Nurturing Preschoolers’ Intelligent Approach: A Holistic Perspective
As parents, caregivers and educators, we all want preschoolers to grow up as intelligent individuals. However, what does intelligence really mean and how can we help preschoolers develop an intelligent approach? In this article, we will explore the concept of intelligence, the various components of intelligent approach, and how to foster preschoolers’ intelligence holistically.
What is Intelligence?
Intelligence is a complex construct that has been defined and debated by psychologists for decades. Some define intelligence as a general mental ability, while others emphasise multiple intelligences such as linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal. However, for the purpose of this article, we will use the definition proposed by the influential psychologist Howard Gardner: “Intelligence is the ability to solve problems or to create products that are valued in one or more cultural settings” (Gardner, 2011).
Components of Intelligent Approach
Intelligence is not a fixed attribute that one is born with or without. Instead, it can be nurtured and developed throughout life. According to the influential psychologist Robert Sternberg, there are three components of intelligent approach: analytical, creative and practical (Sternberg, 2003).
Analytical intelligence refers to the ability to analyse, compare, evaluate and synthesise information. Preschoolers with strong analytical skills are good at solving puzzles, memorising facts, and following rules. They enjoy tasks that involve logic and reasoning, such as counting, sorting and classifying objects.
Creative intelligence refers to the ability to generate novel and useful ideas, products or solutions. Preschoolers with strong creative skills are good at exploring, experimenting and imagining. They enjoy tasks that involve arts and crafts, storytelling, and pretend play.
Practical intelligence refers to the ability to adapt to different situations and apply knowledge in real-life contexts. Preschoolers with strong practical skills are good at problem-solving, communication and social interaction. They enjoy tasks that involve teamwork, negotiation and decision-making.
Fostering Preschoolers’ Intelligence Holistically
Nurturing preschoolers’ intelligence is not just about academic skills or IQ scores. It is about providing them with a holistic learning environment that caters to their physical, emotional, social and cognitive needs. Here are some strategies for fostering preschoolers’ intelligence holistically:
1. Provide a safe and stimulating environment. Preschoolers need a physical environment that is safe, comfortable and attractive. They also need materials and toys that are age-appropriate, diverse and challenging. An inviting and well-organised environment can inspire preschoolers to explore, create and learn.
2. Encourage active exploration and experimentation. Preschoolers learn best through hands-on activities that involve all their senses. They need opportunities to manipulate objects, experiment with materials, and explore the natural world. Active exploration and experimentation can help preschoolers develop their cognitive, motor and sensory skills.
3. Foster positive relationships and communication. Preschoolers thrive in a social environment that is supportive, respectful and responsive. They need adults who listen to them, validate their feelings, and model positive behaviour. Positive relationships and communication can help preschoolers develop their emotional and social skills.
4. Provide open-ended and challenging tasks. Preschoolers need tasks that are open-ended, flexible and challenging. They need opportunities to express their own ideas, solve problems in their own ways, and take risks. Open-ended and challenging tasks can help preschoolers develop their analytical, creative and practical skills.
5. Encourage play-based learning. Preschoolers learn best through play, which is their natural way of exploring, discovering and creating. Play-based learning can help preschoolers develop their cognitive, language, social and emotional skills. It also promotes their physical development, as they engage in activities that require movement, coordination and balance.
6. Provide opportunities for reflection and self-evaluation. Preschoolers need opportunities to reflect on their learning, evaluate their own performance, and set goals for improvement. Self-reflection and self-evaluation can help preschoolers develop their metacognitive skills, which are crucial for lifelong learning.
7. Foster a love for learning. Preschoolers need to develop a positive attitude towards learning, which can be fostered by providing them with enjoyable, meaningful and relevant experiences. They need to feel valued, respected and supported as learners. A love for learning can help preschoolers become lifelong learners who are motivated, curious and self-directed.
The Importance of Play-Based Learning in Developing Preschoolers’ Intelligence
Play-based learning is an essential component of early childhood education and a powerful tool for fostering preschoolers’ intelligence. Play-based learning is defined as “the use of play in promoting learning and development” (UNESCO, 2021). It involves activities that are enjoyable, child-initiated, and open-ended, and that allow preschoolers to explore, discover and create in a safe and supportive environment.
Research has shown that play-based learning can have a positive impact on preschoolers’ cognitive, language, social and emotional development (Ginsburg, 2007). Play-based learning can enhance preschoolers’ problem-solving skills, creativity, imagination, and language development. It can also promote their social and emotional skills, such as empathy, cooperation, self-regulation, and resilience.
Play-based learning can take many forms, such as free play, structured play, pretend play, and games. Free play refers to unstructured play that is child-initiated and child-directed, and that allows preschoolers to explore and experiment with different materials and objects. Structured play refers to play that is guided by an adult, and that provides preschoolers with clear goals and rules. Pretend play refers to play that involves imagination and role-playing, and that allows preschoolers to act out different scenarios and roles. Games refer to play that involves rules, competition and cooperation, and that allows preschoolers to develop their strategic thinking and social skills.
In order to provide effective play-based learning opportunities, educators and caregivers need to create a safe and stimulating environment, provide a variety of materials and toys that are age-appropriate and diverse, and scaffold preschoolers’ learning by providing feedback, guidance, and support. Educators and caregivers also need to observe and assess preschoolers’ play, and use their observations to inform their teaching and planning.
Overall, play-based learning is a powerful tool for fostering preschoolers’ intelligence and promoting their holistic development. By providing preschoolers with opportunities for play-based learning, we can help them develop their cognitive, language, social and emotional skills, and foster a love for learning that will serve them well throughout their lives.
How to Foster Preschoolers’ Practical Intelligence
Practical intelligence is a crucial component of preschoolers’ intelligence, as it allows them to adapt to different situations, solve problems, and apply knowledge in real-life contexts. Practical intelligence is not just about academic skills, but also about social and emotional skills, such as communication, collaboration, and decision-making.
Here are some strategies for fostering preschoolers’ practical intelligence:
1. Provide opportunities for problem-solving. Preschoolers need opportunities to solve problems that are relevant and meaningful to them. This can be achieved by providing them with open-ended and challenging tasks, and by encouraging them to explore different solutions and strategies. Educators and caregivers can also provide feedback and guidance, and scaffold preschoolers’ learning by breaking down complex problems into smaller, manageable steps.
2. Encourage communication and collaboration. Preschoolers need opportunities to communicate their ideas, negotiate with others, and work together to achieve a common goal. This can be achieved by providing them with opportunities for group work, discussions, and role-playing activities. Educators and caregivers can also model positive communication and collaboration, and provide feedback and support when conflicts arise.
3. Provide opportunities for decision-making. Preschoolers need opportunities to make decisions and take responsibility for their choices. This can be achieved by providing them with choices and asking them to make decisions that are age-appropriate and within their capacity. Educators and caregivers can also provide feedback and guidance, and help preschoolers reflect on the consequences of their decisions.
4. Use real-life contexts. Preschoolers learn best when they can apply their knowledge and skills to real-life contexts that are relevant and meaningful to them. This can be achieved by using real-life scenarios, such as cooking, gardening, or shopping, and by encouraging preschoolers to apply their academic, social and emotional skills to these contexts.
5. Foster independence and self-regulation. Preschoolers need to develop their independence and self-regulation skills, which are crucial for practical intelligence. This can be achieved by providing them with opportunities to make choices, take risks, and solve problems independently, and by providing them with tools and strategies for self-regulation, such as breathing exercises, self-talk, and relaxation techniques.
How to Promote Preschoolers’ Creativity
Creativity is a vital component of preschoolers’ intelligence, as it allows them to approach problems and challenges in new and innovative ways, and to express themselves through a variety of media. Here are some strategies for promoting preschoolers’ creativity:
1. Provide open-ended materials. Open-ended materials, such as blocks, playdough, and art materials, provide preschoolers with the freedom to explore and experiment, and to express themselves creatively. These materials also promote problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making skills.
2. Encourage divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the ability to generate multiple solutions or ideas for a problem or challenge. Educators and caregivers can encourage preschoolers’ divergent thinking skills by asking open-ended questions, encouraging brainstorming and idea generation, and providing opportunities for exploration and experimentation.
3. Emphasize process over product. Preschoolers’ creativity should be encouraged for its own sake, rather than for the end product. This means emphasizing the process of exploration and experimentation, rather than the final product or outcome.
4. Foster imagination and play. Imagination and play are essential components of preschoolers’ creativity. Educators and caregivers can foster imagination and play by providing opportunities for pretend play, storytelling, and imaginative play, and by encouraging preschoolers to use their imagination and creativity in all areas of their lives.
5. Provide a supportive environment. Creativity thrives in a supportive environment that encourages risk-taking and experimentation, and that values and celebrates creativity. Educators and caregivers can provide a supportive environment by providing positive feedback, encouraging risk-taking and experimentation, and celebrating creativity in all its forms.
Implementing Strategies for Preschoolers’ Intelligent Approach
Now that we have explored the various components of preschoolers’ intelligent approach, it’s important to consider how to implement these strategies in educational and caregiving settings. Here are some key considerations for implementing strategies for preschoolers’ intelligent approach:
1. Start with an assessment. Before implementing strategies for preschoolers’ intelligent approach, it’s important to assess their current strengths and areas for growth. This can be achieved through informal observation, standardized assessments, or conversations with parents and caregivers.
2. Integrate strategies into everyday routines. Strategies for preschoolers’ intelligent approach should be integrated into everyday routines and activities, rather than isolated activities. This means considering how to incorporate strategies into free play, circle time, snack time, and other daily activities.
3. Use a variety of instructional methods. Preschoolers’ intelligent approach can be promoted through a variety of instructional methods, including direct instruction, play-based learning, and inquiry-based learning. By using a variety of methods, educators and caregivers can meet the diverse needs and learning styles of preschoolers.
4. Provide ongoing support and feedback. Preschoolers’ intelligent approach requires ongoing support and feedback from educators and caregivers. This includes providing positive feedback, modeling appropriate behavior, and offering guidance and support when needed.
5. Collaborate with parents and caregivers. Strategies for preschoolers’ intelligent approach should involve collaboration with parents and caregivers, as they play a critical role in supporting preschoolers’ learning and development. This means involving parents and caregivers in the assessment process, sharing strategies and resources, and working together to support preschoolers’ growth and development.
By implementing strategies for preschoolers’ intelligent approach, educators and caregivers can support preschoolers’ learning and development in all areas of their lives. By starting with an assessment, integrating strategies into everyday routines, using a variety of instructional methods, providing ongoing support and feedback, and collaborating with parents and caregivers, we can help preschoolers develop the skills and abilities they need to thrive.
Overcoming Challenges in Implementing Strategies for Preschoolers’ Intelligent Approach
While implementing strategies for preschoolers’ intelligent approach is critical for supporting their learning and development, it can also present challenges. Here are some common challenges that educators and caregivers may face when implementing strategies for preschoolers’ intelligent approach, along with strategies for overcoming them:
Time constraints . Educators and caregivers may feel that they don’t have enough time to integrate strategies for preschoolers’ intelligent approach into their daily routines. One way to overcome this challenge is to identify small ways to incorporate strategies throughout the day, such as using open-ended questions during snack time or encouraging preschoolers to solve problems during free play.
Lack of resources . Educators and caregivers may also face a lack of resources, such as materials or training, to support the implementation of strategies for preschoolers’ intelligent approach. To overcome this challenge, educators and caregivers can seek out professional development opportunities, connect with other professionals in the field, and identify low-cost or no-cost materials and resources.
Resistance to change . Some educators and caregivers may be resistant to change or may not see the value in implementing strategies for preschoolers’ intelligent approach. To address this challenge, it’s important to educate educators and caregivers on the benefits of preschoolers’ intelligent approach and provide examples of successful implementation.
Inadequate support. Finally, educators and caregivers may not have the support they need to implement strategies for preschoolers’ intelligent approach. This can be addressed by seeking out support from colleagues, administrators, and parents or caregivers. Educators and caregivers can also advocate for additional resources and support from their institutions or organizations.
By anticipating and addressing these common challenges, educators and caregivers can more effectively implement strategies for preschoolers’ intelligent approach and support preschoolers’ learning and development in all areas of their lives.