We know that all children learn and grow through active “play” and participation. Therefore, our program for two-year-olds is designed to allow each child to explore and be actively engaged in a rich environment of age-appropriate activities. Activities are designed that will allow and encourage development of all aspects of a child’s life – physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. Children are allowed the freedom to choose from a large variety of activities and materials with the teachers acting as facilitators, encouraging their participation and stimulating their thinking by the questions that they ask and the interactions they provide.
There are several key components to the program that ensure that these goals are met.
A warm, nurturing environment in which each child is valued and cherished as an individual and is guided according to positive methods of discipline/child guidance. One of the most important goals of quality care for children at this early age is to ensure that they feel loved, valued, and capable. As they strive to reach out more and more to the world around them and to test their emerging sense of personal autonomy, they need loving, gentle direction and guidance to learn how to have their own needs met and how to interact appropriately with the world around them and the other people in their world. The staff provide lots of modeling (showing by example) and participatory involvement in their activities to teach them these skills.
A safe, physically-active environment that allows and encourages continued development of their physical bodies, using both large and small muscles. Many opportunities are provided for movement of large muscles – such as running, climbing, swinging, pedaling bikes, throwing and catching, etc. Small muscle development occurs as the children play with a variety of manipulatives and toys with parts that fit together, when they use crayons and markers and paint with various tools and materials, and as they learn to tear and cut and glue, etc. Two’s also practice many self-help skills as they grow through the year – such as putting on their jackets, washing their hands, learning to “go potty," cleaning up after snack, and putting away toys.
Opportunities to learn and practice social skills, as well as the necessary guidance by loving teachers to learn to respect the rights of “friends” and to learn appropriate interactions. It is the nature of children at this age to be egocentric and self-absorbed most of the time. But, as they play along side of other children and begin to interact in a group setting, they begin to enjoy more interactive play and learn to take turns (waiting is very hard to do when you’re two), to share, to imitate each other, and, eventually, to cooperate with others’ ideas, too.
A rich, cognitively-stimulating environment, offering choices that encourage development of problem-solving skills. As the child works/plays with the variety of resource materials (and toys) available, in addition to participating in teacher-led activities, he/she learns to discriminate and understand many basic concepts that are essential readiness skills for the academics that will follow later. Language development progresses greatly throughout this year as well, as teachers provide lots of opportunity for verbalization within all aspects of the child’s day.
Opportunities to develop and express creativity. Also essential to later success is a strong ability to experiment, problem-solve, conceptualize both “tried and proven” but also “new and different” ways of viewing tasks (i.e., to be a creative thinker). Therefore, lots of situations and activities, including “art” activities, are planned to be open-ended, process-oriented rather than product-oriented, and exploratory. They are offered frequently enough to allow children to experiment with different ideas and/or to fine-tune skills.
Praise and reinforcement is given liberally for the effort put forth, and “descriptive” praise is used so as to enhance the child’s good feelings about the work they put into any attempt. (For example, instead of saying “Oh, what a beautiful “whatever” you made," we might say, “Wow, I see that you put the red here, and you did blue dots there, and I like the way you did this part, etc.” This enhances the child’s feeling of competence and ingenuity, thus building her/his self-esteem and increasing his/her desire to continue attempting new endeavors.
Using developmentally appropriate methods, the children are taught many of the beautiful parts of being Jewish. They learn stories from the Torah, learn about the upcoming holidays and how they are celebrated, and learn about doing mitzvot and giving tzedakah (charity). They even begin to learn Hebrew words and songs. The children are taught the bracha (blessing) to make before they eat and drink. 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.