Preschool As A Safe Space To Explore The Art Of Making Choices

With the development of the ability to take initiative, children become more pre-operational, wherein they prefer to have the space to make their own choices. This is the phase where, when encouraged to be independent, the child feels purposeful and valued. This skill, when developed at a young age, allows children to find solutions to conflicts, thereby illustrating valuable life lessons. The skills of judgement and decision-making aid in the self-regulation of behaviour and emotions, which makes the child’s future easier. Allowing the child to take decisions on their own makes them feel self-confident and increases intrinsic motivation.
Decision-making is the action or process of arriving at a conclusion by accepting an important option by weighing the other alternative possibilities. This process of weighing options is the key aspect of judgement, which allows the child to classify appropriate and inappropriate choices. Children learn decision-making through judgement making. They begin by observing the discussions and behaviours of the adults in their life, from which they learn values. Then when given an opportunity to take a decision, they follow through with an appropriate judgement-based choice while preparing to experience the consequences. The child learns from this experience and makes better judgements and decisions with maturity.
However, the whole of this developmental process can begin only if the adults in their environment identify the child’s ability to make the decision. This is where the preschool and the playgroups play the most important role, by bringing children into a safe space for trial and error-based learning. Preschool is where the child learns to distinguish the good from the bad and form emotional as well as behavioural judgements.
Preschool offers a safe yet non-protective environment where children are allowed to make judgements, attributions and decisions irrespective of whether they are right or wrong. Through these choices, the child learns the two sides of decision-making – the pre-decisive judgement and the post-decisive consequences. In both these aspects, the child uses reinforcement learning to distinguish appropriate choices from inappropriate choices through the analysis of these two sides of decision-making. The school playgroup is the place where the child learns to explore their choices, and integrate normative principles, personal opinions, societal values, gender differences, social-observational learning and environmental or situational influences into their decision-making process. Thus, the child moves towards becoming self-reliant, introspective and independent as they mature.

– Madhumitha Nivi
Psychologist