How Children Learn in
A Parent's Guide to Preschool
Diane Trister Dodge and Joanna Phinney
Children are learning every minute of the day. They learn from the way
we organize the classroom, form the daily schedule, from activities, and
from their outdoor play.

The Classroom

Our classrooms are set up for learning. Children have many
opportunities to make choices, come up with ideas, experiment, and
take responsibility for their work.. Here's what you'll see when you visit.

*Materials are on low shelves, in containers, and on hooks so children
can get them   independently and put them away.

*Shelves are neat and uncluttered so materials are easy to see,
remove, and replace.

*Picture and word labels are on containers and shelves so children
know what choices are available
and make decisions.

*There are distinct areas-blocks, dramatic play, toys and games, art,
discovery,  library, sensory tables, music and movement, cooking,
computers, and different play spaces outdoors.

*A variety of learning materials are in each area so that no matter
where children  choose to play, they learn.

*Similar materials are grouped together to teach children to sort and
classify-- skills that are important to understanding and solving math

The Daily Schedule

We want your child to feel secure and independent, to move from one
activity to another as easily and confidently as possible. And we want
to provide a variety of learning experiences for a well-rounded
education. So we plan a daily schedule with these goals in mind. We
follow this same schedule day after day. A picture schedule helps
children feel secure because they know what comes next. After a few
months, children are amazingly independent. They tell us what they
are supposed to do next!

Classroom Activities

When  you visit your child's classroom, you see a room full of children
playing. You may wonder what we are doing to help children learn. As
children play, we watch how they use materials. We listen. We talk with
them to find out what they are thinking and trying to do. We help
children become aware of their actions, offer suggestions, and think
about what materials to offer next. Then we challenge them to think
further. This is how we encourage the development of skills children
will need in elementary school.


The time children spend outdoors every day is just as important to their
learning as the time they spend in the classroom. Unless the weather
is severe, we take children outdoors every day, often more than once.

Large muscle activities are essential for children's health and
well-being. Too many children today are overweight. One reason is
they don't get the large muscle activity essential for healthy
development. Children need time each day to run, leap, hop, jump,
slide, climb, and throw and catch a ball. These activities build strong
muscles and a sense of pride. They are important for another reason
as well. Brain research shows that physical activity actually wakes up
the brain for learning.

The outdoors greatly increases our learning environment. It is a natural
setting for scientific investigations. Children find and study bugs and
butterflies, plant seeds and watch them grow, and compare the feel of
the bark on different trees. In some climates they notice the leaves
change color and fall to the ground and learn about ice and snow. In
other climates they learn how plants survive on almost no water. We
talk with children about their discoveries and encourage them to
continue investigating what they find outdoors.
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How Children Learn in Preschool