Significance of kindergarten in a child’s development
A kindergarten is a programme developed for young children and which was developed in mid-eighteenth century. The person developing the idea of kindergarten in Germany in 1830s and 1840s was Friedrich Froebel (1782–1852). Froebel designed a preschool curriculum for children aged three to seven that revolved around play and focused on nurturing children’s intellectual, moral and physical development. It was an education programme for the “whole child” (Elementary Teachers´ Federation of Ontario 2001, 3–5.)
§ 3 of the Preschool Child Care Institutions Act (1999) stipulates that taking into account the age, sex and individual needs and characteristics of each child, the main function of a preschool institution is to:
- create possibilities and conditions for the formation of a healthy personality who is socially and mentally alert, self-confident and considerate of others and who values the environment;
- maintain and strengthen the health of the child and to promote his or her emotional, moral, social, psychological and physical development. (RT I 1999, 27, 387.)
In their article the Elementary Teachers´ Federation of Ontario (2001) has pointed to the fact that a considerable share of early childhood education studies, particularly in America, is focussed on what are the effects of early childhood quality on disadvantaged children. A number of other studies (e.g. Perry Preschool Project) have described the benefits that kindergarten programmes offer children and what are the positive impacts on children:
- Improved intellectual performance during early childhood;
- Better scholastic placement during elementary years;
- During adolescence a lower rate of delinquency and higher rates of both graduation from high school and employment at age 19. (Elementary Teachers´ Federation of Ontario 2001, 8–9.)
In the same way as it is important that child protection work is carried out by persons with respective training, it is important to ensure that kindergartens employ teachers with appropriate training to work with children. Teachers who have been trained for their position have excellent understanding about all stages of development of a child, and can detect and assess potential changes/ peculiarities in a child’s development at an early stage.
Kindergarten programmes intended for younger and older children provide the necessary tools for early identification of problems. Early identification increases the likely success of intervention and decreases the time required for remediation. The longer it takes to respond to the problems of a child with social, emotional or behavioural problems, the more likely they have an effect on the wellbeing of the child. This, in turn, could lead to bullying by the child, rejection of the child by their peers, and deteriorating academic performance. Kindergarten teachers are often the first to recognise at-risk children and are able to distinguish between special needs and delayed development. (Elementary Teachers´ Federation of Ontario 2001, 14–15.)
Kindergarten staff can sometimes need different services catering to special needs of a particular child, for instance services provided by speech therapists, psychologists, social workers, etc. Simply providing access to such specialists is not sufficient, however. For children to receive the optimum benefit, there also needs to be ongoing dialogue and cooperation between these specialists and teachers. (ibd, 16.)
Parental involvement is also very important. Parental involvement includes ensuring that there is communication between home and the school, reinforcing at home what is learned at school, and voluntary participation in school events. (ibd, 17.)
Elementary Teachers´ Federation of Ontario (2001). Kindergarten Matters: The Importance of Kindergarten in the Development of Young Children.
Preschool Child Care Institutions Act (1999) Riigi Teataja. 27,387. https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/754369?leiaKehtiv