What is Early Childhood Education?

Early Childhood EducationThe emphasis on providing all children with a solid start to learning through early childhood education continues to strengthen and gain an important place in discussions on how to set children up for academic and life success. From the birth through the start of traditional schooling, there is a unique opportunity to begin to shape and encourage infants, toddlers, and young children to enjoy learning.

Early Childhood Education Settings

Early childhood education is the term typically used to describe the teaching and learning support for children from the ages of babies in infancy to young children through the age of five. These programs are a part of most public and private school systems, and preschool teachers are likely to have the early childhood education endorsement. In addition to schools, churches, government agencies, universities, learning or daycare centers, and other community groups may offer these programs.

Academic and Learning Development

Reciting the alphabet, counting, and other academics must be mastered before moving onto kindergarten and first grade to begin to perform simple mathematical functions and build reading skills. Much of what takes place in an early childhood curriculum is designed to give children an advanced start with all of these plus more.

Some of the academic focus in curricula for early childhood development is designed to get students physically ready for academic tasks as well. For example, many programs that begin working with infants from birth forward work on areas such as hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, which will help develop skills for cutting, writing, and coloring. Activities that enhance cognitive development and encourage language acquisition are also a focus in early childhood education.

Social and Behavioral Skill Development

Early childhood education teachers and other providers are not just focused on providing students with the learning environments and activities needed to begin to form the academic skills that will be required upon entering kindergarten and moving forward through school. In addition to this important task, early childhood educators must also provide an encouraging, supportive, and nurturing environment in order to create a safe atmosphere for children to learn a number of behavioral and social skills.

From birth through the age of five, unique opportunities exist to teach children how to share, listen, and interact appropriately with others. Much of these social and behavioral skills include an understanding of self-control. Other important skills that early childhood education can foster include verbalization of emotions and needs, empathy, problem-solving, and self-direction.

Benefits of Early Childhood Education

Recent studies have highlighted the importance of providing a early childhood education in private, public, and charter school systems, as well as through community groups and government agencies. Some of the benefits that these studies have identified include higher high school graduation rates, increased overall lifetime earnings, and higher test scores. Additional information on benefits can be found at the National Education Association website.

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Getting children excited about learning and helping to build the support system needed for success are two outcomes of an early start. Whether looking to begin working with babies to develop fine motor skills or helping to get a preschooler ready for kindergarten, an early childhood education program is designed to prepare children for school and for life.