A quality program for 18 month olds provides opportunities for children to develop their bodies, their intellects, and their social skills. To provide that quality, the curriculum at JAHM Chai Tots Preschool consists of several components:
A PLACE FOR ENJOYING AND LEARNING
All children deserve loving, consistent care in the classroom. They must have a safe and healthy place to grow where they can receive pleasure from the ideas of others and where their own ideas are valued. Teachers with proven skills and education understand how young children learn and what is required for emotional, social, physical, and cognitive growth.
A child simply will not do something before he is physically ready. What teachers can do is give young children many opportunities to practice the physical skills they have attained. This means providing an environment that is safe to explore. It also means providing many interesting materials and activities.
One-and-a-half-year-olds will be given opportunities to use their large muscles for climbing, running, playing with balls, jumping, and carrying. Teachers know that muscles grow stronger when they are used so the above activities will strengthen the arm, leg, and large body muscles. The children will also learn to use their small muscles (e.g. fingers) to do many new, more controlled motions (e.g. finger-painting). The happiness that one-and-a-half-year-olds derive from physical activities makes them feel good about themselves and their growing abilities.
In order to learn to use words to talk and think, one-and-a-half-year-olds in the classroom depend on the teacher to provide words for the activities they are experiencing. Teachers know that listening and repeating are also effective ways to assist toddlers. In addition, teachers expand "telegraphic speech." Young children speak leaving out the little words between, just like old time telegrams. "Want juice!" At this stage of development, the teacher listens with interest and expands on the phrase. "Oh, you want some of this orange juice? I'll pour some in your cup." Teachers encourage a child to speak by waiting and giving the child an opportunity to talk. The boys and girls benefit from hearing (and singing) songs and fingerplays, pointing to and saying the names of familiar objects, reading well-chosen books, hearing the sounds of poetry and nursery rhymes, hearing the words of their peers, playing with appealing puppets, etc.
Art. The goal of art experiences for a one and half-year-old is to expose the child to many different materials and processes. This is because children need many experiences freely exploring materials before they will be able to control the materials adequately to make a representational drawing, and that does not happen in the toddler years. If a child chooses to repeat an art activity, we certainly permit her to do so. If a child makes two or three paintings in a row, it gives her a chance to "work through" the process and learn what happens when paint is applied in different ways. This approach encourages the development of concentration and experimentation, and both are elements of creativity.
Music. Children are given many opportunities to sing and dance. They see that these are fun things to do, things they can do with others. Singing with young children stimulates listening skills and augments overall language development. Singing and dancing give young children additional ways to express themselves, which can have emotional benefits as well as language benefits.
Dramatic Play. Dramatic play is one of the most valuable forms of play in childhood. It allows one and half-year-olds to copy what they see grownups do - talk on the telephone, drive a car, hold a baby, etc. Besides being an outlet for the child's imagination, it allows a teacher to introduce ideas about kindness and fair play. Dramatic play is fun, and it gives toddlers opportunities to develop cognitive understandings, develop vocabulary, deal with emotional issues, and develop social skills and understandings.
LEARNING FROM THE WORLD AROUND THEM (BECOMING ACTIVE THINKERS).
One-and-a-half-year-olds discover that the world around them is fun to watch and learn about. Objects move, disappear, change, and are always surprising because they do things on their own.
Cognitive activities involve the mental processes that give order to the world. Children actively create a mental "framework" into which they fit new knowledge as it comes along.
Cognitive activity is also learning about the relationships between objects. Toddlers endlessly explore and experiment in what may look like very random playing. What fits inside of what? What things go together? Part of the process of cognitive development is learning "causality," what happens when you act on things.
Ultimately, cognitive behavior is learning to engage in abstract thinking, retaining a mental image of something that is not right there in front of you. All the peek-a-boo variations fall into this category. Also involved in abstract thinking is representing things with symbols. Symbols do not, at this stage, mean letters and numbers, but seeing that a picture of something represents a real object. Children also use objects to represent something else, a different type of symbol, as in dramatic play. Practically all of the activities provided in your child's classroom will broaden his mental framework as he assimilates new information.
Activities involving the five senses -- touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste -- are "feeders" of creativity. One way to "feed that creativity" is to give children many experiences using their senses. When a child experiences many different textures, sounds and smells, she will have mental images available to pull together for a rich, imaginative life.
Children learn and express themselves through their play. As children acquire language and experience with other children, their world expands. Their interactions start out with non-verbal games and routines. They imitate each other's actions. They enjoy the social feeling of belonging. They begin to develop empathy -- the ability to feel for someone else -- and they learn how their actions affect the feelings and actions of others. With the gentle guidance of caring teachers, they begin to learn the social give and take of sharing and taking turns and expressing their needs appropriately.
Learning to be one among others is a challenge for young children. The hard parts are learning to wait and take turns from time to time and share the attention of the teachers. But the good part is learning the pleasure of having friends and the feeling of belonging.
"Solitary Play" is the dominant play style of younger toddlers. Although they are aware of the other children in the classroom, they pay little attention to them and simply go off on their own, happily exploring by themselves. (It is perfectly normal and acceptable for children of all ages to revert to solitary play from time to time.)
"Parallel Play" emerges as children gain experience being in groups of others close to their own age. They move near each other and enjoy doing the same types of things the other children are doing. They imitate their friends and get ideas from each other.
SELF HELP SKILLS
Teachers encourage children's development of autonomy by giving them legitimate choices during the school day. Giving children washcloths to wash their hands and face, allowing them to put items in their cubbies, get toys from open shelves and then return them to the same place are all important tasks to increase their sense of independence.
Jewish values and concepts are interwoven in all aspects of our 18 month class. We teach simple Jewish concepts that are age appropriate.
Fridays are a special day at JAHM Chai Tots Preschool. Our children make a fresh challah that they bring home each week and we welcome the Shabbat with a special Shabbat party each Friday.