The Real Purpose of Kindergarten
The word ‘kindergarten’, which is of German origin, literally means ‘a garden for the children’. This is the time when a child is given a safe, open space to make the transition from the home to school. It is also a time when we should nurture the child’s innate curiosity and desire to learn through the use of multiple mediums such as music, art, movement-centred activities, storytelling and unstructured play.
The most important element of Kindergarten is to allow the child to experience the full wonder of childhood at an unhurried pace. If we were thrust upon them the requirement of continued focus, memorising and reciting, we would take away their intrinsic desire to explore and understand.
Yet, this does not mean that Kindergarten is an extended playroom. To explain, let us take the example of learning the basics of language. When we make a child sit and look at a page or listen to someone reading to them, they are made to use only their auditory or visual faculties. If, on the other hand, a puppet show is set up, the children get to watch, listen, comprehend – and imagine. They subconsciously pick up new words and sounds, and the flow of the story, even as they have fun watching the puppets spin out a tale. This form of multi-sensorial makes learning a rich, long-lasting experience.
Kindergarten is also a time when children begin to interact with people outside of their family, especially other children their own age. This is the time when they begin to understand the dynamics of social interaction and their own individuality in the light of their mingling with others.
It falls to the school and educators to create an atmosphere that allows each child the space and resources they need for their unique learning journey.