The excitement of the beginning of the year has almost passed, and children have begun to enter their routines (at least until the holidays). We all hope that routine will be good for our children, that they will love the kindergarten they go to every day, and that they will develop and grow.
Along with this hope, fears often creep in, especially when it comes to young children who are less able to verbalize their experiences. These concerns intensify in light of the stories we, unfortunately, hear day and night, and the great difficulty in identifying abuse.
So how do you know if children are doing well in kindergarten? Is it really possible to know? There are no magic solutions, but there are still some things that might help. These help not only prevent extreme situations of abuse, but also the identification of experiences that aren't helping children grow.
How does a kindergarten show love?
The thing that children need most, both at home and in kindergarten, is love, belonging and acceptance. Kindergarten builds the children's self-perception and sense of competence and self-esteem, therefore a good kindergarten is one where they are made to feel loved and wanted, fundamentally good and capable.
Love of kindergarten staff members is not necessarily expressed in the statement that "we love children", in affectionate nicknames, and excessive kisses and hugs, nor in giving in and pleasing the children. It is expressed in thinking and adjusting to what children of this age need and what each specific child needs, how to accept each child as they are and at the same time how to develop them, and how to be consistent in educational belief and positive and calm behavior, even in challenging moments.
You will be able to identify these in the meetings of the parents with the staff, in casual conversations and in the activities of the kindergarten.
The space should allow for free movement and activity, that it is not too busy and what it contains stimulates action and respects the child. These will allow activity, energy expenditure and personal space. Pay attention if there is room for creativity or if all the works are in the same style.
Giving room for creativity and freedom, without criticism like "trees are not painted blue" or "the roof should be triangular" will allow the child to be who he is, to feel appreciated and also to develop flexibility and creativity which are building blocks in optimal development.
Does the kindergarten teacher always say only good things?
Another source where we can identify how our children feel in kindergarten is what the staff tells us, or what they don't say, in meetings at the beginning or end of the day, or in any other way.
Does the staff only say good things? Does he say specific things that indicate that the staff knows your individual child? How does the staff talk about a difficulty they had with the child or a less good day they are having? Is there an attempt in their words to think about what caused things to happen and what they themselves can do about it?
Multiple photos on WhatsApp every hour are not necessarily evidence, because as we know, we photograph what is photographed well. Sometimes the excessive preoccupation with pictures takes time away from the attention that should be devoted to the children themselves. In the photos that do come, pay attention to the nature of the activities, the body language of the children and the staff and the dynamics that flow from there.
How does the kindergarten teacher respond to your children's crying?
Most importantly, what can be seen about the child — what your child is saying, even without words. Is he happy to go to kindergarten? Does he happily go with the staff? Children who cry at separation are not necessarily children who are not well. Often they just want their parents, find it difficult to part with us or don't like transitions.
Listen to the staff's response to the crying, wait a few minutes outside the door or gate and listen if the crying stops, and how you talk to the children after they think you've gone. If you can, at least in a new kindergarten (and I know I'm risking relative destruction here with all the kindergarten staff), drop in on unplanned visits from time to time and observe: What are the children doing? Does a child who does not want to sleep at noon have to stay on the mattress or can he play on the sidelines or be with the staff, are there children who wander lost, who are tied to a chair, etc.
In what mood do the children come home?
Pay attention to how your child returns home. Is he calm or nervous? Is he happy, is he singing to himself - which is an excellent measure of his mental well-being.
Does he speak in a way that is unfamiliar to you at home and may express ways of speaking that he experienced in kindergarten? For example, how does he play with the toys? Studies have shown that in their way of playing, children imitate the adults around them. By playing with the toys in the kindergarten, you can learn many things about the way the kindergarten is run. Does the child-kindergarten talk to the children-toys pleasantly and respectfully or orders them to do things, if and how does he comment on them.
When it comes to children who are already talking, try not to settle for the word "fun". Children feel it and tune in to us. For example, if a child is asked enough times if they have someone to play with, there is a chance that they will start thinking about the moments or instances when they had no one to play with. Start with questions such as what was the nicest thing that happened in the garden today and progress from there.
Pay attention to changes in mood, appetite and sleep at home
Pay attention to the changes the child undergoes. Recurring physical signs, changes in mood, appetite, sleep. Notice if they cry more, get scared quickly, gather or defend themselves, are less focused and interested, get extremely panicked by some situations.
Try not to take every little thing seriously, but also don't ignore or try to explain. Psychology indicates that we tend to look for information that will confirm our original perceptions. We all want the kindergarten to be successful for our children and for us, and we certainly don't want to deal with changing kindergartens in the middle of the year, we all have the tendency for naive optimism that sometimes makes us think that "it won't happen to us", and most preschool educators are good, professional and mission-filled people. However, due to the minority not representing the majority, remain vigilant. Keep believing in the staff and at the same time protect your children.