Step to Pre-school

Meeting a need in Ho Chi Minh City

Expatriate life can be challenging with a young family. Having worked in Ho Chi Minh City for two years as an International teacher, then spending the following three years as a full-time mum and occasional supply (substitute) teacher, Jessica Gosling knew the learning needs of her own young family were not being met locally. In the tradition of other international teaching pioneers, she took the initiative and decided to do something about it herself.

Early Years gap

I noticed when parenting my own daughter that there was a gap in the market for Early Years provision of 1-2 year olds here. Activities which were available didn’t quite meet our needs and often took place in the afternoon, when my daughter was still sleep-infused and grumpy from a nap.

Next Step

I had run parent/carer groups both in my home and in cafes, so I thought about what the next step could be. I heard of a new Kids’ café opening.  After a tour of the premises I saw an ideal room which could be used for an Early Years class. It was clean and spacious, complete with a few tables and a storage area. After enquires with the owner it was agreed I would do my session twice per week in this space.

Setting up

I agreed on a rental price for the room and began marketing my idea via Facebook. Once I had enough students (6 per class) I began the session. To be honest there were no risks, only perhaps that parents would not show. But so far this has not been the case! I help this situation by having a private Facebook group where parents confirm their attendance. In addition, following great advice, I created ‘5 session cards’, which require payment for 5 sessions with a time limit of 7 weeks. This ensures my lessons are usually full. I use a percentage of the profit to purchase resources, new toys and books, which again is without risk as profit is being used rather than my own funding.

Developing Relationships

What I love about running my own group is that I have complete control over the curriculum, materials, activities and the quality of the provision. For example, I have the freedom to use the best ideas from Reggio Emilia, Montessori, British, American and Australian settings. In addition, working with parents directly in my session has allowed the relationships with both them and their children to flourish. I have found that adults can enhance activities if they are informed.

In my initial sessions I attempted to explain these activities, which resulted in valuable time with the children being lost.  Therefore, I created a Facebook group where my adult-led activities are shared, including photos (please note in doing so, I respect up-most privacy on the internet for the children I teach). However, nothing is as clear as a picture – it transcends language! This is in addition to revealing the learning goals for each activity. With parents as my partners I feel that working together in this way really supports the children.

Pack away classroom

As I have a pack away setting, I am able to set up my room as I think most appropriate for the activities, which change each session, therefore keeping everything fresh and interesting for the children. In each session I offer three adult-led structured activities alongside free-choice toys.

This facilitates the opportunity for parents to both engage with their child in a free-choice activity as well as being present in the adult-led activity. My session is 1.15 hours but with set-up and clean-up the total time I am usually present is around 2.5 hours – it’s worth it in order to be prepared and organised.

Meeting learning needs

My session activities are very varied, but focus on fulfilling the needs of the youngest; the pre-writers, where the emphasis is on developing fine motor skills and delivering sensory experiences. For example, we enjoyed painting spaghetti, which supports EYFS goals of Physical Development: Moving and Handling (fine motor skills) and exploring and using media and materials. These acts of gripping, squeezing (the use of pipettes to refine this action is good) and handling small objects are vital before they can adequately hold a pencil.

Language development

Apart from experiencing good Early Years practice, those who attend the session have an opportunity to use English, in a relaxed conversational way, both in terms of the adult and the child. The Facebook group allows for conversations about the children and any other issues that may arise. The sessions allow the children to interact with each other as they get to know one another and within a small area this is a necessity! Often if children are within a large or multiple room nursery, for example, they may not need to interact or share toys to the same extent.

Finally, it is a session which allows the parent/carer to bond with the child. Through songs, dance, stories and activities the parent/carer has quality dedicated time with their child exploring new activities they may never have tried at home . . . . . without the need to clean up afterwards!


Jessica Gosling founder and teacher at Step to Pre-school, Ho Chi Minh City.

Jessica is a native British qualified teacher who has taught in the UK, Egypt, Japan and currently Vietnam. Her experience lies with Early Years and KS1. Currently she is studying for a Masters in Childhood Studies and Early Years at Leeds Beckett University. In addition to running her own Early Years sessions for 1-2 year olds she works as a substitute teacher in an American curriculum pre-school.


Feature Image: Pixabay

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