Learning chess — at the age of four

English language lessons and lunch dishes of your choice... What other reasons inspire parents to choose private kindergartens?
Every parent dreams of their child attending a good kindergarten. In recent years, the Ministry of Education has been supporting the creation of new private pre-school institutions, as well as state run. We visit Minsk’s pre-school Daddy Fox to find out how private kindergartens differ from their state run counterparts, as well as learning of potential challenges.
Interestingly, the name comes from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince, where the Fox tells the hero that we are responsible for those whom we tame and that only the heart can see to the core of things. It’s also rare in mixing children of different ages. 

Miracle of childhood
The founder and director of Daddy Fox, Anna Moiseeva, has four children of her own. She’s happy to chat about her kindergarten, for which she rents part of a Frunzensky District nursery. It sports a large room filled with various game zones and there is an abundance of toys. Indoor plants are found in the cosy corner, with its colourful furniture and soft music. There’s a feeling of a true home environment. Next door to the games room is a sleeping area and an educational room whose walls are covered in posters of numbers. There are even English words stuck to the furniture. Every detail seems to inspire learning from the youngest age.
Ms. Moiseeva asserts that this isn’t the main aim of her kindergarten though. She explains, “Ideally, children should stay with their mother until they’re about seven, since an ‘umbilical cord’ connects them until that time. However, if parents need to send their child to kindergarten, I think it’s best to preserve the wonder of childhood. A good kindergarten should employ teachers who love children. You don’t need expensive furniture and toys, although we have the chance to offer the best of the best here. We have caring and talented teachers and quickly say goodbye to any who are lukewarm about their duties.”

Little people
Interestingly, specialists in various areas work in the kindergarten, including a psychologist, a foreign language teacher and a musical director. There are too many different lessons to enumerate, with children always learning through play. Ms. Moiseeva notes, “Teaching in our kindergarten is based on the Praleska pre-school education programme. However, we also use our own experience and techniques. Do children need to study English? I’d never force any of them but modern children tend to be interested in everything, especially when it’s presented as a game. They all read well as a result, including in English.”
There are no more than 15 children per group, so teachers can apply an individual approach.

Teething problems
What problems arise in establishing a private kindergarten?
“There was no resistance from officials. On the contrary, we actively co-operate,” says the director. “However, at the initial stage, you do need to invest a lot in this business: buying furniture, clothes and toys, paying rent and staff salaries.
In the first five years, it was very difficult, but it became easier with time. We’re seeing demand for the services of a private kindergarten, as people have more disposable income and can afford to choose.”
I notice that children’s menus are individualised also, to suit their preferences, and that there are always several kinds of fruit to choose from. On the day we arrive, the menu includes fish soup, meat chops, mashed potatoes, salad with Chinese cabbage, bread and juice for lunch, followed by meat pilaf, tea and homemade buns later in the afternoon. In summer, fewer children attend but those who stay have the chance to take trips into the countryside.
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