Updated January 27, 2017
They learn about objects, events, and concepts. They gain various skills such as coordinating finger muscles. They learn how to group and classify objects and make sense of things. They learn about cause and effect and how to solve simple problems. They learn how to express feelings and get along with others. They gain confidence in themselves and their abilities. They begin to think about their world in new ways (by pretending to be someone else, for example).
Your job is to provide the time and space to play, materials that match the children’s ages and development, and talk with them about their play. Many parents have mixed feelings about play. They think it is all right for children to spend part of their time playing, but they worry that children are supposed to be “working” at learning. Play is children’s work. Play is how children learn, and children at different age levels learn in different ways. Children need time and space to play with little direction from anyone. Play allows children to choose things that are meaningful and interesting to them. It allows them to learn in a casual, incidental way.
After-school staff should not measure, compare, or judge children's skills. Children do enough of that themselves! It is your job as a caregiver to simply encourage them to always do their best. It is important for staff to encourage children during explorative play. Staff can scaffold tasks so that children can successfully complete them. Staff should encourage children to persist, especially when tasks are difficult. When children are able to complete a difficult task, it increases their self-esteem and inspires them to continue learning through exploration.
School-age staff should also participate in play, which offers an invaluable opportunity to have fun with children as a partner. Spending time on play tasks demonstrates their worth and importance. Sharing play experiences also strengthens the relationship between children and staff.
With school-age children, it is important to set limits and let children know what is expected of them. Do this with a soft voice. Be patient and kind. Provide clear and consistent discipline. Each child needs to feel special and cared about in your care. Children in this stage are very enjoyable. They like to be helpful, especially to adults.
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