I've always considered myself a bit of a free range daycare provider. My approach to daycare is to provide a loving, home-like, relaxed and open environment for children to explore and be their own people. I provide a safe environment with boundaries and allow them to develop their own games and adventures. While I do play music often, I primarily offer books, toys and craft supplies for them to interpret in their own way. If I see a specific game developing between the 2 and 3 year old, I will offer more toys, rearrange furniture or compliment their play with more imagination suggestions. We never have circle time and rarely have set projects (aside from the occasional too good to resist hand and finger print projects) I rarely start the day off with an agenda and I don't consider my daycare to be a preschool. Learning here occurs as part of natural development and not as a result of introducing concepts and themes and projects.
I start off the day every morning by asking the children how they are today as they come in the door. I compliment them on something (hair, clothing, smile, manners) and then I ask "what are we going to do today?" and "what toys would you like me to get out?". I do have a few things set out on Monday, but the toys available shift all week long. They jump from coloring, to puzzles, to books, to cooking, to cars, to ball games and baby dolls. They imagine they're in races, in houses, out shopping, cooking in restaurants. They sing and dance. They scribble and trace. They play hide and seek. All the while I ask questions and they ask questions. We have discussions. Have you ever had a discussion with a 3 year old, or better yet a 1 or 2 year old? They are just like you, only smaller. They have a world of knowledge and experience to offer and are dying for you to share your world of knowledge and experience with them. They crave a listening face and love to be understood.
I've never once asked myself "will these children be ready for school". I've never once worried that they might struggle or be left behind. These children are learning to think and interact. Through interaction and observation they are learning words, colors, numbers and shapes. They sing and dance and are physically active. They are very bright, every one of them. I only hope that when they go to school their independent learning qualities will be encouraged and embraced. I hope that school is ready for them.