If you are new to the area, let me tell you about the free Florida Voluntary Pre- Kindergarten program.

If you are new to the area, let me tell you about the free Florida Voluntary Pre- Kindergarten program.

VPK — for children ages 4-5 — prepares your child for kindergarten with eight areas of learning: physical health, approaches to learning, social/emotional development, language/ communication, emergent literacy, mathematical and scientific thinking, social studies and the arts.

Each child is introduced to these skills and works and learns at his or her own pace. Wesleyan Child Care Center has participated in this program for six years and we love it.

You can choose the 300-hour summer program or the 540-hour school year program. We offer the school year program, which children attend for three hours each Monday through Friday during the Okaloosa School District’s calendar year.

Children are assessed in the categories of print knowledge, phonological awareness, mathematics and oral language/vocabulary.

The Florida Department of Education recognizes these assessments.

Each school that offers VPK is scored in accord with these assessments. The scores show whether early intervention is needed.

At Wesleyan, we emphasize hands-on learning through thematic creative play. For example:

• SOCIAL AND DRAMATIC PLAY: Children learn to express themselves through words, problem-solving, exercising imagination and creativity.

• BLOCK PLAY: Kids learn about shapes, weights and balances, and create patterns, classify items, and understand comparisons and spatial relationships.

• COOKING ACTIVITIES: Cultivate awareness of other cultures, teach children to follow directions, use the five senses, predict events and describe transformations.

• DISCOVERY/SENSORY ACTIVITIES: Children learn to use different tools; feel different textures; understand differences among warm, cool, wet, damp, heavy and light; group objects into categories; and observe likenesses and differences.

• OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: Kids learn about safety and caution, gain experience using large muscles and learn to use their body effectively.

• MUSIC ACTIVITIES: Cultivate listening, memory and sequencing skills; teach children to develop balance and coordination in dance.

• ART ACTIVITIES: Emphasize imagination and creativity, practice eye-hand coordination; teach colors, shapes and sizes.

• LITERACY ACTIVITIES: Focus on different people and places, introduce print concepts, and help students understand that letters are part of words and words appear in books.

When kindergarten teachers meet children who have participated in our VPK program, they will meet a child who is confident, can accomplish and carry out goals, is proud of him or herself, and has a lifelong love of learning.