Play-Based Preschool and Kindergarten
Serving Brandon / Valrico and the Surrounding Area
At First Discoveries, we understand the critical role of play in fostering a children’s healthy development. In preschool and kindergarten, play is a child’s most important work. It is through play that children explore, learn, and grow. As they play, children use language to share ideas and negotiate with peers, they practice and refine social skills, and they discover ways to solve interesting problems. Play enhances problem-solving and creativity, important skills for children to be successful in school and throughout life.
What does a day of learning look like? Here are just a few images to show the rich variety of experiences we enjoy each day at school!
During Circle Time, children and teachers gather together to sing, talk and prepare for an amazing day together. We pray together, sing the Pledge of Allegiance, and introduce important learning concepts, from social skills to academic skills. Our “Brain Smart Start” helps the children begin the day ready to learn!
“Please pass the mashed potatoes!” Our breakfast and lunch are served “family style.” Children and teachers sit together at the table to share the meal, and children learn how to pour their own milk and serve their own food. The children set the table and learn how to clean up their own messes. During meals, we practice social skills and learn about nutrition. Our menus include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins, and whole grains.
Our program is truly nature-inspired and we understand the importance of children playing outside everyday! In our outdoor classroom, children run, climb, swing, and balance, building gross motor skills and enhancing both brain development and socio-emotional skills. Our Outdoor Classroom features a gazebo for group activities, organic gardens so children learn how food grows, and the “Lil’ Goat Academy” – with friendly Nigerian Dwarf goats!
Gathering together around a book is a magical experience for young children! During story time, teachers select high-quality children’s literature and as we read, we travel to new places, meet new people, and learn more about ourselves and our world! Story time is an opportunity to gain important literacy skills, from word and alphabet knowledge, to making predictions and comprehending stories. Even more important, though, is the opportunity to inspire a life-long love of learning!
Every week, the children participate in a cooking project, from making individual pizzas to washing and preparing vegetables for a salad. We learn about nutrition, read recipes, and use math skills. Children learn how to use utensils and tools safely, and they develop fine motor skills while also learning how to work together as they follow the directions of a recipe. Cooking is so much fun … and eating food that we helped make is even more fun!
Wooden blocks are such powerful learning tools! Children use creativity, solve problems, and work collaboratively as they build in the Construction Zone. They create bridges, towers, zoos and towns, using creativity and problem-solving as they work. During clean-up time, they sort and compare, learning about shapes and sizes. Blocks build spatial awareness, a critical foundation for math, literacy and science.
Dramatic play is a staple of childhood! Our dramatic play area includes many fun props that encourage children to dress up and pretend. Throughout the year, the children explore the grocery store, doctor’s office and lots of other interesting themes. Children apply their emerging skills, using literacy skills to write shopping lists and math skills to make price tags. As they play together, they also practice social skills, use language to solve problems and develop symbolic representation.
We know that children need many experiences with concrete materials to develop important early math and literacy skills. As children explore pattern blocks, they build spatial skills and use problem solving. They use magnetic letters to build their names and interesting words. They use shells and sticks to count and compare sets as they develop their understanding of numbers. Hands-on activities keep children engaged as they build important skills for school readiness.
We incorporate music throughout our day as we sing songs and dance with the children. Music reduces stress and helps children focus their attention as they participate in group activities. It also inspires creativity, teaches new vocabulary words, and helps them remember facts and concepts. Most importantly, music is fun! And a relaxed environment is good for children’s healthy brain development! Let’s sing and dance!
Fridays are our enrichment days and they are full of interesting experiences! We take field trips throughout the community, from visiting the pumpkin patch to touring the post office. We also invite guest speakers to visit our classrooms and teach children about animals, music, and lots more. These experiences enhance children’s learning in so many ways!
FAQs About Our Curriculum
Will my child be prepared for school?
Yes! First Discoveries graduates are very well prepared to be successful not just in kindergarten and elementary school, but throughout life. Our programs enhance children's development in all domains, from building fine and gross motor skills, to enhancing language and social skills, to stimulating cognitive skills. While we work on basic skills, we understand the importance of focusing on problem-solving and healthy brain development. Our graduates are creative, confident problem-solvers that are eager to take on new challenges!
What curriculum do you use at First Discoveries?
Our children benefit from a very child-centered early childhood program, with lots of rich learning experiences. Our curriculum is based on several approaches:
Beyond Centers and Circle Time: Developed by Dr. Pamela Phelps and based on early childhood research, this curriculum creates the framework for our play-based learning and guides the teachers as they plan activities and assess children's development.
Conscious Discipline: Developed by Dr. Becky Bailey and based on extensive brain research, Conscious Discipline guides teachers as we help children develop the social-emotional skills that are critical for success in school and in life. We help children learn to recognize their own emotions, develop self-regulation, and learn to work cooperatively with others.
Project Approach: Our Kindergarten program includes in-depth studies that invite children to develop and practice math, literacy and science skills as they learn about interesting topics.
All of our experiences revolve around a STEAM approach -- integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math in meaningful ways. From creating block structures to working in the gardens, our learning experiences inspire children to learn every day.
Can a play-based curriculum really prepare my child for success?
Yes! Play-based preschools and kindergartens have many advantages! Children who participate in high-quality, play-based early childhood programs learn so much more than just the alphabet and other basic skills. They develop the ability to problem-solve, communicate effectively, and use perspective-taking. They are also more willing to take on challenges and able to engage in self-directed, engaged learning. Brain research indicates that these skills are crucial for success not just in kindergarten, but throughout life.
How can I support my child's learning at home?
Young children are always learning, always developing, always growing. There are many opportunities for families to support children's learning at home, from reading books together to going on a grocery store scavenger hunt. Our teachers communicate regularly with families, sharing ideas that can be implemented at home to support your child's development.
Do you have scholarship programs for preschool and kindergarten?
Yes! We participate in several programs to help make our programs affordable for families:
School Readiness, administered by Hillsborough County Public Schools, provides childcare vouchers for working families that meet financial criteria. While there is a waitlist for this program, we encourage eligible families to apply.
VPK (Voluntary PreKindergarten), administered by the Early Learning Coalition, provides part-time preschool for four-year-olds to prepare them for kindergarten. Children must be four years old by September 1st; there are no financial requirements to participate.
Gardiner Scholarship, to help cover tuition for our preschool inclusion program.
Our kindergarten program accepts three scholarships administered through the Office of School Choice:
McKay Scholarship (allows children with special needs to attend a private school of their choice)
Step-Up Scholarship (financial-need based scholarship)
Step-Up Personal Learning Account / Gardiner Scholarship (allows families to pay for a variety of services, including private school tuition and therapy, for children with special needs)
I'm looking for a school, not a daycare. Is your program right for my child?
First Discoveries Academy offers research-based early childhood programs for preschool, VPK, kindergarten and summer camp, as well as an afterschool program. Our programs are so much more than a daycare. Our experienced teachers are dedicated to enhancing children's development, and our child-centered programs offer daily opportunities for children to grow and learn. We are confident that our program will meet the needs of your child and your family. We invite you to schedule a tour today and find out more!
What is the highest grade in your private school program?
Our Kindergarten/Primary class is a mixed-age class serving kindergarten and first grade as well as some older children. Generally, students are kindergarten age or younger when they are admitted to First Discoveries. We can answer your questions during the tour!
Which programs are offered at each location?
Both locations offer preschool and VPK/PreKindergarten, including our preschool inclusion program.
Our Kindergarten/Primary program is currently offered only at our Brandon/Valrico location.