The PlayCare Centre’s mandate, as a department of Student Affairs at the University of Manitoba, is to provide early learning and child care to the children of students. Our clientele reflect the diverse population of student/parents at the University. The PlayCare Centre is a unique program in that it offers a mix of regular full-time, part-time and occasional day care. There is a constant change in schedule requirements and enrollment from term to term and year to year as the families’ course and study needs change. Our daily schedule is flexible to the needs of the children but predictable to provide a sense of security. Early Childhood Educators facilitate transitions from one activity to the next by giving the children notice i.e. “five minutes until clean up”. The PlayCare is a mixed-age setting, licensed for 20 children very much like a large family day care.
At the PlayCare we believe that children learn most effectively through play. Social, emotional, intellectual and physical development occurs for each child at their own rate. It is our goal to provide a nurturing as well as stimulating environment where children feel free to interact with the world around them. Staff organize the environment into activity centres which encourage the children to interact one on one or in small group play. ECEs talk with the children every day using open-ended questions to help them to develop language and social skills and to stimulate reasoning while building relationships.
Our curriculum is both planned and spontaneous, incorporating celebrations and events pertinent to our families and community. Curriculum is guided by topics and concepts that arise from observing children to determine interest and curiosity. Staff communicate their observations informally (i.e. verbally) as well as formally by recording observations in the Log Book or on Observation Sheets. These observations help staff decide what type of activities, toys, books and materials, to provide to the children arranging the play space to enhance their learning and development. Early Childhood Educators coordinate the curriculum planning in consultation with each other, the children and their families. Early Childhood Educators meet throughout the year to discuss curriculum. Curriculum planning and implementation is supported through the organization of resources within the centre, in storage, on file and in resource boxes. ECEs often refer to resource books and the internet to expand upon the curriculum.
We display some of our observations through photos that we later use to make a PlayCare Memory Book. We sometimes include project work in our curriculum. More extensive project work is possible when there are additional full-time children (or children coming M-F ½ days) during the spring and summer months as this allows for continuity. Examples- Gardening, construction. Our curriculum helps to extend the child’s knowledge, build vocabulary, creative thinking and stimulates the children’s reasoning. The PlayCare Centre prepares preschool children for school in developmentally appropriate ways by providing opportunities to build proceeding skills and concepts including social awareness and self help skills.
Families can participate in curriculum planning and implementation as well as in evaluation. This is done daily through questions and comments and through notices, newsletters and evaluation forms. All families are encouraged to share their culture and special interests with the Centre, participate in the annual Family Night Open House and other special events as well as attend Parent Advisory Committee Meetings. In this way we learn about each other’s similarities and differences.
To determine the effectiveness of the curriculum we will expect to observe happy engaged children meeting their developmental milestones. The day care’s numerous learning centres are set up to support children’s interests and curiosity. Various field trips, special events, parties and presentations expand upon the children’s experiences. Our curriculum is continuously modified to meet children’s needs and abilities and expand on their interests.