Child-centred educational philosophy
A good first experience of group activity in the early years provides a base for the whole of the child’s school years. The Playhouse believes in a gentle approach to group care, in which the child’s first experience of being outside the family and home can be positive, enriching, fun and rewarding for the child and his/her family. We believe acceptance, love, approval and security are vital to the development of pre-school age children. We are looking to develop the ‘whole child’ using a holistic approach to education, focusing on the social and emotional development of the individual child, valuing the rich diversity of culture and experience each child brings to the classroom.
Child-centred, play-based learning
Our methodology embraces some key elements of Montessori, Steiner and Reggio Emilia philosophy amongst others. We believe in:
- Scheduling of large blocks of open-ended time in which the children are surrounded by many interesting things and given the time and freedom to use them as they wish, they can choose what they want to do whilst they are at the centre.
- Constant observation of the children in order to see what they are interested in, how they are feeling and reacting to their environment, to schedule the day and manage behaviour.
- Allowing children to take responsibility in order to gain competence, confidence and build self-esteem.
- Child-centred environments which are well-organized, calm, cheerful, child-sized and orderly.
- Child-friendly, accessible materials and equipment to encourage creativity.
- Reflection and evaluatiion on the way we work in order to constantly improve teaching practice. We have worked with the "Rosa Sensat" teacher training association who offered us a service of observation and assessment of teaching practice, activities and materials.
The Importance of Play
In this age range play is the child’s right and is an essential part of the learning process. Play is the child’s work, and at The Playhouse play is taken very seriously. Our educational philosophy is child-centred rather than subject-centred and we firmly uphold the belief that children learn best through play. The children will be given unlimited opportunities for free play with big and small toys, for climbing, jumping, rolling, balancing and swinging, building with blocks and lego, and symbolic play (dressing up, home corner, kitchen corner, dolls etc.), but will also be invited to join in teacher-led activities such as singing, drawing, painting, chalking, cutting and sticking, making collages, modelling with clay and plasticine, doing puzzles etc. They will learn about the natural world through observing the weather, planting and caring for flowers and vegetables in the urban garden we plant every spring.
The Wider World
At this age the child is becoming aware that s/he is part of a larger fabric of society as a group, a school and the local neighbourhood. Discovering the world is tremendously exciting for pre-schoolers, and at The Playhouse they can participate in small-group walks out to the local park, bakery and up to the square to see the fountains, the clock tower and the dragons of Gràcia!
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Highly Qualified Staff
High quality interaction with skilled, experienced, qualified and knowledgeable adults is crucial to the child’s learning. All our key staff are qualified nursery teachers. In addition, they have been selected for their personal qualities of calmness, patience and kindness. We ask staff to offer us a long-term commitment because high staff turnover is very destabilizing for children of this age, due to the strong bond of trust and affection that grows between child and teacher.
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Low ratio of children to staff, maximum of 1:4
Children thrive on individual, personalized attention offered by a teacher who has the time and energy to listen, understand and act on that child’s specific needs. This can only be achieved when the ratio of children to staff is very low. At The Playhouse, the MAXIMUM number of children to each staff member is 4. The groups are composed of 12 children with 3 qualified, trained and experienced teachers, often supported by trainees, students and volunteers.
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The 18-month to 3-year-old period is when a ‘language explosion’ occurs: the child builds his/her future foundation for language, and it is said that the more languages the child learns at this age, the easier it will be for him/her to learn languages as an older child or adult. Learning two languages at this age helps the child form a much wider range of speech sounds, thus achieving native speaker pronunciation in both languages.
We make the most of this almost unlimited potential for learning to introduce a bilingual education in English (75%) and Catalan (25%). Based on the OPOL theory (one parent-one language), each teacher (three English-speakers and one Catalan-speaker) use their mother tongue in all interactions with the children.
The goal of OPOL is for children to learn both languages simultaneously and become balanced and happy bilinguals.
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Families who come to The Playhouse come from very diverse backgrounds. We are proud of this multiculturalism and use it as an excuse to have fun. Both traditional British celebrations (Christmas, Pancake Day, Easter, Halloween, etc.) and the main Catalan traditions (el Tió, Sant Jordi, Carnaval, etc.) are celebrated. Through this the children acquire an understanding of their own culture and an appreciation of other cultures.
We are privileged to live in a multicultural, multilingual and cosmopolitan city. This diversity and richness is celebrated at The Playhouse through our language policy and cultural awareness programme.
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Mixed Age Groupings
The Playhouse is open to children from 18 months to 4 years old (UK pre-school age). Maria Montessori sees children as competent beings who should be encouraged to make small and large decisions and to teach other children the skills they already possess. We believe children really benefit from mixed-age groupings. The younger children learn a lot
from the older ones, and find them absolutely fascinating, while the older children rediscover the pleasure of seeing things through baby eyes, and are given the opportunity to develop their own nurturing and caring skills. In addition, it is a more accurate reflection of what occurs naturally at home with older/younger siblings and in the wider world.
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Mid-session we sit down together to eat a snack of fruit and cereal-based food such as rice-cakes, bread or crackers with a healthy topping. All the food we serve is organic and sugar-free.
We believe that snack time should be a stress-free and enjoyable moment of the day for children. Children usually adapt very happily to group eating, imitating older children and becoming more adventurous in their eating habits. Staff make sure that children eat regularly and enjoy healthy food in 'a pleasant, sociable environment free from other distractions' and staff eat with the children (as recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in the UK).
Birthdays: children love celebrating their birthdays at The Playhouse. For your child’s birthday, please bring in a cake and candles so we can all sing ‘Happy Birthday’ after snack time. We have a ‘no sweets’ policy, so if you want to bring little presents for the other children please bring raisins, a small toy, balloons or something similar.
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Safety is, of course, a top priority at The Playhouse, and local authority safety and licensing regulations are followed to the letter.
All staff are trained in first aid. We all take an annual refresher course with First Aid Kids Barcelona.
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Flexible adaptation process
For your child starting playgroup is a very intense experience. In his/her first step outside the home environment the child is exposed to thousands of new, exciting and unfamiliar experiences, and you need to be there in the beginning to make it easier. Please take as long as you and your child need. You are welcome in the centre during the settling-in process, which is individualized according to the needs of each child and his/her family.
Parental involvement is a vital part of the educational process. As a parent, you are actively encouraged to participate in the life of The Playhouse. We invite you to come into the centre at drop-off and pick-up time. This facilitates communication, trust and improves the relationship between teachers and families.
Nursing mums are always welcome in the breast-feeding space, of course.
Communication between parents and teachers is actively encouraged in the following ways:
Every day the teacher will provide verbal and written feedback for each child to let the parents know what kind of morning your child has had at The Playhouse, as well as practical information about eating, toileting, etc.
Twice-yearly parents evenings.
We invite each family to individual meetings with your child's teacher twice yearly and/or as often as you feel necessary.
Please, come with us on outings, ask for meetings with the teacher to discuss you child’s experience in The Playhouse. Become an active parent! Your child will thank you for it and you will find it very rewarding.
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Would you like to continue breast-feeding even though your child is starting playgroup, or need to feed baby sister or brother while you are here? No problem! We have a quiet area for feeding, and can offer additional support, such as advice on managing breastfeeding and work. We can also provide access to professional breastfeeding guidance in Catalan, Spanish and English.