A lot of today’s children attend nursery school, whether it’s full-time to allow both parents to work or part-time just to help them to socialise.  But is nursery school meant to be ‘school’? Should a nursery or play group be responsible for learning or just keeping the children occupied and having fun? The Save the Children charity has said that all young children in child-care should have access to at least one early years learning professional.  This item indicates that there is an expectation that nursery school should help the children to learn, not just play. The problem is that a huge number of nurseries don’t have a teacher or early years professional on their team. What does this mean to children long-term? Firstly, it means that they may need more active teaching from parents in basic number and letter skills. Secondly, it can mean they start ‘big school’ behind some of the other children who have had more learning support. Thirdly, it can affect children’s overall ability to communicate effectively.

The parent’s dilemma

The first step is to find out if your child’s current nursery has an early years teacher or professional on their team.  If they have, it’s worth asking about the learning curriculum they’ll follow.  This will help you to give your child the right support in their learning at home. Nursery school isn’t just about somewhere to play with other kids, it’s a valuable foundation for your child’s education. If your child is at nursery school because both parents need to work, then the challenge is going to be time.  As quality time with your child is probably limited by the demands of the household after a long day at work, it can be tempting to spend it playing and cuddling. The secret is to choose games that exercise their number and word skills.  Decorate their bedroom with words and numbers to help them become familiar with them.  Read to them and encourage them to follow the words in the simpler books. Use fridge magnets to put a word of the day and a number on the fridge for them to recognise.  You could also use a star system to reward them for success – with a treat at the weekend if they get a full complement of stars. If your child starts big school able to recognise all their letters and numbers and read simple sentences, they’ll be a step ahead. If they can also talk fluently about their experiences, even better. Don’t forget your enthusiasm for learning will be passed on to your children.