Kidlet recently started learning to recognize letters: I suspect he recognizes a lot more than he's capable of saying, but he's pretty good about "M", "B", and "D", and it's 50/50 whether he says "O" and recognizes "P". Yeah, we're going a bit out of order, but you have to realize that most of the letters he recognizes come from his environment, so it's whatever's on a sign at any given moment. But basically, while I'm encouraging him to identify letter (and soon, numbers), I'm not actively pushing him to do so. He'll learn to read when he's ready for it, just as he'll be completely potty-trained when he's ready for it.
In other words, I am not being a tiger-mom and using flashcards and getting him to spit back sounds that he might not realize actually mean anything except an excited squeal and hand-clapping from Mom. I am taking my cues from him, and doing things that he's either ready for, or will be ready for soon.
This morning, then, when we went to see the peuterspeelzaal we'd be sending him to, I was pleasantly surprised by how laid-back and relaxed everything was. According to the teacher, the daily schedule, such as it was, consisted of having fruit, reading a book or two, and maybe doing some crafts. Otherwise it was largely free play for everybody, with relatively minimal supervision. They did some potty-training, but it was okay if your kidlet wasn't 100% potty-trained just yet. The "teacher" (she might have been an actual teacher, but that morning she had a largely supervisory role) even left the kids alone in the classroom to give us a grand tour of the facilities. No havoc ensued, no kids fell off the slide, no kids pushed other kids, and there were no tears.
It was indeed, as the literal translation of peuterspeelzaal goes, a "toddler play space", where the primary goal was not to make sure toddlers could count and learn their shapes and colors (which kidlet is in the process of doing, but as I said above, when he's ready for it, and on his own time), but to teach them to play together, to follow directions, to follow a kind of structure to their day. And I think it's wonderful that there's little emphasis on literacy or testing, a la the insanity that makes the US media. They're letting kids be kids, and that's as it should be.