Children entering Little Footprints are welcomed into a program that embraces play as the chief method by which children learn about the world. Teachers understand that play is at the heart of children’s learning and they provide ample time and materials for the children to explore and experiment. Teachers also understand that children are active, sensory learners who need many opportunities for self-chosen exploration, social interaction, and problem solving. Teachers are more interested in the process of children’s learning, rather than the product and they encourage and observe children as their critical thinking skills unfold. Teachers observe children in order to gain insights into their play themes, interests, questions, skills, and frustrations. It is through these observations that teachers then plan a curriculum that meets the needs of each child.
We believe in creating classroom environments that are homelike in comfort, beautiful in design, and properly prepared for a variety of activities that are of interest to children. We strive to create peaceful and nurturing places for children to spend their days. We look at the environment as one of the child’s first teachers, a place that supports calm, focused, and purposeful activity. We respect children’s needs for privacy as well as socialization, and therefore provide spaces for children to be alone, as well as to play in pairs, small groups and large groups. We understand that children are just learning how to interact with others, and teachers model kind and respectful treatment of people, animals, and things. We believe that creating a sense of community within the classroom will foster a sense of responsibility, respect, and empathy for others. We invite parents to share their family culture with us and we offer children a wide variety of music and literature that represents many cultures, families, and lifestyles. We provide equal access of all materials and activities to both boys and girls, supporting and encouraging their play and activity choices.
We believe that the environment should be sensory-based. It should offer children a variety of materials to touch, taste, smell, and listen to on a daily basis. In addition, children in our care are given many opportunities for messy and outdoor play. We stay away from commercial toys. Instead, we use materials that provide open-ended exploration and experimentation. These materials include: clay, play-dough, magnets, water play with funnels and containers, sand play, easel painting, dress-up and dramatic play, literature of all kinds, puppets, baby dolls, items from nature, recycled materials, and blocks – to name just a few. The curriculum is child-centered and emergent. Teachers observe children closely to see what they are doing and why. Then the environment is designed around the children’s interests, needs, and questions. There is intention behind everything we do in preparing the environment and implementing the curriculum.
The most important goal of the program is to help children to become enthusiastic, confident learners. This means we encourage children to be active, creative explorers who are not afraid to try new things and think their own thoughts. You will not find worksheets or activities that encourage conformity and competition among children. Rather, we strive to help children become independent, self-confident, and inquisitive. We are teaching them how to learn, not just in preschool, but for the rest of their lives. We allow them to learn at their own pace in a supportive classroom environment where trust and harmony contribute to a child’s developing sense of self and a desire to be an active learner. Our overarching goal is for children to feel safe, secure, competent, and valued for who they are.
Our whole language emphasis develops children’s emergent literacy skills by providing them with a print rich environment and many opportunities for children to read, write, sing, and speak throughout the day. Children are exposed to fiction, nonfiction, drama, poetry, and song. Board books, big books, picture books, chapter books, newspapers and charts are used to help children make the reading/writing connection.