If you are new to the concept of early childhood education and exploring more about its importance and advantages, this is the perfect blog to read. As science and behavioural research has established, brain development reaches its peak in the first five years of the baby with more than 1 million new neurons being formed every second. This presents immense opportunities to parents, caregivers and teachers to leverage this learning curve of the brain and impact a child’s cognitive, social and emotional skills. And that is why early childhood education is so important in today’s world. Continue reading to learn more about early childhood education and how it can help shape your tiny tot’s future.
What is Early Childhood Education?
Early childhood education refers to a child’s formal and informal education until preschool begins. During these years, children depend entirely on their parents, caregivers, babysitters, extended family members to survive. While they may always lie, they also develop abilities to identify things around them, recognize names, and learn new ideas. Their social and emotional skills, too, start forming. These years are critical as making impressions on them is more accessible now. You can mould them during these years as later, it will help define their path of growth and development.
Early childhood education consists of various activities crafted to promote the children’s social and cognitive development before they enter kindergarten. While some activities focus on their learning abilities and are mostly related to academics, others ensure their well-rounded development. Those activities improve their emotional and mental preparedness and help them learn essential life lessons, like sharing, patience, resilience, comprehension, compassion, etc., through fun activities and games.
Despite the importance of early childhood education, the concept is often misconstrued as unimportant or over-hyped. Most people including parents, often assume that education begins at kindergarten. While this keeps the babies exposed to a pool of information around them, it doesn’t help them learn ways to absorb the information better. For our little ones, their elastic minds work best when guided, as their sense of perception, exploration, etc. is at their peak.
Why is Early Childhood Education Important?
A baby’s brain develops rapidly. While at the time of birth, it is around a quarter size of the adult brain, by the time they reach five years, their brain development is over 90 percent! Children learn to think, move, communicate, react, and understand things surrounding them as the brain develops. Therefore, these years are critical for development and even shape the children’s future. Though this signifies the importance of early childhood education, it is often undermined.
Early childhood education can have a long-lasting impact on children. Apart from instilling positivity in them, it can help them to stay driven and motivated. According to the National Education Association, children who receive early childhood education enjoy several medium-and long-term benefits. After all, how a baby grows usually becomes an integral part of the adult’s personality and even determines their successes and failures. Here are the reasons that explain why early start is important in early childhood education:
- Children receiving early childhood education are less likely to fail in class. They tend to have a better understanding of things around them and the ability to grasp new ideas quickly.
- Early childhood education helps to take care of the many needs of kids. For instance, before the child turns five, early intervention may help children in developing the necessary social skills and self confidence. This helps them to find a way to get over shyness and communicate with peers confidently.
- Since the brain starts developing early, early childhood education makes them more perceptive to new concepts. They start learning new theories and notions and get better accustomed to the learning process and its importance. All these may help them better prepare themselves academically for higher classes.
- Students tend to develop good habits quickly when given early childhood education. As they grow, they understand better how the world functions and the skills they need to succeed. This makes them willing to pursue higher studies and also graduate from high school. Early childhood education may help reduce dropouts.
- As early childhood education focuses on cognitive and social skills, children learn to become team players and hone their skills. They have a better acceptance of social diversity and control over their emotions.
What is the Purpose of Early Childhood Education?
Early childhood education aims to develop skills in children that go a long way in building emotional, social and cognitive skills that are required throughout life. Another important aspect of early childhood education is enhancing brain development in children during the first five years of their life – a time when the brain development is at its highest. According to Hawani Negussie Ed. D, chair and assistant professor at Massachusetts University, early childhood education may seem like playing activities but it definitely helps children get an edge in life. Since the brain is developing at an incredibly fast rate in babies and toddlers, their minds are elastic and pick up information very quickly from their surroundings. Young children thus learn by interacting, exploring, experimenting and experiencing various responses. Early childhood education can be informal or formal and can be taught by elders, caregivers, parents, teachers or extended family members. When they progress to kindergarten, they have a better idea of the learning process, how to work in a team, etc. Self-confidence, self-esteem, patience, respect, etc., will no longer be foreign concepts to them.
Early Childhood Education Helps Children Master the Following Skills:
- The Ability to Process Thoughts: As babies grow, they need to understand how things function. Early childhood education simplifies learning through games, rhymes, easy mathematic activities like sorting and counting, etc. Their problem-solving skills also start developing.
- The Ability to Read and Talk: When babies learn to communicate through signs and gestures, it piques their interest to communicate better. This helps them to latch on to the words they hear frequently and later read and learn new words.
- Learn to Control Their Feelings and Emotions: Controlling anger, happiness, sadness, etc., is crucial for success and healthy development of a child. Since early childhood education sows the seeds of self-control from an impressionable age, children develop ways to resolve conflicts, deal with frustration, and cooperate with others.
- Learn to be Confident: Confidence is important in navigating through life, whether it comes to making friends, doing well in career, mixing with people etc. When children stop doubting themselves, they become more willing to learn new things and take on challenges.
Role of Family in Early Childhood Education
Children spend the maximum time with their families, especially their caregivers, before they start preschool. This makes it essential to consider family involvement and the role of parents in early childhood education.
Experts believe the physical environment in the house affects the children, adults, and their bond. Therefore, parents must focus on creating indoor environments that would contribute to making early childhood education effective. For example, instead of watching television all the time, parents can urge children to assist them in household chores. True, they would hardly contribute, but their engagement will help them better understand how the house functions and the works around them. This boosts their cognitive skill development process.
In many families, where both parents are employed, it becomes important to ensure that a child spends his or her time meaningfully at home and his emotional needs are taken care of. In such cases, parents should spend the maximum time with their children and keep the environment as stress-free as possible. The emotional availability of the caregiver also impacts a child’s ability to make friends and communicate with others.
Parent’s involvement in early childhood education creates positive experiences for the child in terms of learning and this goes a long way in boosting the cognitive and social skills necessary for navigating life. Responsive parenting has been proven to be an important factor in child development and in creating a strong foundation for growth.
Benefits of Early Childhood Education
Kids are like empty notebooks. Whatever you write on the pages gets etched in their minds. This makes it possible to teach them many things at their growing age. Here are the top benefits of early childhood education.
1. Holistic Development
The brain architecture starts getting built pretty early in life, first the simple ones and then the complex ones. While genes do provide a blueprint of a person, the experiences that children undergo in their early years also determine how strong their brain structure is going to be. Needless to say, lack of care, nurturing, and additional support in the initial years can impact holistic development in terms of health, behaviour, intellectual power. Early childhood education can also help in reducing and detecting any learning delays.
2. Better Academic Performance
Children exposed to early childhood education are likely to do much better in academics later in life. This is because early childhood education boosts early cognitive development, leading to better performance in school. These children are also more likely to pursue learning in their career. The routines established during early childhood also help these children transition more easily into a kindergarten setting.
3. Understanding of Teamwork
Being a team player is essential in life. This is where the role of parents and caregivers comes into play from childhood. In families, where parents have more than one child, teamwork can be taught through small acts of sharing food, toys, clothes and gifts with their brothers and sisters. In the case of single children, cousins and friends can replace real siblings.
4. Increase in Focus
Kids are more likely to have restless minds – getting amazed by all the new things they see around them, imagining them, and trying to understand them all at once. It is essential to teach them to concentrate on one task before moving to the next. Getting involved in early childhood education activities helps balance the child’s energy and prepares him/her to follow directions, listen carefully, and perform actions with utmost concentration.
5. Builds Confidence and Self Esteem
Self-esteem equips children to explore new things, try things which they are not great at, rise up to challenges rather than move away from them. This is also what happens in early childhood. Little ones try new things, explore, fail, try again and learn. Early childhood education helps nurture confidence and self-esteem in children, allowing them to believe in themselves.
6. Enhance Brain Development
Children perform different tasks and activities at home with their parents and caregivers. These activities mainly involve logical reasoning, analysis, and concentration. There are many games that involve logical reasoning and concentration such as building blocks. Proper brain development is one of the ways a child benefits from early childhood education.
7. Build Patience
Life always puts our patience to test. Hence, teaching children the value of tolerance is crucial. Through early childhood education, parents, caregivers, teachers teach children the art of building patience. For example, waiting for their turn for the swing in the park, waiting for Sundays to go with their parents to buy treats from the market, speaking in turns, etc. These and several such small teachings help children develop and build patience.
8. Learn Diversity
The world is full of diversity, and valuing such diversity is crucial for any child’s early development. Children need to learn to accept society with all its differences. They must be taught to realise and respect that every individual is unique and has their own beliefs, ethnicity, and culture from a tender age. Early childhood education is vital in moulding children and helping them become all-rounders.
9. Develop Resilience
Resilience can best be taught through first-hand experiences, and that’s what early childhood education does. Children get a fair and secure environment; they know what is expected from them and get to predict the outcomes and consequences of any activity. This clear understanding helps them manage themselves and keep their emotions in control. They may lose a game or suffer bruises while playing; all these experiences help them hone their coping strategies for more significant challenges in the future.
10. Develop Enthusiasm for Lifelong Learning
Learning can be made extremely interesting and parents play a huge role here. Early childhood education engages children through fun activities that not only excite them but also make them eager to look forward to learning new things. Early childhood education helps them develop their yearning for learning.
11. Learn to Work with Others
Children who get to socialise from a tender age do not become shy or awkward while speaking to others as they grow. That is why it becomes vital to introduce them to other children and people in a safe environment where they can hone their skills. Early childhood education helps them socialise, make friends, and build self-confidence.
Also Read: 15 DIY Kid Friendly Activities for Toddlers
12. Learn Cooperation
During early childhood education, children learn to share their things, take turns, and cooperate with their peers. Since learning to collaborate is essential to lead a secure life, enrolling them in such programs helps; they learn this skill under the guidance of professionals. This is important for the only child or the first child since they remain unaware of this concept.
Stages of Early Childhood
Childhood education varies from child to child; the time taken to grasp a particular concept varies. Also, special care may be part of the early childhood education stages for some children. However, keeping the exceptional cases aside, setting time frames according to the kids’ age can make it possible to determine their early education stages.
In general, there are five such stages of early education – newborn, infant, toddler, preschooler, and school-age child. Every step is explained in detail below.
1. Newborn (0-3 months)
A newborn usually responds automatically to stimuli, such as light, noise, temperature, etc. They blink, turn their head, move their hands and legs, grasp your finger when you place it near them, cry to pinpoint their need, etc. They also start seeing close objects and identifying smells during the first few months.
2. Infant (3-12 Months)
While a child between three to 12 months is referred to as an infant, growthwise, this particular stage can be further divided into three parts.
Infants between three and six months gradually learn to sit; they develop control over their head and neck strength, recognize faces they frequently see, babble, and even grasp small toys.
Also Read: When does Your Baby Begin to Recognise You?
Infants between six and nine months can sit without support. They start recognizing a few names and even make gestures to respond. They also learn little activities like flapping their hands, etc.
By nine to 12 months, a baby can pick up objects, clap, point, respond to peek-a-boo games, crawl, and even stand with support. Some may also take steps towards walking.
3. Toddler (1 to 3 Years)
Toddlers learn to walk without support, climb stairs and even jump in a place. They can hold a crayon, draw any structure, stack objects one above the other, clap, say small words or sentences, and even follow simple instructions.
4. Preschool (3 to 5 Years)
After touching three, children stop acting like babies and show signs of controlled motor skills, refined emotions, language, and speech. They can simultaneously throw a ball, skip, hop, draw, run, dress, and even say three or more meaningful sentences.
5. School Age (6 to 17 Years)
These children are independent, capable, confident, and responsible. They better express themselves and acquire new things quickly. Their hobbies and interests develop, and they pursue friendships. Children also start developing sexual characteristics after puberty hits. Puberty often makes development challenging.
Though often ignored, education in early childhood has proved its worth, and its positive impact on a child’s overall development is immense. Children who are exposed to early childhood education are more likely to have solid emotion well-being, good social skills, higher self-esteem and better cognitive abilities. In short, understanding the importance and advantages of early childhood education can help us use these tools to build a stronger foundation for children, and ensure they have a better chance of success in their workplaces and in their life.
At Raising Superstars, we believe that early childhood education has the power to transform the lives of children. If you are interested to unlock the full potential of your baby’s capabilities and impact his future, then explore our proven Raising Superstars’ programs.