The role of daycares in getting children ready for school

The role of daycares in getting children ready for school
One of the objectives of Quebec’s early childhood educational program for childcare services is “facilitating the child’s entry into school.”

One of the objectives of Quebec’s early childhood educational program for childcare services is “facilitating the child’s entry into school.” The approach is not academic-based, but rather focused on introducing children to various themes through arts and crafts, stories and games.

“The educational program targets the development of the whole child. Early childhood teaching staff will therefore lead activities that foster all aspects of development at the same time,” explains Nathalie Bigras, early childhood education professor at Université du Québec à Montréal.

Practicing only fine motor skills, for example, will not generate much interest at this age. However, if preschoolers create a shoe store, they will get themselves organized, make change for payments, scribble the number of sales in a notepad, and so on. “This type of activity provides plenty of rich opportunities for learning and calls upon all aspects of development,” says Gilles Cantin, a professor at Université du Québec à Montréal in the Department of Education and Pedagogy.

This is how daycares play a role in preventing learning difficulties in children, especially those living in more vulnerable environments. “There are positive associations between this type of childcare service and vocabulary comprehension, and reading and math skills,” says Marie-Claude Geoffroy, psychology researcher and co-author of a study conducted at Université de Montréal.

The benefits to children also depend on the quality of the daycare attended. Since 2007, the educational program has been the same for both public and private daycares. It covers the areas of development deemed important for kindergarten, without formally listing them. “If the educational program is applied properly, children’s needs will be met, and they will be ready to start school,” explains Bigras.

For children who don’t attend daycare, there are many other community resources available to foster their overall development before they enter school. “Family centres and CSSS (health and social services centres), as well as preschool programs such as Passe-Partout do a wonderful job,” notes Cantin.

Nathalie Bigras concludes by adding that “home will always remain the environment that plays the largest role in a child’s development, even for children who attend daycare, making it the key factor in the child’s success at school.”