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Child's play

Two hundred methods to get children to learn. All compiled in a one-stop manual for pre-school teachers. Here's a guide on how teaching kids can be fun.

Prema Daniel — Photo: V. Ganesan

WHEN PREMA Daniel was teaching at a pre-school, the three, four and five-year-olds adored her. They liked to clutch at her saree, they wanted Ms. Daniel to look at their art works and loved her fox and sour grapes stories.

This soft-spoken teacher, with several years of experience in training pre-school teachers, has now started an institute of her own — The Centre for Training and Resources in Early Childhood Education. She has recently co-authored a National Book Trust publication, Play Activities for Child Development, with educationist Mina Swaminathan, priced at Rs. 130. The manual offers nearly 200 play activities for young children to promote physical, sensory, motor, cognitive, language, social, personal, emotional and aesthetic development.

What are the three big mistakes pre-school teachers make? "Firstly, there's too much emphasis on formal learning. It is a pity that the approach in pre-schools is on academics, right from Day One. Two, giving marks for drawing and colouring and creative activity is wrong. It's not fair to assess a child's creativity until, say, class 5. Three, many schools ask children to chant after the teacher. I find that many little ones are just shouting instead of repeating — and children are memorising without understanding," she says.

According to Ms. Daniel, teachers must understand children's needs, abilities and interests at every age and stage of development. "Play games without winners or losers. Praise and reward children for co-operative actions and helpfulness," says the manual.

This manual allows teachers to use available resources and easily available materials like tyres, planks, boxes and ropes to get children playing.

Here's an example for practising jumping:

jumping off a low wall, a stool, a step or a rock,

jumping over a brick, a stone, a pole or a rope

jumping in or out of a tyre, hoop, a circle or a tub

jumping along a line, a rope or a stick

jumping between two stones, two lines or two ropes

jumping while holding or carrying something

The book, with charming little illustrations, in an easy-to-read, activity-a-page format, is sure to make many children happy. And it's one of the rare manuals written by Indians who understand Indian conditions for Indian children.

One teacher who attended Ms. Daniel's workshop returned to her with this feedback: "When we give them these play activities children are very interested, but they are not learning."

And it took a while for Ms. Daniel to convince the teacher that children "do" learn through play. For more information, contact 26162403/9841134287

Dhanya Parthasarathy

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