should they be made to go and access it. Self-accessing gives the children control - lets them decide, again, surely this is a good thing?

I think its sounds a lovely pre-school smile

Yurtgirl Thu 09-Oct-08 22:57:59

Puffling FWIW I think it would be better all round if one of the staff said to your dd "Would you like to do some painting? Come and see what we are doing at this table?"

What harm can such a question do - she can still say no

I wish the govt would just let teachers etc get on with it and stop meddling

cory Fri 10-Oct-08 14:08:33

I am wondering how often a child at home with its mother actually has a totally child-led day- yet some posters seem to think this is necessary. I would certainly spend a lot of time getting my 3yo away from her chosen activities, to remind her to eat, use the potty, take her to the shops or out to the park. I am sorry if this did her harm (better check on, she looks ok), but seriously...would you spend a whole sunny day indoors because your child decided they wanted to play on the computer or something? And how would you accommodate two siblings, one of whom wanted to play indoors and the other wanting to go to the park? And how would you get the shopping done? Life involves compromises for both adults and chiuldren

I quite agree that a child's life should not be too structures, but think it is equally silly to suggest that children should always be able to self-access.

Lots of kids need prompting and encouraging to try something new. They may secretly want to, but not every child is capable of asking for something just because they want it. I certainly wasn't, not until I was about 4 or 5. I couldn't have coped with a totally child-led day.

Annner Fri 10-Oct-08 22:55:22

I have read this with interest, and have the same questions with our own pre-school.

While I totally endorse the idea of child-led play in pre schools, I do struggle with situations when the activity on offer is a special event (i.e. an autumn nature walk) or something that we as a society value as being a shared activity, such as singing.

In the case of the first example, DD (nearly 4) could not see beyond the attraction of the toy that she was playing with NOW to the distant fun of shiny conkers. It amounts to the old "do you want one treat now or five treats later" question: most pre-schoolers simply don't "get" the idea of delayed gratification.

Also, they are naturally neophobic, and I think that they don't have the capacity yet to make a rational decision on whether or not to do something that they have never tried before without cajoling and encouragement. My DD adores her swimming lessons, but still cried the first time that she went. Does this mean that I should not have persisted and persuaded her to stay, leaving her with her instructor? EYFS dogma would suggest not. In which case she would never try anything, be it food or an activity.

The second issue is that of singing. How on earth are the five or so children who want to join in with singing supposed to do so when others are playing around them? The theory is that they will be engaged in "quiet play" (so not having an entirely free choice, then...) but you do need a critical mass to make it an enjoyable experience. Again, DD spent her first playschool year just sitting quietly, and not really joining in. Now she is always the first one up to be a current bun or curling in a ball to be a sleeping rabbit. If it had never been expected that she would sit on the mat with the others, she would never have learnt to enjoy it.

According to EYFS, when IS a child old enough to be told, "actually, this is an important part of your development, and it just isn't optional any more" ? Why on earth does having some form of opening and closing routine interrupt their learning? It is surely part of it? They see everyone together, learn their names, feel comforted by a routine. Pre-schoolers in the main do not like it when there appears to be no clear structure to sessions. (Well, mine are both like this, and other parents have said the same...)

Life at home and life in general aren't about totally free choice; it's about learning to live with each other and perhaps do things that we don't really want to do, whether that is eating healthy food instead of just crisps, having your nappy changed when you would rather play, or listening to your friends singing Twinkle twinkle, even when you don't know how to yet.

How are other pre-schools tackling this sometimes over dogmatic interpretation of "free play"?

MrsMattie Fri 10-Oct-08 23:02:54

I have mixed feelings about the child-led philosophy in nurseries at the moment.

My son (3.7) seems to be thriving at the moment and enjoys getting stuck into all sorts of things.

However, in his last nursery (when he was that bit younger - started at 2.9 and left at 3.4) he floundered quite badly. he couldn't stick at anything, and a big problem seemed to be with givjng very young children completely free reign with choosing their activities, but also expecting quite high standards of socialised behaviour from them - e.g playing together, playing 'nicely' etc - my son couldn't really cope with running free in a playground with 25 other kids and 'behaving himself' at the such a young age.

DaisySteiner Sun 12-Oct-08 15:36:44

I have a friend who is a very senior clinical dietician and she says the rolling snack thing is BONKERS and that all the evidence says that it is completely inappropriate for children this age and may be associated with weight problems. The problem is that the DCSF and the DOH do not communicate and they are lobbying hard to stop pre-schools being encouraged to set up the rolling snack system.

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