Constant movement. Temper tantrums. Dozens of “why” questions. Overturned containers of toys. If any of these things sound familiar, you might live with a toddler. It’s tempting to label this stage “the terrible twos,” but at PDS, we couldn’t disagree more. The toddler years are a time when a child’s brain absorbs information at astoundingly high rates and makes sense of the world in the most imaginative ways. That’s why, in 2015, we launched our Young Knights program — to enable young boys to reach their ultimate potential during this critical learning period.
A Day in the Life
of a Young Knight
The class day is divided into short, meaningful segments designed to make the most of a 2-year-old’s attention span. Because the boys are adjusting to being in school for the first time, PDS offers flexible start times and half- and full-day schedules. Our maximum class size is 14, with two teachers in each classroom and a shared assistant.
7:20 to 8:00 a.m. (optional)
Early Room activities
8:00 to 8:30 a.m.
Free play and table activities
Morning Meeting: calendar, weather, devotion, and prayer followed by snacks
Carpet time: stories, songs, and discussions of the weekly theme
Center time: Four learning centers and one-on-one teacher time
Discovery time: science experiments and/or cooking activities
Say goodbye to half-day students while full-day students have lunch
1:45 to 2:10 p.m.
At the heart of the Young Knights program is our knowledge and understanding of 2-year-old boys and how they learn best. This engaging, play-based program addresses the cognitive, social, emotional, language, motor, and moral development of each boy while instilling in him a love of learning. Additionally, the program responds to the needs of single-parent households and families with two working parents by offering a place where their toddlers will be nurtured and intellectually challenged. “Children need to be in the company of children their own age in order to make the most significant gains socially,” Early Childhood Head Debbie Isom said. “It’s important for them to begin expanding boundaries and forming significant attachments beyond the home.”
Show Me the Research
Healthy brain development is maximized by rich early childhood experiences. A stimulating environment during the first few years of a child’s life allows for a greater number of connections to be made in the brain. According to University of Washington neuroscience professor Eric H. Chudler, people are born with the majority of the neurons that they will have in their lifetime. After birth, the brain continues to grow, and by the age of 2, it is about 80 percent of its adult size.
Zero to Three, a resource for the healthy development of babies and young children, states that between birth and age 3, the brain produces about 700 new neural connections per second. That means trillions of connections are made in the first months of life! To foster healthy neural connections, a rich learning environment is paramount. The more opportunities for stimulation and social interaction in the early years, the better.
The teachers work magic All four Young Knights teachers hold education degrees. The instruction they provide and the patience they exhibit make them champions in the classroom. They are beloved by the boys and their parents alike.
“The challenge with 2-year-old boys is recognizing what frustrates them and helping them learn more advanced ways of expressing that frustration,” teacher Lacey Ledlow said. “We have to teach them how to use words and react in acceptable ways when working through conflict.”
Being in an all-boy environment is especially helpful for the students. In general, boys like to move around while learning and enjoy hands-on projects. Also, they are often motivated by competitive learning opportunities. The Young Knights program, and the whole of PDS, takes boys’ learning affinities and weaves them into every aspect of the curriculum.
“As a mom of a 3-year-old girl, I have definitely noticed some differences in the way my boys learn and the way my daughter learns,” teacher Sophie Edwards said. “She could sit and read stories all day, but that’s not going to happen in a classroom of boys. I have found that they do some of their best learning in short, five-minute center rotations where they can engage with one another and an activity for an amount of time that is manageable for them. It is so much fun to watch them interact!”
The Proof is in the Parent (Satisfaction)
“My kids all had an ‘All About Me’ day at Parents’ Day Out, but during the ‘All About Me’ unit in Young Knights, the teachers took a comment about pets and stretched it into an entire activity,” parent Emily Bowie said. “All the boys made pet turtles during school and took them on a walk. It was precious, creative, and age-appropriate all at the same time.”
With small class sizes, the Young Knights program allows for a lot of customization and the tailoring of lessons and teaching methods to meet individual needs. Whether he is bold or hesitant, enjoys being more active or playing quietly, our teachers have the resources and expertise to meet each student where he is most comfortable.
“Our son is pretty shy, and we loved the idea that if he started at PDS in Young Knights, he would have an entire decade in the same school,” parent Liz Glotzbach said. “It’s only October, but our child has grown so much. He is more confident and has never been so excited to go anywhere.”
Well on Their Way
Over the course of the program, our Young Knights not only learn how to buckle their seatbelts and use the potty, but they also experience expanded vocabularies and growing friendships. When they leave the classroom as 3-year-olds, they exhibit more mature self-control and listening skills, which are so important to future school success.
“Watching a student transform from a toddler to a young boy is a fascinating process,” Ledlow said. “The growth they exude in this one school year is inspirational and keeps me coming back to do it again each year.”
Although we can’t guarantee there won’t be anymore overturned toy containers, we can promise that our Young Knights will mature into eager pre-kindergartners who are ready for a lifetime of learning. The journey is worth it.