How do pre-schoolers learn best?

Pre-schoolers learn “pre-skills,” which lay the groundwork for their future.  Through their playing, singing and learning, they gain skills that ultimately help them learn to read, write, build their maths and science skills, and become successful students.  They also learn “school readiness” skills, which help them understand the routines of school, how to work in groups, and how to be students.

Though it may seem like it, pre-school is not all fun and games.  In fact, 3-4 year olds learn through the fun and games!  Research has shown that the development of early literacy and maths skills in pre-school is associated with future school achievement in both mathematics and literacy.  This age group are very enthusiastic about exploring the math and science concepts described below and these positive attitudes can also greatly contribute to their future success in school.  In addition, as they move through their indoor and outdoor learning environments and manipulate toys, puzzles, and shapes, they develop important cognitive skills.


Children develop their literacy skills throughout the day, not only during the scheduled “reading” time.  Staff use story telling as well as poems, songs, and rhymes to teach topics across all subjects.

In order to build reading skills, our children:

  • Recite rhymes, songs, and poems
  • Are surrounded by words and labelled objects
  • Begin to recognize letters and their sounds
  • Read, listens to, and talk about books


Many of pre-schoolers’ early writing skills are developed in to ways; strength through physical development i.e. large arm movements (climbing, swinging, pushing, pulling) develop muscle strength in the shoulders and upper arms.  The various arts and crafts projects they do throughout the day (painting, drawing, cutting, sticking, and gluing) build strength in their hands and develop their fine motor skills, gaining the strength and skills required to hold and use pens and pencils correctly.  And, of course, the reading that we do is directly connected to developing writing and literacy skills.

In order to build writing skills, we:

  • Climb, swing, push, pull; developing strong upper body strength
  • Draw, paint, cut, and glue; developing fine motor skills
  • Practice writing letters and names


Maths activities include learning numbers, practicing counting, creating and learning shapes, and working with calendars and volumes.  In addition, playing with puzzles, building toys, blocks, and games helps the children practice and build math skills as they count, manipulate objects, and work with different shapes, spaces, and sizes.

In order to build math skills, our children:

  • Count
  • Learn what a number is
  • Learn about and find shapes and patterns
  • Measure things
  • Sort, categorise, and compare objects


Very often, staff will teach specific science lessons.  During this time, the class will learn about a certain topic (for example, water, weather, animals, plants, and nature) through the use of books, demonstrations with actual objects, explorations outside, or interactive activities.  In addition, children of this age are natural scientists as they play and explore the world around them with their curious minds.  They constantly experiment and learn as they play outside, explore natural objects, and play with toys such as clay, sand boxes, sand and water tables.

In order to build science skills, we:

  • Embrace children’s natural inner scientist, constantly exploring, observing, questioning and experimenting as they play and interact with their surroundings
  • Sorts and organises
  • Interacts with the children and talk about nature, texture, weight and volume

Social Emotional Learning

Social emotional learning in a pre-school occurs throughout the day, as the children interact with each other, learning to share, take turns, and work together.  Through these interactions, they build their social skills and learn how to be successful students and members of society.

As a part of social emotional learning, we:

  • Share and take turns when opportunities arise
  • Clean up and help organise our toys and resources together
  • Practices manners and good table manners
  • Develop conflict resolution skills
  • Develop communication and conversation skills

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

Here at CAPs, like the majority of early years providers, we follow guidelines set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS): “Setting the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five”.

The fundamental principals are as follows:

“Every child deserves the best possible start in life and the support that enables them to fulfil their potential.  Children develop quickly in the early years and a child’s experiences between birth and age five have a major impact on their future life chances.  A secure, safe and happy childhood is important in its own right.  Good parenting and high quality early learning together provide the foundation children need to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow up.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe. It promotes teaching and learning to ensure children’s ‘school readiness’ and gives children the broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the right foundation for good future progress through school and life.

The EYFS seeks to provide:

• quality and consistency in all early years settings, so that every child makes good progress and no child gets left behind
• a secure foundation through learning and development opportunities which are planned around the needs and interests of each individual child and are assessed and reviewed regularly
• partnership working between practitioners and with parents and/or carers
• equality of opportunity and anti-discriminatory practice, ensuring that every child is included and supported

The EYFS specifies requirements for learning and development and for safeguarding children and promoting their welfare.  The learning and development requirements cover:

• the areas of learning and development which must shape activities and experiences (educational programmes) for children in all early years settings
• the early learning goals that providers must help children work towards (the knowledge, skills and understanding children should have at the end of the academic year in which they turn five)
• assessment arrangements for measuring progress (and requirements for reporting to parents and/or carers)

The safeguarding and welfare requirements cover the steps that providers must take to keep children safe and promote their welfare.

Overarching principles:  Four guiding principles should shape practice in early years settings.  These are:

• every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured
• children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships
• children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers
• children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates.  The framework covers the education and care of all children in early years provision, including children with special educational needs and disabilities.

For more information on EYFS please click here.