Thinking of opening a preschool?
You’re about to embark on an exciting and possibly rewarding journey. We’re here to help you every step of the way, by arming you with the right information to develop the best preschool curriculum for your centre.
Like any business, setting up a preschool starts with deciding how your institution can differentiate itself from other preschools.
The fact is this: Parents will shop around until they find the right preschool for their precious child. Often, the main factor influencing their decision lies in the quality and rigour of your preschool curriculum. Your preschool syllabus should comprise academic materials like books, assessment materials, posters, and other learning-rich content that is pitched at the right levels for young children.
As economies grow in our region, increasingly affluent parents in Southeast Asia prefer sending their children to preschools which offer a holistic education, including exposure to a bilingual environment, for example, Mandarin or Cantonese.
To attract this new generation of well-educated clients, your preschool curriculum must foster an active learning environment—one where toddlers and kids can learn through observing, exploring, and discovering their world.
A good curriculum will also provide the right resources to nurture children from the start. It focuses on way to build up their confidence, lay a strong foundation for language and analytical skills, strengthen their social skills, and instil positive life values.
So how can you design the ideal curriculum for your preschool? This preschool curriculum planning guide will show you how!
Focus on the Child’s Total Development
Begin by asking how your preschool can best nurture your client’s children in a holistic fashion. This should go beyond academic and mental development, and cover their emotional and social needs.
Design your learning activities and resources in a way that helps your children to…
- Know what is right from what is wrong
- Share and take turns with others
- Relate to others
- Explore and be curious
- Listen and speak with understanding
- Be comfortable and happy with themselves
- Develop physical coordination skills
- Inculcate healthy habits
- Participate in and enjoy a variety of experiences
- Love their families, friends, teachers, and school
As preschool operator, you’ll also need to create a holistic curriculum which focuses on the following key learning areas:
- Aesthetics and creative expression
- Discovery of the world
- Language and literacy
- Motor skills development
- Social and emotional development
Having a well prepared curriculum which enables children to have meaningful experiences is a crucial aspect to the quality of your preschool programme.
Preschool Curriculum Planning Guide for Preschool Operators
To help you develop and choose the best preschool curriculum for your centre, here is a checklist for preschool operators to consider before opening your institution to the public:
- Do you have a preschool philosophy? What does the school most strongly believe in and what will the curriculum strive to achieve?
- What is your overall guiding curriculum framework?
- Is your program licensed under the relevant government authority?
Health and Nutrition Questions
- Does your programme have records to prove that all children enrolled are up-to-date on all required immunizations?
- Are there health and hygiene procedures in place? For example, are children checked that they are healthy and well before entering the school? Is handwashing a regular part of your programme’s practices for both staff and children?
- If your program serves food, does it meet the relevant nutritional standards?
- How does your program handle food allergies or dietary restrictions?
Supervision and Safety Questions
- Are there clear and safe check-in and check-out procedures?
- How many children are cared for in your classrooms?
- How many teachers do you have per class (student to teacher ratio)?
- Does your preschool follow best practices regarding ratio and group size? Here are some best practice recommendations to consider:
- 2-year-olds: 4-6 children per caregiver
- 3-year-olds: 7-9 children per caregiver,
- 4 and 5-year-olds: 8-10 children per caregiver, max group size 20 children
- Are children supervised at all times, both indoors and outdoors, and even while they are napping?
- Can teachers be seen by others at all times so that a child is never alone with one staff member?
- Have all staff members gone through comprehensive background checks?
- Have all staff members been trained on how to prevent, recognise, and report signs of child abuse?
Program Structure Questions
- Is there a class timetable for each level?
- Is there a daily balance of time for playing, telling stories, doing activities, and napping?
- How much time during the curriculum are children given experiences to play?
- Is there a blend of instructional learning as well as time for exploration?
- Do planned activities instil a love of learning and spike a child’s interest in learning?
- Is the learning environment conducive to learning
- Does the learning environment mirror our increasingly globalised world by exposing children to different cultures and traditions?
- Are teachers bilingual and able to help children think and communicate effectively in different languages?
- Is there sufficient communication with parents to enhance their child’s learning progress and share how their child is doing in school?
Types of Preschool Curriculums to Consider
In addition to thinking through the questions outlined above, preschool operators should also consider the best types of curriculum that your teachers can create lesson plans and activities on.
Here are some of the most popular types of preschool curriculum offered in Asia. Each of these learning frameworks can be applied across different preschool ages—from infants and toddlers in nursery, to kindergarteners.
The Montessori method is a developmental approach to learning, where children work at mastering skills at their own pace. Teachers act like guides and student learning is hands-on with a focus on social and practical life skills. Classrooms focus on building a community of learners that support each other.
How can you make the best use of the Montessori method in your preschool curriculum?
- Create spacious classroom layouts so that your children can explore and interact with each other
- Introduce times of the day for playing with toys like puzzles and blocks
- Encourage classrooms to include multi-aged children
The Waldorf approach focuses on a child’s spirit, soul, and body. Teachers seek to foster an inner drive for learning and to uncover a child’s innate strengths and abilities. The Waldorf method excludes any type of media and does not involve traditional academics. It focuses heavily on experiential and immersive learning.
Here are three easy ways for you to incorporate the Waldorf approach in your preschool’s curriculum:
- Create a classroom with a home-like setting and predictable routines
- Make sure computers, videos, or other electronics are excluded in lesson plans
- Encourage activities with hands-on, play-based learning
The Bank Street Approach
This is a child-centered approach which encourages active learning and focuses on a diverse curriculum covering mental, social, emotional, and physical growth. Teachers act as facilitators while preschoolers learn through first-hand experience. Classroom materials are simple to help spark creativity and open-mindedness.
So how can you incorporate the Bank Street approach in your programme?
- Design activities that encourage imaginative thinking, like art and dramatic play
- Introduce concepts like circle time, where teachers read to students and everyone comes together as a community to sing songs, engage in conversations, and share stories
The Reggio Emilia Approach
The Reggio Emilia approach focuses on project-based learning. The idea is that cooperative learning creates respectful and responsible citizens of the world. Preschoolers choose topics to explore with each other, emphasising the importance of working together as a team. They learn to observe and ask questions about the world around them and develop a drive for constant discovery.
To incorporate the Reggio Emilia approach in your preschool curriculum, do the following:
- Encourage abstract projects like recreating famous art with loose parts
- Create lesson plans which involve group-work and open-ended questions
- Find a balance between indoor exploratory activities and outdoor activities
The High Scope Method
In a High Scope programme, a preschooler’s day focuses on academic learning. Teachers use a method of scaffolding, where they nudge children to extend and build on their existing skills.
A tenet of this method is the “plan-do-review” sequence. Before beginning an activity, the children will actively create and express a plan for what they are going to do, who they’ll do it with, and how it will go. Once an activity is completed, they will review how it went and take ownership in their own learning process.
To make the best of the High Scope method in your preschool curriculum, here are three things you can do:
- Create well-organised classrooms with consistent daily routines
- Encourage activities with participatory learning where teachers, parents, and students get involved
- Set aside time for children to reflect and provide positive feedback loops between teachers and students for constant improvement
From taking care of the children’s daily needs to nurturing their holistic development, your responsibilities as a preschool operator isn’t light.
Need more help to build your preschool’s curriculum?
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