Children learn by using their senses to explore the world around them
DILLON – Children do more than just have fun when they’re playing.
“Our philosophy is that children learn best through uninterrupted play,” said Sherri Seirmarco, assistant director at Lake Dillon Preschool and Early Learning Center, previously known as Zoomers.
The center offers child care and preschool for infants and toddlers – from 6 weeks to 6 years – and recently changed its name to reflect its services, said executive director Susan Wilt.
Child care is not just another form of babysitting, Seirmarco said. A common misconception among parents is that children aren’t learning unless they’re in a structured classroom.
“Studies show that brain development happens the most rapidly between birth and 6 years,” she said. “So this is the time to stimulate and start education.”
Though it might not be immediately apparent to an observer, even the infants in childcare are learning, Seirmarco said. They’re developing basic learning skills, such as bonding with adults, interacting with other children, and essential motor skills.
“From the day they’re dropped off (at child care) they’re learning,” she said. “In their early years, children learn by using the senses to explore the world around them. By using real materials such as blocks, sand and water, children learn about size, shape and color. And they learn the relationships between different items.”
At Lake Dillon Preschool and Early Learning Center, children may enroll in the preschool program at age 3. It is here they learn many of the skills that will help them succeed later on in school.
“What we really focus on is the emotional, social and cognitive needs of each child,” Seirmarco said. “By doing that, you’re helping them develop a sense of self and independence. Studies have shown that if you address those needs, the children are more prepared to succeed academically because they’re not struggling with social and emotional issues. We’re helping them become successful social beings.”
In addition to those skills, preschoolers also are learning the basics for school. Story time, for example, teaches children to love books and stories.
“They learn that letters make words, words make sentences … they’re learning the concept of literacy,” Seirmarco said.
The children learn about math by sorting, measuring, counting and pairing, and about science by observing, comparing and testing. Art activities include painting, coloring and sculpting. They learn about music by singing, whistling, humming, clapping and tapping.
Preschoolers also learn the importance of physical activity, which includes developing their hand-eye coordination and their gross motor skills, such as throwing, kicking, running and climbing.
One of the main differences between preschool and classroom learning is the rate at which children learn, Wilt said. Where classroom demands might create a stressful environment for older children, preschoolers are given the freedom to learn when they’re ready – a method known as developmentally appropriate practice.
“You teach them when they’re ready,” Wilt said. “The kids kind of decide that along with you. At this age, we’re letting them decide their speed.”
“You make the environment colorful and interesting and you provoke them to explore,” Seirmarco said.
Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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