[Sponsored Article] A brand-new early childhood development centre is taking a contemporary approach to early-years education by promoting the concepts and pedagogy of “learning through play”. The Victoria Playpark in Harcourt House, Wanchai, was officially launched in late November, offering playgroup programmes for children aged from 8 months to 3 years old and offering them a unique learning experience. Everything is based on three fundamentals – a trilingual environment, allowing “messy play” and organising activities which encourage sensory development. By stimulating each child’s imagination and curiosity about the world, the overall aim is to firmly establish what will become a lifelong love of learning. “Our programmes give children every opportunity to use all five senses and help them explore, discover and create meaning from what they experience,” says Gabriel Li, Advisor of the Victoria Playpark and Principal of Victoria Educational Organisation (Upper Kornhill Campus), which also offers programmes for infants and toddlers. “In that way, we form the essential building blocks for their later education in primary school and beyond.” The new centre’s interior design includes such features as sandpits, a tree house, special splash zones, a stout tree trunk, and artificial grass. This immediately creates the intended ambience and, by bringing nature indoors, lets children have a whole new range of experiences and the freedom to begin acting independently. In addition, there are music, art and “sensory” rooms plus a multifunctional space with a kitchen. “We want to provide the best resources in order to bring about teachable moments,” Principal Li says. “We know that young children learn best through play and tactile, hands-on experiences. ‘Messy play’ in particular promotes creativity and well-being, as well as cognitive, social and physical development. It allows children to discover new things in an open-ended and unrestricted way and, therefore, also serves as an early entry point to the STEAM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) which require individuals to make choices and decisions.” Importantly, Victoria Playpark’s three programmes for different age groups are all trilingual. The teachers are professionally qualified native speakers who use engaging activities such as storytelling, rhymes, games, music and movement to foster an environment where the kids are keen to talk and listen. A typical session includes 25 to 30 minutes in each language - Cantonese, English and Putonghua – a format which encourages each child’s inbuilt curiosity and makes it easy for them to pick up new words and phrases. “Children have the ability to learn multiple languages quickly and naturally at a very young age,” Principal Li says. “And having the chance to do that has also been shown to improve concentration, resilience and problem-solving skills as kids develop.” In the various programmes, teachers help all the children to participate, cooperate and connect with other kids and give them a true sense of feeling nurtured and included. In the Infant class (for ages 8 to 12 months), the focus is on social interaction, physical activities and different types of sensory, play-based learning. The Toddlers class (for ages 13 to 24 months), who are starting to find their own preferences and interests, there is more emphasis on storytelling, music and art, and games which help to develop gross and fine motor skills. And for those in the Big Kid class (for ages 25 to 36 months), the teachers steadily introduce more sophisticated methods of communication in each of the three languages, while also encouraging the children to use their imaginations in different situations and initiate play with others. All the inquiry-based learning activities are led by early childhood experts, most of whom have lengthy experience with the Victoria Educational Organisation. Their extensive knowledge of early-years education ensures that each aspect of the programmes is based on contemporary research and best practice. This creates an optimal learning environment where children can have fun, use all five senses in exploring their surroundings, and improve their cognitive, language, physical and social skills. In doing that, Victoria Playpark – in partnership with parents – hopes to make itself the heart of a warm and caring community built on respect, kindness, and teaching the right values. “We take pride in our commitment to offering programmes that draw on world-class research and our own leadership team’s decades of experience in early childhood learning,” Principal Li says. “We are aware that parents see the need for high-quality early education, and we have already received tremendous support.” Indeed, even though Victoria Playpark has been open for enrolment for only a few weeks, Principal Li describes the level of interest as overwhelming. “Being able to satisfy the high demand for a limited number of places is a happy problem for us,” she says. “Therefore, we won’t rule out the possibility of establishing another centre if opportunities arise.” Parents who are keen to learn more or want to register their children for one of the programmes can find further information at http://www.victoriaplaypark.com .