Immigrant Saudi Parents' Perceptions of Preschool Play Curriculum and Social Development of the Child



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Background: Preschool education adopts play-based approaches to support child development in general and to bolster social development specifically. Saudi parents' perceptions and conceptualizations differ tremendously about the play-based curriculum. Some Saudi parents believe that early childhood education (ECE) must be solely academically based. As a result, some parents may refuse to teach their children through play-based methods because they want their children to strictly focus on academics, thereby affecting their enrollment in preschools. Thus, Saudi children’s social and emotional development may be affected by the loss of organized play-based activities. Purpose: This study aims to identify Saudi parents' perceptions about preschool play-based curricula and the impact of these approaches on their children's social development. The study also aims to identify the factors that influence Saudi parents' conceptualizations of the play-based approach to learning, which may be a result of cultural, educational, or other social factors. This study will help us design training programs to educate Saudi parents about the importance of play as a key factor in the child's social development. Methods: A basic qualitative study was used for this research. Twelve mothers were recruited using purposeful sampling strategies. The following selection criteria were used for choosing participants: 1) mothers who are Saudi Arabian citizens living in the United States and 2) mothers with preschool-aged children attending either Bright Star Schools or preschool children receiving homeschooling through Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY). The data collection method involved in-depth interviews eliciting responses about factors influencing their perceptions about play-based learning in preschools. A thematic analysis method was adopted to analyze qualitative data, and the mechanics of coding and analyzing qualitative data worked systematically. Likewise, the most common and repeated topics were identified, and then the steps for the thematic analysis were applied. All factors associated with different mothers' perceptions were analyzed using a thematic analysis method for qualitative data. The thematic analysis was carried out in six steps: familiarization, coding, generating themes, reviewing themes, defining and naming themes, and reporting. This study will help to design training programs to educate Saudi parents about the importance of play as a key factor in a child's social development. Results: As a result of this study, three themes emerged around parents' conceptualizations, circumstances, and reasons that lead to the choice of play approach and intellectual transformation. Some mothers expressed their strong desire to teach their children through play curriculum, while others refused allow their children to learn through play and wanted to educate their children in schools that adopt purely academic curriculum. A group of mothers also preferred the method of combining play style with an academic curriculum for their children's education. In addition, some have other reasons for choosing schools that adopt the play curriculum. As for the extent to which the participants accepted the idea of teaching their preschool children using the Saudi curriculum instead of the American curriculum, some participants expressed their desire for their children to continue learning through the American play curriculum. Some participants advocated strongly for the integration of the two curricula together, the Saudi and the American approaches, while some participants expressed their desire to educate their children in Saudi schools that provide academic curriculum. Conclusion: Family involvement programs and home program activities have had a significant impact in the form of changing some of the mothers' perceptions of the playing approach from negative to positive. This study will add more on how to prepare projects to focus on supporting the educational and cultural expectations and understandings of Saudi parents who will come to the United States wishing to educate their children in American schools.



Keywords and descriptors: early childhood, Play curriculum, Saudi parents, Parents' beliefs, Social, Development, Changing beliefs