“Playtime is just fun-time. What’s really important is how he learns to read or add and subtract.” A common attitude but, according to the founders of Ezer Mizion’s Active Nurturing Early Learning Program, so very untrue. All activities of children are learning experiences and serve to enhance their abilities in specific areas. Furthermore, observing, understanding and analyzing their mode of play can help to identify potential disabilities. The program can then be used to implement means geared to enhance the child’s development, thereby lessening any inherent learning disabilities down the line of development.
Benny is a case in point. When Benny began kindergarten, he refused to go outside to the playground. Instead he lay prone on the table. When Benny’s preschool joined the program, Benny’s challenges were correctly identified. He had a weak shoulder girdle, poor motor control, and difficulty with the concept of directionality necessary for drawing, writing and outdoor play. Benny’s teacher learned about various exercises that could be used to address his challenges. During the first three months of intervention there was a striking change. His gross and fine motor skills began to improve, and he started to take part in group activities. The more he participated in activities, the more strength and confidence he acquired and he slowly lost his dependence on the teacher. By the end of the kindergarten year, Benny was no longer the isolated little boy lying on the table. He was a confident, happy child, prepared and eager to enter first grade.
Between the ages of three and six, children develop the sensory-motor skills that are critical to the learning process. Sensory-motor skills are acquired in the early childhood years primarily by means of movement and play. Through movement and play, children develop manual dexterity, spatial orientation, social skills, abstract thinking capacities, and the ability to problem-solve.
Ezer Mizion’s Active Nurturing Playground Program is a preventative program. It is designed to ensure that preschool children develop the sensory-motor skills necessary for learning. The program teaches the connection between all areas of a small child’s activities and the importance of early intervention for those that are challenged in areas of play. Commonly known as the ANP Program, it has been noted as a pioneer in pre-schools A child whose sensory-motor capacities are mature will be better prepared for the classroom experience and is far less likely to develop social, emotional, behavioral or learning problems. The playground is an ideal place for children to develop these skills. It is also an excellent environment in which to identify children who at risk for learning and behavioral problems down the line.
The program, which was originally implemented with a small pilot program approximately sixteen years ago, has since broadened to include varied aspects of a small child’s development. Two recent Evenings of Awareness –one for rebbes (teachers at yeshiva), one for gananot (kindergarten teachers in girls’ schools), offered new techniques focusing on identifying and working with emotions in the very young. The theme was “The Quiet Child: Causes, Characteristics and the Role of Rebbe/Ganenet”. The attendees, many of whom were graduates of previous Active Nurturing Early Learning Program courses, were excited by what they had learned which gave new perspective on the inner world of small children.
They were anxious to return to the field to implement their new knowledge. So many commented how they still use, on a daily basis, the techniques they had learned in the course as long so many years before.
Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.