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A Kindergarten with a Multicultural Environment

Originally published in Diplomacy & Trade, 2013 May

“This is not our first kindergarten in Budapest,” explains Educational Director Suzy Jones when asked about the history of the Happy Kids International Kindergarten located in the Buda Hills. “My husband, Peter Jones established the International School of Budapest (ISB) in 1991. Later, he sold that business and it was then that we started Happy Kids kindergarten, which opened in January 2000 with five children,” she adds.

They opened a nursery class two years ago and now take children from 18 months. At the moment they have 86 children in six classes. What makes Happy Kids special is the program they offer. “We’re not only looking after the children and taking care of them, but we educate these children from very early age. We believe that their little brain cells are ready to open up if they are stimulated enough at a very early age. This way, they will be much more curious, much more self-confident young learners receptive to learning. They like the way we guide them throughout their learning journey. We offer a program where the children learn in a playful way as this is their age preference. They can touch and feel and smell things. We offer a lot of sport activities, as well, within the premises. By the time the children are picked up between 4 and 5 p.m., they have done sports, drama and other activities – they don’t have to go anywhere else for these kinds of activities,” she points out. All activities finish by 5 p.m., however. parents are welcome to stay in the garden with their children till 6 p.m.

Happy Kids also offers a self-defense Bullyproof program devised for young children. “We have an Australian teacher who planned this program. It is a very good physical activity, with a lot of falling techniques included, and a mental preparation for averting child abuse,” she says. The common language in the kindergarten is English – that’s a common rule. “From nursery age, we urge children that inside the building, not to speak any other language but English. That is the only way we can ensure the English language environment for everybody. In leisure time and outside, it is a different matter. It is fun to see when kids are grouping themselves according to nationality,” she adds with a smile.

Children are of 20+ nationalities. It is a pure multicultural environment in which the English language is a common denominator. At the same time, the institution observes the customs and holidays of the different nationalities to ensure kids are even more aware of being in an international environment. Communication with the parents is also in English – it would be impossible to cater to a dozen or more languages. Most of the parents are diplomats and businesspeople, anyway, so English is not a problem for them.

“We have our own Happy Kids curriculum. It is a purely international curriculum, which carries the benefit that from here, kids can enter any (British, American, Austrian, etc.) international schools in Budapest or anywhere else. Our institution has a very favorable image, which is a benefit when our kids are applying to these schools. We have taken a lot of things from the British system, like Jolly Phonics, a fun and child centered approach to teaching literacy through synthetic phonics,” the Educational Director explains. The staff is also international. “We look at their schooling, their experience, their references and we test them, as well, before we – and the other teachers – decide to hire them. We have to see whether they are motivated and dedicated enough to fit our team. Their job is not simply teaching but also includes administrative work. For instance, we put a portfolio together for each child to document his or her development regarding – and reflecting on – each curriculum area,” Suzy Jones concludes.

 

HAPPY KIDS TIPS FOR PARENTS

  • Try to build self-esteem. This can be done by spending lots of time with them, listening to them, playing with them, participating in their fantasy games and role play.
  • Read to them. All children love hearing good stories. It creates a closer bond between parent and child, it improves vocabulary, it builds imagination skills etc
  • Encourage them to develop their own interests. This can include many physical and mental activities. If you detect real talent in any one area, then encourage them to develop it!
  • Create a fun filled ‘family culture’. Communication should be open and hassle free with children getting fun and satisfaction from within the family rather than any outside influence.
  • Plan ahead. Trips to fun places like the Zoo, Amusement Park, cinema, boat trip, picnic, cycling trip, etc. are all family events that kids love and really look forward to. Involve them in the planning process. This builds a sense of identity in the child, enhancing self confidence and creating a deeper sense of ‘family’.
  • Set an example of excellence. Involve your child at an early age in household activities – cutting the grass, washing the car, caring for pets etc. with a positive attitude that lets them know the importance of their work and doing a job the best way possible.
  • Teach them to have faith and believe in themselves. Teach them that their success has no limits if they believe in their own abilities. Encourage them to realize their true potential.