The nursery market is a vast, competitive sector in which a large number of private day nurseries are competing with school based nurseries, large nursery chains and charitable organisations. Whenever there is such competition, there is obviously a demand for these services. In the pre-school market this is boosted further by Government incentives of free childcare and education for children between the ages of two and four years. The need for every nursery to provide an outstanding service, and to provide additional activities for their children to set the nursery apart from local competitors, has never been greater.
In the nurseries that I have worked with, I have seen Music classes, Spanish classes, French classes, Yoga classes and even Drama classes. And what has been evident in what I have seen, the standards greatly vary in the quality of the services supplied. So Sport4Kids (S4K) want to help you by producing our guide to what you should look for in a suitable sport’s programme aimed at pre-school children.
1. Programme content
Whatever the activity being delivered to children aged between 18 months and 4 years, the content MUST be age appropriate. That doesn’t mean just making drills and skills a little bit easier, it’s about having a specific pre-school programme that has content used only in nursery or pre-school settings. When it comes to sport, trying to ‘teach’ this age group the finer arts of the drop shot, or drag back, or side-step, is near-on impossible and to be honest, not entirely relevant. The aim is to inspire. To do this, the programme HAS to be relevant to children: animals, stories, superheroes, Fairy Tales. The S4K range of sport’s programmes, nursery programme and ActivKids programme has all these features and is based on the Montessori approach to learning.
2. Coach’s children skills
Finding a high quality pre-school coach can be a challenge in itself. Speaking in a silly voice or being a bit ‘wacky’ isn’t enough to inspire and educate this age group. Finding someone who has the skills to engage the children for a period of time, whilst inspiring them to perform and participate can be a rare commodity. Unfortunately having a certificate or diploma in something child related doesn’t always tell the full story. I have worked with coaches who have had more qualifications than I’ve had hot dinners. But when they have been stood in front of fifteen three year olds who have been stuck indoors all day after a downpour on a Friday afternoon towards the end of the school term, some of these coaches have been reduced to a jabbering wreck! S4K offer free classes, often up to a month’s worth, to demonstrate the skills of the coach. This is the same coach who would then take on any subsequent classes. This is what we believe is the ONLY way to find out how good a coach really is.
Have you ever seen a two year old try and kick a football that is almost as big as them? Or hold a tennis racquet that is almost too heavy for them to pick up? The sport equipment used in a pre-school class, whatever the sport, has to be safe and easy to use. If the children can’t use it properly then they will soon lose interest and become disengaged in the activity. S4K have invested a lot of time and money in ensuring that every classes delivered to a pre-school group has the appropriate equipment.
4. Pace of the class
I guess the pace of the class is closely linked to the coach’s children skills. If it’s too slow, children get bored. If it’s too quick, children get fed up and lose interest. The pace of the class needs to be ‘energetic’ and the coach needs to promote this energy in the way the activities are delivered. This energy can be generated in the pace of the instructions and activities, the enthusiasm of the coach, the tone of the coach’s voice and use of gestures and demonstrations. S4K understand the importance of these finer points and arts of coaching, and have organised training workshops for its coaches run by an ex-Royal Shakespeare teacher to focus on the techniques of delivery and pace of classes.
5. Relevance to learning
It would be very easy to teach what we want and what we think is best for children. And although it would be very easy, it would also be very worrying! That is why all S4K programmes follow a development plan and link into the EYFS curriculum. S4K have spent a lot of time understanding what is needed in our classes, and what each class should include. Not just in physical development but also in personal, social and emotional development, communication and language, mathematics and literacy. All S4K classes include these key curriculum learning objectives as well as physical activity, exercise and sport skills.
If you would like to organise some free classes to see how Sport4Kids coach and deliver classes, please reply to this email or call James Porter (Head of Schools and Nurseries) on 07855 757498.
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