What’s so Special About Kindergarten?
Kidsfirst is over 100 years old, and was one of the first kindergarten associations in New Zealand.
Over the years, many other forms of early childhood education have been established here with different philosophies and focuses, and some people don’t realise that ‘kindy’ is something altogether unique. “There are many things that set us apart,” says Kidsfirst Chief Executive, Sherryll Wilson, who has run the organisation for more than 20 years.
“Our strong values, the depth of our commitment to biculturalism, the belief in the value of mixed aged groups and small group sizes. And the fact that all of our teachers are fully qualified and registered, just like primary school teachers are. So there is a real focus on that grounding, professional development, and the academic foundations of the work.”
Ms Wilson says the other very clear difference is the kindergarten philosophy: learning through play.
“It can sound to some people like a bit of a contradiction to say our professionalism and academic grounding makes us different and then talk about the importance of play,” she says, “but both matter. The evidence is clear that tamariki learn best through their own interests and at their own pace, when fully qualified and registered teachers can help them extend those interests at just the right time.”
The physical environments of the kindergartens follow on from this focus on teaching and play. So, when you visit a Kidsfirst kindergarten, you’ll notice there are a lot of resources – and a whole lot of space.
“Our indoor and outdoor areas are loaded with resources and inspiration to encourage children to get curious, explore, and engage with creativity, nature and ideas – helping them grow in a whole lot of different ways. You’ll hear us talking about our ‘Great Big Backyards’ – most of our kindergartens are many years – sometimes decades – old, so they have beautiful, well established settings that enable tamariki to really engage with nature, all year round. There are chickens, vegetable gardens, flowers, sandpits, water features, spaces for trikes and bikes… everything you can imagine a child needing to really get lost in their imagination and the freedom to explore.”
Want to experience the kindy difference yourself? Visit a Kidsfirst Kindergarten near you.